Padres Dealt a Setback by Clancy : They’re Seven Behind After 6-Game Streak Is Ended in Houston

Times Staff Writer

On a day the Padres announced playoff ticket plans, and a night when a rally was being organized to celebrate their arrival home, there was Jim Clancy.

Nice guy, people say. Hitters are even more complimentary. Of course, their views are biased, considering many hit the living daylights out of him.

Big Jim has been in the big leagues for 12 years and has had just four winning seasons. His claim to fame this season is that he was the starting pitcher on the day the Cincinnati Reds scored 14 runs and 18 hits in the first inning.

With the exception of one team, Clancy has not beaten anybody this season since June 11.

Well, guess who resembled Cy Young once again Thursday night, just as he does every time he has faced them?


Clancy, pitching his finest game since, well, the last time he faced them, led the Houston Astros to a 2-1 victory over the Padres in front of 13,995 fans at the Astrodome.

The defeat ended the Padres’ six-game winning streak, dropping them to seven games behind the San Francisco Giants with 22 to play. It does not, of course, eliminate the Padres’ chances of coming back and winning the National League West, but it does put them at a stage where they almost must repeat “the Miracle of ’49.”

“That’s what still gives me hope,” Padre Manager Jack McKeon said. “After that, I know anything happen.

“It was my first year of pro ball. I was playing for Greenville, Ala., in the Alabama State League. We were six games out with just 10 to play. We knew if we were going to catch the Geneva Redbirds, we were going to have to win all 10 of our games.

“So you know what we did. We won all 10 games, forced a playoff with those guys and won that one too for the championship.

“That’s why anything’s possible.”

Why not? Little else has been logical for the Padres this season, and they’ll drive themselves absolutely nutty if they try to figure out why Clancy can beat them and no one else.

Why, if not for the Padres, Clancy would be 3-11 with a 5.74 ERA.

And, of course, if not for Clancy, the Padres would have four more victories and be within five games of the Giants.

Clancy is 4-0 with a 1.74 ERA against the Padres this season, and the crazy part of it all is, no one can figure out why.

Jack Clark (1 for 10 against Clancy): “It’s not like the guy’s a joke; he’s just got our number. He’s a good pitcher. It’s just that he’s a hell of a pitcher when he faces us.”

Tony Gwynn (four for 11): “I wish I knew, I wish I knew why we can’t beat the guy. It’s a mystery to me.”

Garry Templeton (four for 12): “I don’t know, it’s like the guy has so much confidence against us. He just knows he’s going to win. It’s not like we’re losing to Mike Scott or someone. I don’t understand it.”

This is a guy who was dumped three weeks ago from the Astros’ rotation. But playing a hunch and realizing that little else has been working these days, Manager Art Howe decided now would be the time to start Clancy again.

It looked for a while as if the decision would backfire. Bip Roberts opened the game with a single, and Roberto Alomar followed with another, drawing boos from the crowd who had seen their team lose 11 of the past 15 games.

Gwynn and his .340 batting average strode to the plate. A hit here could break the game open, or at least load the bases.

Gwynn elected to bunt.

It was a good one, advancing both runners into scoring position, but a decision that Gwynn later seemed to regret.

“Who’s to know we wouldn’t get that many more opportunities the rest of the game,” Gwynn asked. “I just wanted to get the guys over. With my sore Achilles (tendon), I thought a ground ball might end up to be a double play.

“So I figured, what the hell, I’ll move them over and let someone else drive them in.”

Instead, Clark was intentionally walked, loading the bases. Chris James forced Clark, scoring Roberts. And Templeton struck out.

That was the last time the Padres would even threaten to score off Clancy the rest of the game. They obtained just two singles until Clancy was removed in the eighth.

Meanwhile, Bruce Hurst (13-10), was pitching just as well but made one tiny mistake. With two outs and the bases loaded in the fourth, Hurst threw a forkball that hung momentarily over the plate.

Ken Caminiti swung and hit the ball into shallow left field, scoring Rafael Ramirez and Mark Davidson for what proved to be the winning runs.

The Padres last gasp was in the ninth. Mike Pagliarulo slapped a one-out double to right-center, and McKeon inserted pinch-runner Joey Cora.

Tim Flannery was called in to bat for Mark Grant. He was facing his old buddy, Dave Smith, at whose house he spent the night Wednesday, watching a movie.

Smith threw two consecutive changeups that Flannery watched, and then got him to hit a ground ball to first base for the second out, while Cora moved to third.

The Padres’ last hope was Bip Roberts. Swinging on a 2-1 pitch, Roberts hit a hard ground ball up the middle . . . right where second baseman Steve Lombardozzi was playing. He went three steps to his right, backhanded the ball and threw Roberts out at first.

End of inning.

End of game.

End of winning streak.

The Padres hope it’s not end of season.

“That was tough, a tough loss,” Gwynn said. “But we’re all right. It’s just that we’re back where we started from this trip. It’s just become obvious, that’s all, that we’re not going to get any help from anybody else.

“We’re going to have to do this all by ourselves.”

Padre Notes

The Padres, preparing for possible postseason play, announced Thursday that they will accept postcard entries beginning Monday for the sale of National League Championship Series and World Series tickets at San Diego Jack Murphy Stadium. Postcards will be accepted until Friday, Sept. 15. A random drawing of the postcards will be conducted to determine who qualifies for two sets of playoff and World Series games, and those selected will be notified by mail. To qualify for the drawing, a standard postcard must be mailed to Padres World Series, P.O. Box 909027, San Diego, 92120. No envelopes will be accepted, and only postcards postmarked Sept. 11-Sept. 15 will be accepted. . . . If the Padres win the National League West title, they would be scheduled to play host to the NL East champion for Game 3 on Saturday, Oct. 7, Game 4 on Sunday, Oct. 8, and Game 5 on Monday, Oct. 9. If they win the National League playoffs, they would be scheduled to play host to the World Series for Game 3 on Tuesday on Oct. 17, Game 4 on Wednesday, Oct. 18, and Game 5 on Thursday, Oct. 19. . . . Catcher Sandy Alomar Jr. of triple-A Las Vegas and third baseman Dave Staton of single-A Spokane were honored as the Padre minor league players of the year. Rafael Valez, who spent the year at single-A Riverside and double-A Wichita, was selected as the minor league pitcher of the year. Alomar, 22, who was the Pacific Coast League’s player of the year, hit .303 with 13 home runs and 101 RBIs. Staton, 22, hit .362 with 17 homers and 72 RBIs in 70 games, becoming the first player in Northwest League history to win the triple crown. He also led Spokane to the Northwest League championship, batting .385 with three homers and six RBIs in three games. Valdez, 22, starting the season at Riverside, posted a 10-5 record and 2.26 ERA in 26 starts. He was promoted to Wichita and went 5-0 with a 1.94 ERA in six starts. He also won Game 2 of the Texas League Championship Series against Arkansas, allowing four hits and one run (unearned) in 7 1/3 innings for a 6-1 victory. . . . Radio station KFMB scheduled a reception at San Diego Jack Murphy Stadium to greet the team upon their arrival from Houston, celebrating the Padres’ emergence in the pennant race. . . . The biggest cheer from the Padre clubhouse occurred before the game Thursday. Former Padre Marvell Wynne homered in the first inning of the Cubs-Phillies game, setting off a round of high-fives in the clubhouse. . . . Padre infielder Tim Flannery, upon reading that St. Louis first baseman Pedro Guerrero’s $14,000 Rolex watch was stolen in a burglary scam last week in Houston: “Man, all I’ve got is a $25 Swatch.” . . . Houston Astro Manager Art Howe on Padre pitcher Calvin Schiraldi’s performance Wednesday in the Padres’ 3-2 victory: “I couldn’t believe the difference in him. When we faced him earlier in the year, he was all over the place. This time, he threw strikes, and every pitch was down. They really worked with his delivery. He was much more deliberate, not rushing everything like he was before.”