Double by Davis Leads the Reds to a 2-1 Victory
For two months, the Padres have battled the inevitable. They were given up for the dead more times than Jimmy Hoffa. They were given their last rites every night for the past 10 nights.
Finally, it is over.
The Padres, who finally had fate in their own hands, suffered an excruciating death in the pennant race, losing, 2-1, in 13 innings to the Cincinnati Reds.
It leaves them five games out with three to play.
It doesn’t take a mathematician, or even Yogi Berra, to say, “It’s over.”
The most painful aspect of the defeat was that after all of their hoping, all of their praying, they actually had a chance to win this National League West race.
When the scoreboard flashed the final score from Los Angeles in the ninth inning of the Padres’ game--Dodgers 1, San Francisco Giants 0--the Padres finally had a chance.
All they had to do was defeat a team that came into the night with a 73-85 record.
Instead, in the words of Padre right fielder Tony Gwynn, “It turned into our worst nightmare.”
In a rather cruel irony, the Padres’ defeat was perhaps fitting to their wacky season. This was a team who looked lethargic for the first five months of the season. These past seven weeks, with 27 victories in 36 games, there was not a hotter team in baseball.
So how do you figure the Padres would lose two of three at home to the Reds and collapse when they had a chance to win this game?
And certainly the crowd of 17,136 that left San Diego Jack Murphy Stadium had to be wondering why in the world the Padres were pitching to Eric Davis in the 13th inning.
The situation was this: Herm Winningham was standing on second with two outs in the 13th when Davis came to the plate. He has hit 34 homers and driven in 100 runs this season, including six homers and 20 RBIs just against the Padres.
Padre pitching coach Pat Dobson went to the mound to consult with Calvin Schiraldi.
“We talked about what we were going to do with him,” Padre Manager Jack McKeon said. “We gave Schiraldi a choice of who he was more comfortable pitching to, and he said he’d rather pitch to Davis.”
Give Schiraldi a serious error in judgment.
Davis slapped a 1-0 pitch off the left-center wall, scoring Winningham. Todd Benzinger, the man who Schiraldi opted not to face, flied out to center for the final out.
The Padres made one last gasp when Gwynn opened the 13th with an infield single, and was sacrificed to second by Phil Stephenson.
Chris James hit a grounder to shortstop for the second out while Gwynn ran to third. But there he stood at the end of the game, as Garry Templeton swung at a third strike.
At 10:56, the Padre season was over.
The Padres were three outs away from elimination way back in the ninth, when they went into their last at-bats trailing, 1-0.
It came down to three outs. Three measly outs of a season that started seven months ago, a winning streak that began seven weeks ago, and a workday that began seven hours ago when the Padres started filtering into the clubhouse.
Bip Roberts, who has been as responsible as anyone for the Padres’ comeback surge, stepped to the plate. It was, as he would proclaim later, the biggest at-bat of his life.
Strike 1. Ball 1. Strike 2. John Franco was in complete control. Roberts was sweating. Franco threw four more pitches, and there was Roberts not leaving the plate until he lined a single to left.
Roberto Alomar tried to move him over with a bunt. He failed twice. He swung away at the third pitch, and stroked a single to center, with Roberts stopped at second, not about to challenge the arm of center fielder Davis.
That brought up Gwynn, the most prolific batter in the National League over the past six seasons but currently in a two-for-17 slump. It was just last Friday when Gwynn was faced with the same situation, and he elected to hit away. He popped up to shortstop, and the Padres wound up losing, 3-2, to the Dodgers.
This time, he bunted. It was perfect. Roberts moved up to third and Alomar to second as Franco had no choice but to throw to first.
With first base open, the Reds opted to intentionally walk Jack Clark, bringing up Chris James, who was in midst of a zero-for-15 slump.
James slapped a 1-1 pitch to shortstop Jeff Richardson, and Roberts was off at the crack of the bat. Richardson scooped it up and thought briefly about going home. He decided not to chance it, and went to first. James was out, but there he was punching his arm in the air, knowing the game was tied.
Now, with two outs and first base open, the Reds again went to the intentional walk to Templeton, bringing Benito Santiago to the plate.
Ball 1. Strike 1. Ball 2. Strike 2. Ball 3.
The crowd then went bonkers, and Franco stopped, looked around to see what was the commotion. It was the scoreboard, revealing that the Dodgers’ victory was official.
They cheered even louder.
Franco toed the rubber, set, threw to the plate, and everyone took running.
Santiago jumped away from the pitch. The crowd screamed. Alomar danced across the plate.
Sorry. Strike 3.
Twice, the Reds threatened, loading the bases in the 10th, putting runners on first and second in the 11th.
Twice, they failed.
It appeared the Padres finally were going to take advantage in the 11th. They were were one base-hit, one walk, one balk, one sacrifice fly, just about one anything away from winning.
Alomar opened the 11th with a single to center. Gwynn bunted, and first baseman Benzinger couldn’t pick it up. Everyone was safe.
That brought up Stephenson, who ran for Clark in the ninth. Stephens bunted the runners over, leaving them at second and third with one out.
Norm Charlton, who started the inning, intentionally walked James, bringing up Templeton. Charlton’s first pitch was a ball. The second was slapped to Luis Quinones at shortstop. He threw to home, and forced Alomar. Alomar jarred the ball from catcher Jeff Reed, but it was too late, he already was ruled out.
Pinch-hitter Carmelo Martinez, representing the Padres’ last hope in the 11th, slapped another ball to Quinones. He picked it up, hesitated, and then threw to second, just nipping James.
And on and on it went.
It seemed like almost an eternity since Tony Siegle, Padre vice president, personnel, had received a telephone call at 8:30 Wednesday morning from National League President Bill White.
It was time, he said, for the coin flip, deciding where a one-game playoff games would be played, if needed.
Giant President Al Rosen, who was asleep when White telephoned at his hotel room in Los Angeles, told Rosen that since his club was in first, he could make the call.
Siegle: “Al, I hope this isn’t the only thing I win from you.”
Sorry, wait ‘til next year.
Padre batting coach Amos Otis has been contacted by three teams in the new Senior League based in Florida--Fort Myers, Orlando and West Palm. Otis is undecided whether or not he will play, but if he chooses to do so, it will be with the Fort Myers team that will be managed by Padre pitching coach Pat Dobson. . . . The Padres had a meeting Wednesday night to decide how their share will be split for finishing first, second or third. Since only players who have been with the club all year are invited, the attendance understandably was smaller than usual. Just 16 players have been with the team since opening day. . . . The Padres sent pitcher Fred Toliver to the New York Yankees on Wednesday as the player to be named in the deal which they acquired third baseman Mike Pagliarulo and pitcher Don Schulze for pitcher Walt Terrell. The Yankees now have four former Padres on their pitching staff: Terrell, Toliver, Lance McCullers and Andy Hawkins. . . . Padre right fielder Tony Gwynn, who’s in a three-for-18 slump, finished the game with a .332 average, his lowest since June 3. . . . Gwynn finally had his aching right foot X-rayed, after three ill-fated attempts in Los Angeles where he and Padre trainer Dick Dent drove around for three hours. “I went to a place where there was no wait, no blood, nothing,” Gwynn said. “It was simple. I was in an out in three minutes. And the best part was it showed that there’s no break.”