Clark Change Cashes in for Padres

TIMES STAFF WRITER

He stood by his locker after hitting a three-run home run and a single and did his best to describe the small changes he made in his batting stance.

He opened up his stance a little bit. And . . . well . . . he . . . ah . . .

"I can't explain it in one word or one sentence," Jack Clark said. "I've hit a lot of different ways over my career. Little changes."

He returned from Cincinnati a frustrated man. He had struck out seven times in his past 10 at bats. And who should be on the mound to greet him Friday in San Diego Jack Murphy Stadium but San Francisco pitcher Rick Reuschel, a pitcher who has baffled Clark through much of his career.

It took Clark two at bats to solve Reuschel--for a night at least, Benito Santiago hit a two-run homer and Ed Whitson became the second Padre pitcher to throw a complete game this season. It all added up to a 9-2 Padre victory in front of 34,581.

Yes, there were several highlights, but perhaps none as inspiring to the Padres as Clark's three-run, third inning shot that put them ahead, 5-0.

Two lockers down from Clark's, Santiago praised him. In the manager's office, Jack McKeon praised him.

Santiago: "You've got to enjoy what he did. It makes me feel happy. I like when that guy does good. Anything we can do for him, we're going to do."

McKeon: "I have a lot of confidence in Jack Clark. He's a real pro. I'm not concerned about Jack Clark's strikeouts. He'll also hit 25 or 30 home runs."

As if Clark's rash of strikeouts lately weren't enough, he was well aware of the fact that he has had three three-strikeout games this season.

And then there was Reuschel. Lifetime, Clark entered the game with just seven hits in 55 at bats (.127) against Reuschel.

"He's one of those pitchers Whitey Herzog wouldn't even let me bat against," Clark said. "He always gave me the day off.

"I contemplated (not playing) in San Francisco and even thought about it today."

But what he decided to do was study some videotape of himself in action toward the end of last season, when he was in a groove. So he arrived at the stadium early, got himself settled in front of a television, and went to work.

The dividends began appearing in the second, when he grounded to third. He was thrown out, but he hit the ball hard.

Then came his homer in the third, after the Giants intentionally walked Tony Gwynn to set up a potential double play.

"When they walk the guy ahead of you, if you don't come through you feel bad because the strategy worked," Clark said. "The three-run home run is one of the biggest plays in baseball. To get that off a good pitcher is unexpected."

The home run and a lead-off single in the sixth both came on first pitches.

"I've been swinging at (first pitches), but I haven't been hitting them," he said. "That puts you on the defensive. It's always 0-1, 0-2, or 1-2."

Friday, Reuschel never got that deep in the count on him. The home run was Clark's second. His two for four night improved his batting average 39 points, to .206.

"I felt a little better," Clark said. "I'm glad to have something to take into tomorrow, and my next at bat."

What Santiago will take into tonight's game is a runs-batted in streak. His homer in the eighth, a towering shot to left field, gave him 11 RBIs for the season. All of them have come in the past seven games.

He is batting .441 and feeling good. He said he's feeling even better at the plate than he was during his 34-game hitting streak in 1987.

"I'm more patient up there," Santiago said. "Before, I used to go crazy. Before, I'd swing at anything. Now, I'm taking walks. That's what the difference is."

Meanwhile, Whitson's control was nearly perfect. He went the distance, allowing nine hits and striking out three.

Whitson (1-0) didn't walk anyone. He threw just 87 pitches, 68 strikes and 19 balls.

Not bad at all, especially when you consider Reuschel (1-1) threw 80 pitches in just six innings--52 strikes and 28 balls.

"I'd love to make a habit of it," Whitson said of his pinpoint control.

He said he felt better in the ninth than in the first, and the scorebook bears him out.

He allowed three hits in the first but got out of it, thanks in large part, to Roberto Alomar. After Brett Butler led off the game with a single, Alomar made a diving stop on a Kevin Bass ground ball to start a double play.

"You've just got to take your hat off to the defense," Whitson said. "They made the plays. That tells me they're busting their tails behind me, and I'm going to be busting my tail."

The Giants got to Whitson for two runs in the fifth. Then, he sailed along the rest of the way, allowing two hits in the sixth and none in the final three innings.

He struck out Kevin Bass in the seventh with a biting palm ball.

"That had to fall three feet," Whitson said. "It looked like a knuckle ball. Usually, there's some spin on it."

Whitson could remember just one game when he was better--a 4-0 shutout of Cincinnati in 1980 when he was with the Giants.

"Threw 84 pitches that game," Whitson said. "I'll never forget it. It was the best game I ever threw."

The pattern for the Giants this season has been pretty simple: Get a lead, and then watch the bullpen lose it. The Giants had led each of the nine games they played before Friday's, and they had lost six.

Padre Notes

Backup catcher Mark Parent was a popular guy among reporters before Friday's game, but he wasn't too happy about it. Parent was quoted as saying some strong stuff after the Padres swept the Giants last weekend, including, among other things: "What we did this weekend was send a message to the Giants: You guys aren't even going to be competing with us this year." The San Francisco Chronicle printed some of the quotes Tuesday, and the Giants hung selected excerpts in each player's locker that day. Parent got a call at home Friday from his father, who lives in Northern California and told Parent about his celebrity status in the Bay Area. Parent said he then called Giant catcher Terry Kennedy and told him it was taken out of context. Regardless, Giant Manager Roger Craig was none too happy. "If I were (the Padres' manager), I'd be upset," Craig said. "We had played six games, and here's a guy who's not even playing regularly. All of my players are pretty upset." Parent and Will Clark talked before batting practice, and Parent said Clark didn't seem bothered. "He said, 'It didn't sound like you,' " Parent said. . . . The Giants scratched Sunday's scheduled starter, Scott Garrelts, after Garrelts felt pain in his neck while throwing on the side Friday. Garrelts has been uncomfortable since suffering muscle spasms in his neck during the Bay Bridge series at the end of spring training. Craig said either right-hander Randy O'Neal (0-0, 3.52 earned-run average) or left-hander Atlee Hammaker (0-1, 2.25) would start instead. Eric Show (0-1) is the Padres' scheduled starter.

Times to be aware of: Sunday's game is scheduled for 5:05 and will be broadcast on ESPN. The time of Tuesday's game against the Cubs has been changed to 7:35 to accommodate ESPN, but the ESPN broadcast in San Diego will be blacked out because the game will be shown on San Diego Cable. . . . The Padres are expecting a large Cap Night crowd tonight.

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