Each of Eric Show’s four starts this season has been the same.
He walks out to the mound to begin the game, figuring this is the day.
This is the day he will win his first start of the season, the day he will add one more victory to his Padre record 94, and the day when he will win his first game since undergoing back surgery last Aug. 2.
So far, none of them have been his day.
Friday night in San Diego Jack Murphy Stadium: Pittsburgh, 9-4, in front of 23,376.
Show was gone by the end of the fourth, so he wasn’t around to see much of Pittsburgh’s offensive attack. But he was responsible for this: Four Pittsburgh runs and six hits in 3 2/3 innings. He allowed his team-leading fifth home run of the season in the second to Barry Bonds, letting Pittsburgh take a 1-0 lead.
By the end of it, the Pirates had nine runs and 19 hits off of four Padre pitchers. Veterans, rookies, it didn’t matter. Mark Grant yielded three runs and seven hits in two innings. Rookie Rafael Valdez served up two home runs in one inning.
One of those was to Bonds, marking the seventh time in Bonds’ career he hit two in one game.
Bonds had four hits in a game for the sixth time, but there was one Pirate who liked Padre pitching even better.
Third baseman Wally Backman went six for six, becoming the first NL player to get at least six hits in a nine-inning game since Rennie Stennett went seven for seven Sept. 16, 1975. Coincidentally, Stennett also played for Pittsburgh.
The last time an NL player had six hits in a game was when Jim LeFebvre of the Padres did it Sept. 13, 1982, in a 16-inning game. Backman became the 69th player in NL history to get six hits in a game. The last player to do it was Minnesota’s Kirby Puckett, who went six for six Aug. 30, 1987.
Three of Backman’s hits Thursday came against Show.
Show hasn’t won since last June 19, when he pitched a 5-1 complete-game victory against Los Angeles. But he was able to go just three innings in his next outing, June 25 against San Francisco, and went on the disabled list for the remainder of the season.
So here he is, ready to wipe that out of his memory. He won’t even call this year a comeback, because he says he feels good. At times, he has pitched very well. But he just can’t get that first victory.
His best outing was April 10 in the home opener against Los Angeles. He gave up one run and eight hits in 4 2/3 innings.
Then, he went six innings in each of his next two outings, allowing three runs and six hits in both.
He is 0-3--and counting.
Pittsburgh is counting the other way. The Pirates, the surprise of the NL this season, are 8-1 on their current 13-game trip, off to their best start on the road since 1962. They have won eight of their past nine games and four in a row. They lead the NL East at 12-6.
But there is another renaissance in Pittsburgh besides that of the team. Pitcher Neal Heaton (4-0) started Friday and ran his record to 4-0 and his earned-run average to 2.59.
This is a 30-year old journeyman pitcher who hasn’t exactly been the terror of the major leagues. He started his career in Cleveland in 1982, and has used lockers in Minnesota and Montreal before landing in Pittsburgh in March, 1989.
His best statistical season in the majors was in 1983, when he went 11-7 in Cleveland.
But give the guy credit. Lately, he has taken a back seat to no one. He has won his past nine decisions dating back to last season and is 7-0 in his past eight starts. Last time he lost a game was July 21, 1989--a few days before Show’s surgery.
He went 5 2/3 innings Friday, allowing three runs and six hits. He struck out seven and walked none.
He put the Pirates in position to win.
The first two Padres to bat--Bip Roberts and Roberto Alomar--singled.
Then, Heaton went to work. He set down 14 Padres in a row, striking out five. Just five balls reached the outfield in that time.
Finally, Garry Templeton singled in the fifth, but there were two out, and pitcher Pat Clements was due to bat. Jerald Clark was sent up to pinch-hit, but he struck out.
By then, Show was taking a shower. He lasted until the fourth, when he walked Heaton to load the bases. There were two out, the Padres trailed, 2-0, and pitching coach Pat Dobson walked to the mound and asked for the ball.
The Pirates hit Show from the beginning. Backman singled and Andy Van Slyke tripled in the first inning. The only reason Backman didn’t score was because in between him and Van Slyke, Jay Bell lined to Jack Clark and Backman was caught straying too far off first.
But Bonds led off with his second home run in the second, a shot to right on a 1-0 pitch. Show retired the next three Pirates, but the Padres trailed.
The Pirates got another in the third. With one out, Backman singled up the middle, and scored when Bell followed with a double.
Then came the fourth, and Show’s undoing. Bonds started it with a double. Show struck out Sid Bream. Bonds then stole third, and Show intentionally walked Mike LaValliere. Show then struck out Jose Lind.
Up stepped Heaton. Show worked the count to 2-2, then came across with a pitch that was close to the strike zone. Heaton stuck his bat out, but home plate umpire Randy Marsh said Heaton checked his swing in time. Third-base umpire Fred Brocklander concurred.
Show walked him on the next pitch, bringing Dobson to the mound waving for Clements.
Clements barely had time to warm up before Backman sent one of his pitches into left field for a double. Bonds and LaValliere scored, making it 4-0. It was Backman’s third hit.
The Pirates picked up another run in the sixth. With Mark Grant pitching, Heaton singled, went to second on Backman’s single and moved to third when Bell singled.
That loaded the bases, and here came Van Slyke. Grant threw three consecutive balls. Then, he came right down the middle for a strike. Then, inside for strike two.
Then, ball four. Heaton scored. 5-0.
Maybe he was tired from running the bases--a hit and a walk, or maybe the Padres finally figured him out. Whatever, the Padres finally got something going in the sixth.
Roberts led off with a single to center and, after Alomar struck out, Tony Gwynn moved him to second with a single to right.
A wild pitch with Jack Clark at the plate moved them up a base, but Heaton threw strike three past Clark.
Joe Carter homered to right four pitches later, making it 5-3.
But, the Pirates scored two more in the seventh.
The Padres are scheduled to make their final roster cuts Sunday after their game against the Pittsburgh Pirates. They will reduce their roster to 25 and are expected to send reliever Rafael Valdez and first baseman Rob Nelson to their triple-A team in Las Vegas. If major league owners change their minds and decide to go with 24-man rosters, outfielder Shawn Abner likely will join Valdez and Nelson. . . . Pitcher Mike Dunne went 5 1/3 innings, allowing five hits and five runs (three earned) for Las Vegas (triple-A) Thursday in his first outing since undergoing shoulder surgery in November. Dunne was the loser as Albuquerque won, 6-4. He threw 85 pitches, with three walks and two strikeouts and held Albuquerque to two hits through five innings. “He threw the ball free and easy,” said Tom Romenesko, Padre director of player development. “He did not throw the ball at all like he had a sore arm. It was also obvious that he hadn’t been out there in a long time.” . . . Dave Campbell broadcast the game for ESPN, his first time back in the booth at a Padre game since the organization refused to renew his contract after the 1988 season. . . . Baseball fans across the country are becoming pretty familiar with Padre pitcher Eric Show. Friday’s start was his second in a row on ESPN. He lost to the Giants on Sunday, 3-1. . . . Bip Roberts and Roberto Alomar were in the starting lineup together for the first time since Tuesday. Both were still recovering from the flu. Padre Manager Jack McKeon batted Roberts first and Alomar second, as he has most of the season. They were reversed in the top two spots on Monday and Tuesday. . . . Outfielder Shawn Abner made his first start, batting seventh and playing left field. Abner was one for five entering the game. . . . The Padres came in leading the NL with a .988 fielding percentage and just seven errors. At this time a year ago, they had 18. The Padres were also the only team in the majors without an unearned run scored against them; the pitching staff is seventh in the league with a 3.42 ERA, all 54 runs scored against them earned.