The weekend’s final insult came just as the Padres were getting ready to bat in the seventh Sunday afternoon, when plate umpire Joe West ordered the lights turned off on them.
Flick. Pittsburgh 10, Padres 1, in front of 20,876 at San Diego Jack Murphy Stadium.
Click. The Pirates hit four home runs off three Padre pitchers, and ran their record to 10-1 on their current road trip. The Padres have now lost four in a row, their longest losing streak since last July 20-23, when they lost four to St. Louis.
Fade to black . . .
This was a team with a lot of explaining to do, and not because of the announcement that first baseman Rob Nelson and pitcher Rafael Valdez were sent to Las Vegas (triple-A). The Padres had to pare their roster to 25 by Tuesday’s deadline.
No, the explaining started with Padre Manager Jack McKeon, who was dressed casually in a sweatsuit after having been ejected in the seventh inning--his first ejection of the season.
It continued with West, who gave McKeon the thumb and was in the umpires’ room talking about the lights.
Even public relations man Mike Swanson was in on it.
What happened was this: the clouds rolled in, and West asked for the lights to be turned on before the seventh inning. He telephoned the press box, and was informed that the vapor lights--installed before the Super Bowl in 1988--take between seven and 10 minutes to come on.
So the inning started, and the Pirates went down one-two-three.
About that time, the lights heated up and came on. One problem: league policy requires that both teams get equal opportunities. Since the Pirates didn’t have lights in their half of the seventh, West didn’t think the Padres should have lights in the bottom of the seventh, either.
West called the press box and ordered them turned off. Swanson was on the other end of the phone, telling West he was attempting to find the stadium electrician to do so. Apparently, the electrician figured his job was done when he turned them on, so he was nowhere to be found.
So West waved the Pirates--who had come out to start warming up for the bottom of the seventh--off the field, until the lights could be cut. That brought McKeon out to discuss matters, and the discussion soon turned animated. Of course, by then, the Padres trailed, 8-1.
McKeon: “It was as if he was accusing us, blaming me, that the lights didn’t come on until after (the Pirates’) half inning. I don’t know where the hell the switches are.”
West: “I said we’re not playing until the lights are off. Then Jack had a little fit and proceeded to leave early.”
Swanson: “We were all wanting the same thing. They knew we were supposed to have the lights off. We knew we were supposed to have the lights off.”
Those weren’t the only people searching for explanations, and the lights weren’t the only subject of interest on this day.
Last year is beginning to creep into an awful lot of conversations and, considering the Padres’ painfully slow start then, that isn’t a good thing.
The Padres’ 9-10 record is identical to last year’s after 19 games, only then they were 1 1/2 games out of first place. Now, because of Cincinnati’s hot start, they are five back.
The Pirates came in over the weekend and brought back memories of the old Pittsburgh Lumber Co., back in the days of Willie Stargell and Dave Parker. They blistered Padre pitching for 23 runs and 39 hits in three games. Left fielder Barry Bonds went 9 for 12 with three home runs and six runs-batted in.
The Padres had their first three-homer game of the season--and their first since last Sept. 17--Saturday. The Pirates had two three-or-more homer games in this series. They hit three Friday and four Sunday.
Dennis Rasmussen started Sunday for the Padres, and gave up a three-run, fourth-inning home run to Bonds. Then Mark Grant came in and gave up homers to Don Slaught--nobody on--and Jay Bell--one on--in the sixth. Bobby Bonilla put a Calvin Schiraldi pitch over the 405-foot sign in straightaway center in the ninth.
Padre pitchers have now given up a major league high 23 home runs.
“Our concentration isn’t what it should be,” said Pat Dobson, pitching coach. “We preach about pitching the ball down in the strike zone, and right now we’re not doing a very good job of it. It’s all concentration. To get the ball down in the strike zone consistently you have to concentrate on every pitch. Right now, we’re not doing that.
“There’s a time period when you’re going to make physical mistakes, and we’re making physical mistakes. The big thing is that we’re doing it against a club that’s hot, and they don’t miss it. It’s just like when we played Cincinnati. We made good pitches and they got hits, and we made bad pitches and they got home runs.”
Rasmussen (1-1) lasted five innings and allowed five hits, four runs and four walks.
“He was all right,” Dobson said. “He made one bad pitch, a high fastball to Bonds and he hit a home run. But that seems to be what we’re doing lately. We make one bad pitch and it’s not just a single, it’s a home run. Calvin made one bad pitch, and home run.”
Grant got into trouble with a high fastball to Bell and a high slider to Slaught. He went two innings, allowing two hits--both homers--and four runs. His earned-run average increased to 8.76.
“I’ll be the first one to tell you I’m not fooling anybody,” Grant said. “I’ve got to keep working to keep the ball down. It’s not too complicated. . . .
“My mechanics are fine. I feel great out there every time I go out. We’re in a rut right now.”
It’s not just the pitchers. The Padres got 26 runs on 36 hits on Monday and Tuesday combined, but that seems to have been their quota for the week. From Wednesday through Sunday, five games, they batted a meager .219 (35 for 160).
Roberto Alomar and Fred Lynn were the only two Padres to get two hits. Alomar, batting .301, singled in the first and second. Lynn singled in the second and sixth. The Padres got their only run in the second, when Alomar’s single drove in Lynn from third.
The Padres drew just three walks Sunday; Pittsburgh had seven. The Padres and Pirates each had eight hits--and the Pirates got 10 runs.
“They had eight hits and we had eight hits,” he said. “We get a couple of walks, and Jack Clark or Joe Carter hit a home run and we get three runs.
“We’ve got guys trying to do it all--carry the club. We need runners. When you start getting runners, you can do some things.”
Whether the lights are on, or off.
Said McKeon: “We had to have something amusing, huh?”
As for Rob Nelson and Rafael Valdez, the two players the Padres sent to Las Vega Sunday, here are their 1990 Padre statistics: Nelson was 0 for 4 at the plate. Valdez was 0-1 with an 11.12 earned-run average. He allowed four home runs in 5.2 innings. . . . Catcher Benito Santiago didn’t play Sunday but moved into a tie for the NL batting lead. Cincinnati’s Barry Larkin went 0 for 4, dropping to .397. . . . Third baseman Mike Pagliarulo’s pinch-single in the seventh was his first hit this season. Pagliarulo is batting .091. . . . Pitching matchups for this week’s two-game series with St. Louis: The Padres’ Ed Whitson (2-0) vs. Bryn Smith (2-2) Tuesday at 7:05 p.m.; and Bruce Hurst (0-3) vs. Jose DeLeon (2-0) Wednesday at 1:05 p.m. . . . This-is-not-a-misprint dept.: Wichita (the Padres’ double-A team) defeated Midland Saturday night, 33-17. The teams combined for 49 hits and nine errors. Wichita’s Jeremy Hernandez went five innings and allowed 12 hits and 10 runs for the victory. Catcher Danny Walters hit his second grand slam of the week and went five for six with eight RBIs.