Padres Feel Better After Beating Cardinals : Baseball: Homers by Roberts and Clark in the sixth inning help team, Hurst end losing streaks.


It was one great big sigh of relief, sailing up toward the sky, out toward the fence and finally pounding into a brown right-field seat.

Bip Roberts hit it out. It was the sixth inning during the final game of a 12-game home stand, and the Padres had the lead.

Three innings later, it was finished, a badly needed, 4-3 victory over St. Louis in front of 18,562 at San Diego Jack Murphy Stadium.

In their past five games--45 innings adding up to five losses--the Padres had the lead for half an inning. Wednesday, they trailed, 2-0, going into the bottom of the sixth. Then Jack Clark hit a bases-empty homer, and Benito Santiago stood on first after singling with two out.


And now, Roberts had hit it out. It carried with it the stamp of a team that was beginning to wonder if baseball fate had again damned it to further early season troubles.

It also carried the mark of Bruce Hurst, who was beginning to wonder if the Padres would ever score more than a couple of runs for him. He was off to the worst start of his career, 0-3, and the offense had disappeared again.

Maybe most of all, though, it carried part of the soul of Roberts, who had been dropped to seventh in the batting order Tuesday night and was beginning to wonder if he would ever do something right again.

“Every hit is a big hit,” Roberts said. “This one just happened to help a guy who has been pitching his butt off get a win.

“He’s not only an outstanding pitcher, he’s an outstanding person. When you see a guy giving his all every time he pitches, you feel you have to do things for him.”

So Roberts stepped to the plate with one on and two out in the sixth. He took the count to 2-1 against Jose DeLeon before pulling the ball into the right-field seats.

The Padres had the lead. Finally.

And Hurst was pitching. He had given up a run in the third and another in the fourth as DeLeon shut out the Padres on four hits through five innings.

In other words, a typical Hurst game. When the sixth started, the Padres had scored just four runs in the 32 2/3 innings he had pitched.

“Obviously, every pitcher likes to get a few runs, but the game isn’t built that way,” Hurst said. “I can’t sit here and worry about not getting many runs.”

Ahead, 3-2, in the seventh, Hurst was threatened by the Cardinals. They got two on with one out, but he was able to get out of it. In seven innings, he gave up two runs, seven hits and struck out eight.

Roberts’ home run came on an inside fastball. He was batting .385 in his past seven games entering Wednesday, but that boosted his season average to just .246. His on-base percentage--.274--wasn’t much better. And perhaps worst of all, batting in the first or second spots most of the season, he had drawn just three walks.

One of the team’s spark plugs a year ago, he arrived at the park Tuesday to find he had been moved down to seventh in the order.

He brooded. During batting practice, someone told him it was his turn to get into the cage, and he got sarcastic.

“Might as well bat seventh in the batting cage, too,” he said.

Game time arrived, and his mood didn’t improve. He went zero for three, including a strikeout in the third inning.

After another loss, his clubhouse neighbor, Joe Carter, leaned over to Roberts’ locker and quietly started talking.

Carter has nearly six years of major league experience, and he wasn’t going to inject Roberts--in his third year--with all of it at once. But he talked of the team and doing what you have to do and not getting down on yourself.

“He had been hitting the ball well in the No. 2 hole all week, and he had a right to be mad,” Carter said. “But I told him Jack is the manager, and he can do what he pleases. Our job is to go out there and perform. I could tell he was mad after he struck out his first time up (Tuesday night). I told him, ‘Don’t let that affect your swing. You’re only hitting seventh once, and after that you hit whenever your time comes up. You go out and take the same approach, don’t take an oh for three and build it into an oh for 15 or oh for 20.’ ”

Said Roberts: “After talking with Joe, I felt a lot better about my situation. Any time you’re losing, you say some things out of frustration.

“It turned out to be like a psychologist helping his patient.”

Padre Manager Jack McKeon used the same lineup Wednesday. He moved Roberts down to No. 7 and kept Garry Templeton eighth but moved everyone else up.

That’s what happens when you lose five games in a row, getting just 10 runs in the process. The numbers were cold: In the five losses, the Padres combined to hit .201 (33 for 164). They were second in the NL with 20 home runs, but big deal. Thirteen came with the bases empty.

For a while Wednesday, it looked as if the Padres would be moping all the way to Chicago, where they open a seven-game trip Friday. Things did not come easy, but that has been the pattern against DeLeon.

He likes San Diego Jack Murphy Stadium. He was 2-0 here last season with a 0.00 earned-run average. He threw 16 scoreless innings.

Things didn’t look any different during the first few innings Wednesday. The Padres loaded the bases with none out in the second and failed to score. Roberts struck out looking. Templeton popped to short. And Hurst grounded to short, forcing Santiago.

The Padres had runners in the third and fourth, too, but it didn’t matter. In the fifth, DeLeon struck out the side, and he had his scoreless innings streak up to 21 1/3 innings against the Padres when Clark stepped up in the sixth. He was zero for 14 lifetime against DeLeon.

The count went to 2-1 before Clark launched one that nearly hit the facing of the second deck in left field.

Two batters later, Santiago singled. Then came Roberts--and the Padres took the lead.

DeLeon (2-1) went six innings. He allowed three runs and eight hits, and struck out eight.

The Padres got another run in the eighth off Tom Niedenfuer, when Santiago tripled--he finished two for three and increased his average to .400--and scored on Templeton’s fly to left, which Coleman caught in foul territory--barely.

“When he came in after the inning, Coleman asked me if he should have let the ball drop,” Herzog said. “I said I couldn’t tell from the dugout. I said, ‘Did you know it was going to be foul?’ And he said he couldn’t tell. That was good enough for me.”

It turned out that the Padres needed the extra run, because Craig Lefferts, who pitched the final two innings for his third save, gave up a Hudler homer in the ninth.

The Padres finished the home stand 5-7.

“Today, it almost looked like we played two different games,” Clark said. “The first 4 1/2 innings went one way, and the last 4 1/2 were different. The first four, we were still in this little gutter we’ve been in. Then, we got a little life in us that we haven’t had.

“It was good to see.”

Padre Notes

Padre Manager Jack McKeon held a brief team meeting before Wednesday’s game. “We just talked about trying to get our offense going,” McKeon said. . . . The two Padre homers in the sixth marked the first time this season they hit two in the same inning. The last time they accomplished that was Sept. 26 against Cincinnati. . . . Mike Dunne made his second start in Las Vegas (triple-A) Tuesday night, going 6 2/3 innings and allowing six hits and two runs (one earned). He walked two and struck out one. Las Vegas lost to Calgary, 5-2, and Dunne didn’t get a decision.