Hurst Finds No Solace in Defeat
They walked slowly by his locker Monday night, speaking softly, and offering their condolences after the Padres’ 4-1 defeat to the Pittsburgh Pirates.
It isn’t fair, his teammates say. It’s a crime, they say. But no matter, there it is, for all the world to see.
Bruce Hurst, the ace of the Padre pitching staff and one of the most likeable guys in the game, owns a 1-4 record.
This is the worst start in his nine-year major league career, and although he has the numbers to prove he’s deserving of a better fate, Hurst will be the first to tell you that the bottom line is winning.
Don’t bother telling him that the Padres have scored just eight runs during the 41 2/3 innings he has pitched this season.
Don’t annoy him by saying that of the four runs scored by the Pirates at Three Rivers Stadium on Monday--all in the first inning--the only run that was earned was Barry Bonds’ leadoff homer.
And whatever you do, please, do not start portraying Hurst as a hard-luck pitcher.
“I don’t believe in that, and I’m not going to fall in that trap,” Hurst said. “I’m not going to start thinking that way. I’m not going to start putting myself in that category. I refuse. I’m not going to put that label on myself. I don’t think its fair.
“And I’m not going to whine for runs. I’m just not.
“It’s just part of the game. Hey, in the Americal League, I didn’t get a chance to hit, but I do now. I’m up there too, and even though I don’t hit very well, I can help out.
“I could always win 1-0, couldn’t I?”
Hurst, who actually had a single to help himself, suddenly stopped his diatribe, looked around, and realized he had no support.
Sure, he can shut out teams for nine innings and hope his team contributes one run somewhere along the way, but when you’re pitching with the burden of knowing that one bad pitch can cost you the game, just ask any pitcher how that feels.
“You know the best year I ever pitched was in 1972,” said Padre pitching Coach Pat Dobson, “and that’s the year I went 16-18, leading the league in lost games. But I had a 2.65 ERA. I mean, I pitched better that year than next year when I won 20.
“The biggest thing now for Bruce is to be patient, and not change anything. He’s just got to keep going out there and doing his things, and the wins will come. But he can’t be expected to win every game, 1-0. Hell, not even Bob Feller could do that.
“And if he doesn’t get the runs, there’s nothing he can do about it.”
And just how is Hurst’s confidence these days?
“If Jack (McKeon, Padre manager) wants to keep running me out there,” said Hurst, who has won just twice since Sept. 12, “hopefully I’ll win a game.”
Certainly, someone has got to start winning for the Padres, because if you take a glance at the standings today, you’ll find the Padres (12-13) sitting in third place, trailing the Cincinnati Reds by seven games. A year ago at this time, they were 14-11 and tied for first.
They’ll also have to do the winning without the services of first baseman Jack Clark, who was scheduled to take a flight back to San Diego today for further examinations on his back. Clark was diagnosed Sunday with a severe sprain of the lower back, and Dr. Michael Schaffer said that he will be out for at least a week.
“You’d like to have Jack in the lineup,” McKeon said, “but one guy doesn’t make our ballclub. If we have to depend on one guy, we’re in trouble.”
The Padres also seem to be in deep trouble every time they play the Pirates, losing to them for the fourth consecutive time. It’s the first time since 1971 that the Padres have lost their first four games against the Pirates, which just so happens to be the year that the Pirates won the World Series.
The Padres have been outscored 27-9 this season by the Pirates, hitting just .237 while yielding a 6.69 ERA with eight home runs.
Of course Bonds, the Pirate leadoff hitter, is responsible for most of the damage. In his four games against the Padres this season, he’s batting .667 (10 for 15) with four home runs and seven RBIs.
It was his leadoff homer in the first that opened the night of horrors for Hurst. The next thing he knew, third baseman Mike Pagliarulo was making an error on Jay Bell’s ground ball . . . there was a balk . . . a double down the left-field line by Bobby Bonilla . . . a wild pitch . . . an infield single by Don Slaught . . . a broken-bat single by Andy Van Slyke . . . and before Hurst knew it, he was down 4-0.
The Padres got a run back in the fourth inning when first baseman Joe Carter doubled and scored on Fred Lynn’s ground ball, but their only opportunity to make up the first-inning deficit occurred in the eighth. They had runners on first and second with two outs and Carter at the plate, but he flied out to right, and the Padres were finished for the night.
Hurst allowed just three hits and four base runners during the remainder of his seven-inning stint, but on this night, it made little difference. The Padres obtained just seven hits the entire game, reaching third base just once the entire game.
“People keep asking how frustrated I am,” Hurst said, “whether I’m going home and kicking the dog out of my dog or screaming at my wife and kids. I’ll never do that. My family comforts me after games like this.”
But what about the road?
“You know what I wish, I wish Jack would change the team rules and allow us to take golf clubs on the road,” Hurst said. “Then I’d take my frustrations out all over that golf course. Man, I really could use 18 holes right about now.”
Pitcher Mike Dunne, who pitched a no-hitter Sunday night against Portland, is scheduled to make three more starts for the Padres’ triple-A Las Vegas club, and then will join the staff May 22 as either a starter or a reliever. Dunne underwent arthroscopic surgery last November, but after throwing 118 pitches in the no-hitter, the prognosis is quite optimistic. Dunne said Monday that his arm feels tired, but fine. “I feel I’m all ready, but the arm is going to tell,” Dunne said. “Even though I wish I did it up in the big-leagues, I’m still happy I did it here. Every pitcher would like to say he threw at least one no-hitter, and I don’t care whether I got it at A-ball, rookie ball, or whatever, it feels great.” . . . Padre reliever John Davis, who signed a triple-A contract last week, pitched an impressive three-inning simulated game Monday. The only hard-hit ball he allowed was a home run to Jerald Clark. “I really like the way he’s pitching,” Padre pitching Coach Pat Dobson said. “We’ve changed his grip and his delivery, and it’s made all the difference. Now, we just have to work on his consistency.” Davis will remain with the Padres the remainder of the trip, and leave Friday for Las Vegas. . . . The Padres are 0-6 against the two National League division leaders this season, the Pirates and Reds, having been outscored 40-17.