The Padres came home Thursday night counting victories and Fred Lynn's pinch hits instead of clubhouse meetings and brawls.
Lynn's pinch single in the seventh drove home the winning run as the Padres defeated Atlanta, 2-1, in San Diego Jack Murphy Stadium. They have now won four in a row and six of their past seven.
Lynn has reached base in each of his past three pinch-hit attempts--all this week--with two singles and a walk.
"Fred's been great," Padre Manager Jack McKeon said. "I talked to him at the beginning of the season, and I told him his role could be anything from a regular to platoon to pinch-hitting. And I talked with him (Wednesday).
"He said, 'I'll do whatever you want. I'm here to help win. Don't worry about me.' That's a great attitude."
On this night, Lynn wasn't the only hero. Greg Harris pitched two perfect innings--striking out four of the six batters he faced--for his third save, his second in two nights. He now has eight strikeouts in two games and has struck out seven of the past batters 11 he has faced. And this is a guy who had a sore elbow after Sunday's brawl in New York.
"I feel pretty good," Harris said. "My elbow feels sound, and I feel like I have decent stuff."
And on the subject of good, strong arms, how about catcher Benito Santiago? He threw two Braves out as they attempted to steal second and picked another off first.
"He put on a clinic out there for a while, didn't he?" McKeon said. "That's so important to a pitcher, too."
What a night for the Padres, who trailed, 1-0, after six innings. The winning run came when Lynn, pinch-hitting for starting pitcher Dennis Rasmussen, singled in the seventh to drive home Phil Stephenson.
Lynn got quite an ovation, but before that, the 13,644 fans weren't quite sure what to make of it all. They seemed more confused than anything about the events of the past two weeks, during which comments by Mike Pagliarulo concerning an unnamed, supposedly selfish Padre touched off several days of team soul-searching and meetings.
Tony Gwynn, who thought Pagliarulo was referring to him, was cheered. Pagliarulo received a mixed reaction each time he batted--many cheers with a smattering of boos. Gwynn was booed when he flied to left with the bases loaded in the sixth.
But, remember, this is San Diego. The fans were so worked up that they dropped a giant beach ball into left field just before the start of the seventh.
Ah, business as usual.
Pete Smith held the Padres in check for six innings, but they finally scored two in the seventh--after loading the bases with none out in the sixth and failing to score.
Pagliarulo led off the seventh with a walk, and Stephenson followed with a single to left, where it was turned into an adventure by Lonnie Smith. Smith bobbled the ball after a hop and dropped it, allowing Pagliarulo to take third and Stephenson to go to second.
The problem was that Pagliarulo strained a hamstring rounding third, so Shawn Abner ran for him.
Abner scored on Garry Templeton's fly to right. Up stepped Lynn, who had never batted against Pete Smith.
"As a pinch-hitter, I'm looking for the first available pitch to hit," Lynn said. "I don't even know if it was a strike tonight."
It didn't much matter.
Pagliarulo said his hamstring "just kind of stiffened up" and that he didn't think it was serious. McKeon said he may give Pagliarulo the day off today. If that happens, Lynn may start, because the Braves are starting right-hander John Smoltz.
Coincidentally, Lynn has been relegated to pinch-hitting because Pagliarulo's hot bat has caused McKeon to move Bip Roberts to left.
But Lynn is happy, and he remembers that conversation with McKeon.
"I told (McKeon) when I came over here I'd do whatever he needs to win," Lynn said. "Now, my role is on the bench. You look out there, and it seems like everyone is hitting .300. It's hard to fault the logic in what we're doing.
"It's all mental. If you accept it mentally and know it's the right thing for you and the club, there should be no problems. I think it's easier for an older guy to pinch-hit than a younger guy. Every youngster thinks he's better than whoever's out there. And that's the way it should be. Older guys look for what their role is and accept it. If you don't, you're looking for another job."
Santiago, meanwhile, helped get two outs about two minutes apart in the third. Ron Gant led off with a single, but Santiago caught him at second on an attempted steal. Jeff Treadway followed with a walk, and Lonnie Smith flied to center. With Jim Presley at the plate, Santiago then picked Treadway off first.
End of inning.
But it was not the end of the Braves' running game. In the fifth, Blauser led off with a single. He tried to steal second. He was caught.
Still, the Padres had trouble kicking it into gear. In the sixth, Rasmussen, Roberts and Alomar singled consecutively to load the bases with none out.
That left all kinds of scoring possibilities. Here came Gwynn . . .
Soft fly to left.
That was OK, because here came Joe Carter . . . Strikeout.
Now, it was getting serious. Up stepped Santiago . . .
High fly to right.
Rasmussen stood helplessly on third, 90 feet away from tying the game in which he was pitching.
"I thought we were going to break it open in the sixth," McKeon said.
The problem was Pete Smith. The Padres couldn't figure him out. He came into the game tied for second in the National League with three complete games. Still, he was just 4-3 with a 4.30 earned-run average.
Rasmussen (5-2) started slowly but got better as he went along. He allowed a run and five hits in the first three innings but then held the Braves to one hit until he left at the end of the seventh.
Harris came on and didn't allow a hit in the eighth or ninth.
In seven innings, Rasmussen walked two and struck out four. He has now won four of his past five decisions. And he's not doing badly at the plate, either. His single Thursday improved his average to .368 (seven for 19).
The Braves scored a run in the second but missed a chance to score another when Blauser was thrown out trying to stretch a double into a triple.
Dave Justice led off the second with a single to center, and Blauser followed with a drive into the gap in left center. Justice scored, but Roberts threw to Alomar, who relayed to Pagliarulo at third in time to get Blauser by a step.
So there were none out, but none on, either. Rasmussen struck out Greg Olson and got Pete Smith to ground to short to end the inning.
First baseman Jack Clark took about 10 minutes of batting practice and said his sore back is feeling better. "Ten good minutes," he said. The only problem is that his recently fractured cheekbone set his timetable back an extra few days. "When you restart it up again, you don't know what to expect," he said. "What you've loosened up tightens back up." Clark suffered a herniated disc May 5 in Chicago and then was hit in the face with a thrown baseball during batting practice May 25. "I'll probably have a little bit of pain over the course of the whole year, especially in my back," he said. "As long as I don't hurt it so I'm out for an extended period of time." . . . Life on the road: The Padres returned from Philadelphia at 3 a.m. Thursday after a 5-hour 47-minute flight, and both Manager Jack McKeon and pitching coach Pat Dobson brought the flu home. McKeon said he was sick all afternoon Thursday but made it to the stadium. But Dobson, was forced to take the day off. Coach Greg Riddoch ran the normal pre-series meeting for pitchers and catchers in Dobson's absence. . . . McKeon said Amos Otis will coach first base, and Riddoch will remain in the dugout indefinitely. "I've had good luck with it," McKeon said. "I'm not changing it now." . . . Tuesday's rain-out in Philadelphia has been rescheduled as part of a doubleheader Saturday, Sept. 1, at Veterans Stadium. . . . Tuesday's Houston-Padres game has been moved back to 7:35 p.m. to accommodate ESPN. . . . Add McKeon to the list of people who think the lockout-shortened spring training is contributing to slow starts by several pitchers. "The good guys are not as sharp as usual," McKeon said. "Guys like (Mike) Scott, (Rick) Reuschel, (Greg) Maddux, (Dwight) Gooden. . . . I think it's because they didn't get enough time. I don't think you can go less than five weeks. The big thing is game action for pitchers. This year, we got 14 or 15 innings in for pitchers, and that was all. And if you try to get your starters ready, you don't get any work in for the bullpen." . . . The Padres were 4-5 against Atlanta last year in San Diego Jack Murphy Stadium and 7-2 in Atlanta. . . . Saturday is Sports Bag Night, and general admission tickets are on sale on a reserved-seat basis.