Uh, remember those obituaries you read on the San Francisco Giants, way back in April?
Remember when the Padres and everyone else in the league were kicking the Giants’ behind, relishing every moment, and laughing aloud in their faces?
And, of course, you remember how the Giants shrugged off the taunts and criticism, telling everyone to go ahead and say whatever they desired, but they’ll be responsible for their actions later.
Nobody bothered to listen, did they?
Hello, National League West.
It’s the Giants again.
The Giants, 7-2 winners Tuesday night over the Padres at San Diego Jack Murphy Stadium, have returned to haunt their tormentors, and are scaring the living daylights out of the National League West.
The Giants (29-30) not only slipped past the Dodgers for third place, but if the Padres dare to look over their shoulders, that gust of air they’re feeling is the Giants breathing hard and coming their way.
"(Giant Manager) Roger Craig has brought this team back in the thick of things,” said Giant left fielder Kevin Mitchell, who’s certainly doing his share, batting .364 with three home runs and nine RBIs during his eight-game hitting streak. If you don’t think about (the deficit), you suddenly realize you’re back in it.”
Said Craig: “I said almost three weeks ago, if we could gain a game a week.” . . .
But this same team that was 14 games out of first place just nine days ago, and 10 games under .500 on May 31, suddenly has returned bigger and badder than ever.
While everyone has been watching the Cincinnati Reds’ collapse, and the Padres move to catch them, the Giants have quietly won 12 of their past 14 games.
And all of a sudden, the Giants have moved to within 7 1/2 games of the Reds, 2 1/2 games of the Padres, and left the cellar far behind.
The Giants haven’t been this close to the Reds since April 27, and although the Padres (five back) gained one-half game because of the Reds’ doubleheader loss to the Atlanta Braves, they’re quite aware that this might be much more than a two-team race.
“They’ve picked up more ground than we have,” Padre Manager Jack McKeon said. “They’re a good club. They’ll stay hot for a while, and they’ll cool off. Just like we’ll stay hot, and then we’ll cool off.
“If the Reds had played another couple of weeks the way they had, it might have been just like ’84, when everybody else knocked each other off and didn’t gain any ground. I can see any one of us being first to third in different weeks of the season.
“They play pretty good defense. Will Clark and Kevin Mitchell are guys that can carry you when they get hot. When you score runs, your pitching seems to get a little bit better, and you can allow a margin for error.”
Just what kind of month are these guys having?
The Giants are 10-1 in June. They’re higher than fourth in the standings for the first time since the first weekend of the season. They got 13 hits Tuesday, marking the eighth time in 11 games that they’ve had at least 10 hits. They’re averaging 7.9 runs a game this month, batting .334. And for the biggest surprise of all, they’ve yielded a 2.80 ERA.
The Padres not only got a crash course on the latest chapter of the Giants’ revival, but got it crammed down their throats.
Giant center fielder Brett Butler gave an early indication of what kind of night lay ahead for the Padres when he slammed Dennis Rasmussen’s first pitch of the game into the right-center gap for a double, and they didn’t relent until the game mercifully came to an end.
The Giants matched the Padres’ entire total of seven hits in the first three innings, and after taking a 3-1 lead in the third, never allowed the Padres a chance to recover.
After Padre catcher Benito Santiago’s leadoff homer in the second inning, his ninth of the season, the Padres didn’t reach second base again until the ninth inning.
Giant starter Don Robinson yielded five hits and one run in the first six innings when he was forced to leave because of an aggravated hip injury. No matter. Mark Thurmond strolled in and slammed away any illusions the Padres had of another comeback victory by yielding just two singles and an unearned run the final three innings.
“I think it’s getting to the point where it’s going to be an interesting second half,” McKeon said. “If Houston keeps playing the way they have, they might get back in it.”
Stay tuned, the fun has just begun.
National League umpire Eric Gregg, who has spent the past two months at Duke University’s Diet and Fitness Center, worked his first game of the season Tuesday. Gregg, who has umpired the past 12 major league seasons, was requested by National League President Bill White to take a leave of absence to lose weight. Gregg dropped about 60 pounds, and feels better than ever, but still tips the scales at 333. “It’s going to be a lifetime struggle for me,” he said, “but I’m really looking forward to coming back. It’s been a long time since I’ve called anybody out.” . . . Umpire John Kibler of Oceanside, who retired at the of last season, visited Gregg before the game “to see how much he lost,” but made a brief stop in the Padres’ clubhouse to obtain Bip Roberts’ autograph. “It’s for my bankteller,” he said. “If I didn’t come back with your autograph, I don’t have an account.” . . . Roberts was scratched from the lineup because of a contusion on his hamstring that he incurred Sunday while sliding home with the winning run. He was replaced in the lineup by Shawn Abner, but is expected to return today to the lineup. . . . Padre second baseman Roberto Alomar and third-base Coach Sandy Alomar are scheduled to be guest hosts for ESPN’s Plays of the Week feature on Monday. . . . Bill Beck, assistant to the vice president of baseball operations, was a bit amused to see reports that his visit Monday night to Anaheim was to begin negotiations with the Kansas City Royals for reliever Mark Davis. The purpose of Beck’s trip was to see the Royal Lancers, the Royals’ booster group which he used to head when working in Kansas City. . . . Padre left fielder Fred Lynn received a shot in his left shoulder Tuesday for tendinitis, and was unavailable for outfield duty. . . . Padre relievers Mark Grant and Greg Harris visited Monday with Davis, their former teammate, and said that Davis believes he might have turned the corner, despite giving up the game-winning homer Monday night to Lance Parrish of the Angels. “He’s in good spirits,” Grant said, “he thinks things are starting to come together.” Davis also telephoned Padre Coach Greg Riddoch on Tuesday morning, and talked for about an hour, echoing the same sentiments. . . . Padre outfielder Joe Carter and first baseman/outfielder Jerald Clark hit Lake Miramar on the off day Monday, and came away with 24 trout. . . . Roberts was measuring his height against Giant shortstop Jose Uribe before the game, and when saw that he came up short, said that Rafael Belliard of Pittsburgh probably was the only player in the league who’s shorter than him. Padre batting Coach Amos Otis, overhearing the conversation, said: “Bip, with your .300 batting average, you can stand tall. There’s a whole lot of guys shorter than you right now.” . . . Padre Manager Jack McKeon on the resurgence of third baseman Mike Pagliarulo: “I’m probably the only guy in town who believed in him. It was probably a blessing in disguise that he wasn’t starting at the beginning of the season. He didn’t have a chance to bury himself. . . . Padre catcher Benito Santiago is running away with the National League All-Star balloting, garnering 455,694 votes compared to 144,691 votes for runnerup Mike Scioscia of the Dodgers. The only other player in the league who has more votes than Santiago is second baseman Ryne Sandberg of the Chicago Cubs. Padre right fielder Tony Gwynn is third in the balloting among outfielders, trailing Kevin Mitchell of the Giants and Andre Dawson of the Cubs. Other Padres in the balloting: Jack Clark is fourth among first baseman; Alomar is second among second baseman; Garry Templeton is fifth among shortstops; Roberts is seventh among third baseman; and Carter is 11th among outfielders. . . . Giant catcher Gary Carter’s father visited the Padre clubhouse before the game.