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Padres Glad Trip Is Over

TIMES STAFF WRITER

The Wally World Trip is over. The Griswolds have returned home. Oh, the Padres’ annual family disaster probably would seem humorous to Chevy Chase, but the team arrived in San Diego Thursday night with enough entertaining stories to satisfy any producer.

Well, any producer except Padre chairman Tom Werner.

“The only difference between us and the Griswolds,” said Pat Dobson, Padre pitching coach, “is that our hubcaps are on, and our wheels aren’t wobbling.”

No, just the Padres are wobbling.

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The Padres, having lost once again Thursday to the Houston Astros, 2-1 in 10 innings, have now dropped four of their past five games, sinking to mediocrity at 35-35, 10 games behind the Cincinnati Reds.

Considering the way this trip has gone the past two weeks, the way it ended in front of 17,603 at the Houston Astrodome was fitting.

Eric Anthony--a San Diego native--was at the plate in the 10th inning with Craig Biggio on first and reliever Mark Grant on the mound. Anthony hit a sharp line drive into the right-field corner. Tony Gwynn raced over and waited for the ball to carom off the wall.

“I think we would have had them at the plate, too, the way Tony throws,” Padre catcher Mark Parent said.

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One little problem. The ball never bounced off the wall. It stuck underneath the panel of padding covering it. By the time Gwynn scooped it out, Biggio was rounding third and on his way home.

Biggio scored, the umpiring crew ran off the field, and Gwynn was left muttering to himself, wondering why a ground-rule double wasn’t called.

“I’d been taking balls off that wall the last four days during batting practice,” Gwynn said, “and the one time it comes into play, the ball stops. I couldn’t believe it. Really, that ball should have been called a ground-rule double, but you saw how quickly they (the umpires) left the field.”

Of course, the Padres could have known in the ninth inning that they weren’t going to win this baby when third baseman Mike Pagliarulo tried to call for time while batting. Home-plate umpire Mike Winters refused, and Pagliarulo was wiping his face as the third strike crossed in front of him.

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The problem?

“A butterfly got in my face,” said Pagliarulo, hitless in his past 17 at-bats, hitting just two balls out of the infield. “Can you believe it? We’re in a dome, and there’s a butterfly. It’s crazy.”

It has been that kind of trip (5-7), with each day of this four-city, 14-day journey a new adventure.

Why, it was just Monday that Padre Manager Jack McKeon called starting shortstop Garry Templeton into his office and told him that he was going to move second baseman Roberto Alomar into his position, and that Templeton would be on the bench.

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On Thursday morning, McKeon called Templeton into his office again. This time?

“He told me I had enough rest, I’m back in there,” Templeton said, shrugging his shoulders.

Ah, yes, the Padres, the organization with never a dull moment. It was a year ago at about this time, during Wally World I, that the Padres journeyed across the country to Cincinnati, Houston and San Francisco, losing nine of 10 games in every imaginable way.

“Everything that could go wrong did go wrong,” Grant said. “That took us out of the whole year. We never could recover.

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“I don’t know how you compare the two, but this trip has got to rank up there with any.”

You know it has been a crazy trip when the pitching staff bats .280, the rest of the team .244 . . . when pitcher Dennis Rasmussen drives in as many runs (four) as first baseman Jack Clark . . . when Padre pitchers go four consecutive games without allowing a homer after failing to accomplish that feat for two games in a row before the trip . . . when Gwynn, a four-time batting champion, goes zero for 14, equaling the longest slump of his career . . . when leadoff hitter Bip Roberts ties Joe Carter for the team lead with eight RBIs.

Ah, the memories . . .

Let’s see if we can remember what happened without our AAA guides:

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LOS ANGELES

It started with a miserable 13-inning game that lasted so long that Padre reliever Calvin Schiraldi was 27 years old when it began and had turned 28 on the mound when it finally ended at 12:12 in the morning. The Padres at least won, 2-1, but it would be their only victory of the three-game series. Little did anyone realize it would be just the first of four extra-inning games they’d play on this trip, one in each city, in three different time zones.

Snapshots: Padre chairman Tom Werner addressed the troops for the first time, the most common question from the players being: “When is Bill Cosby coming to the clubhouse?” . . . Pitcher Dennis Rasmussen bought a doll for leadoff hitter Bip Roberts, who was ejected for arguing balls and strikes in the first game. The name: Revenge of the Umpire, a tear-away stress doll. . . . Pitcher Andy Benes lost track of the count while on the mound, but his memory lapse was nothing compared to what would happen to some of his teammates.

SAN FRANCISCO

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It was billed as World War III, with the Padres vowing to avenge the broken arm suffered by catcher Benito Santiago when he was hit by a pitch in the teams’ meeting the previous week in San Diego. Instead, Giant pitchers hit the Padres four more times and said, “What are you going to do about it?” The answer was nothing. The Padres didn’t go as far as even knocking down a Giant batter, leaving veterans such as center fielder Joe Carter seething. Oh, well, they did at least get some satisfaction by winning two of three games.

Snapshots : Reliever Craig Lefferts was so excited after retiring Will Clark with the bases loaded in Game 2 that he ran off the field into the Giant dugout, forgetting momentarily that he is now a Padre. . . . Second baseman Roberto Alomar turned a double play in Game 3, forgetting that there already were two outs in the inning. Oh, well, it wasn’t nearly as painful as Shawn Abner’s memory lapse in the ninth inning of Game 2. He was standing on second base, and when Carter swung and missed at a second strike, Abner thought the inning was over and began wandering into left. The inning was over moments later when Abner was thrown out.

ATLANTA

McKeon never got a chance to say hello to Brave Manager Russ Nixon. Nixon was fired the morning of June 23, and General Manager Bobby Cox took over, setting up the first meeting of two general managers on the field. But the historic occasion would have to wait. The first game was rained out, and the Padres split two.

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Snapshots : The wildest, wackiest game of the season was Sunday. McKeon used 20 players in the first nine innings alone, and by the time it ended--on Brave shortstop Andres Thomas’ homer in the 12th--the Padres had used everybody but starter Andy Benes and reliever Eric Show. It was a game in which Rasmussen was sent up to pinch-hit for the first time in his career and delivered a bases-loaded double.

HOUSTON

The Padres went the entire series without allowing a homer, but the Astros made up for it on the basepaths, stealing 13 bases without being caught. “We don’t have any speed guys,” McKeon complained, “we have trucks.” Templeton went from being a starter to a backup to a starter in the same series. McKeon said that he liked what he saw with Alomar at shortstop and Bip Roberts at second, but the leadership in the field was missing with Templeton on the bench. Certainly, Alomar’s sore right shoulder helped McKeon change his mind.

Snapshots : The Padres and Royals confirm that they have talked about a trade, with sources saying that the Royals were determining interest in a possible Bo Jackson-Mark Davis swap for Carter. Bullpen stopper Craig Lefferts was assured that even if the Padres did acquire Davis, he still would remain their No. 1 man. But after hearing that Jackson hit two more homers Thursday in the Kingdome, McKeon joked: “Well, there goes that trade, too.”

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So, as you see, it’s not a trip that will ever show up in Padre folklore. In fact, the Padres ask that you destroy any pictures or evidence that remain.

“Man, I just want to go home,” Roberts said. “I don’t care how hot it is there, I just want to get home and forget this ever happened.”

Padre Notes

The Padres, Manager Jack McKeon said Thursday, are considering purchasing the contract of left-handed reliever Rich Rodriguez, 27, of their triple-A team in Las Vegas. Rodriguez, who would have joined the Padres if Dennis Rasmussen’s inflamed left shoulder would have required a stint on the 15-day disabled list, is 3-4 with a 3.70 ERA and seven saves. He has yielded 48 hits and 22 walks in 56 innings, striking out 45. The Padres have been without a left-handed reliver since June 4, when they optioned Pat Clements to Las Vegas. Rodriguez, 5-feet-10, 194 pounds, is a former ninth-round draft pick of the New York Mets who was acquired before the 1989 season by the Padres. It remains unclear whose spot Rodriguez would take on the 25-man roster, but sources said the Padres have three clear options: 1) trading pitcher Eric Show; 2) optioning infielder Joey Cora to Las Vegas, or 3) trading outfielder Darrin Jackson.

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