Start Deteriorates Quickly for Padres' Whitson : Baseball: Ground balls find holes before Mets find power in seventh inning.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Ed Whitson dressed almost as quickly as he pitches, which tells you something right there.

Players savor the victories. They joke by their lockers, razz each other and slowly pull on their clothes as if the clubhouse is some sort of Garden of Eden that they never want to leave.

And the music plays.

After a loss, particularly after a bitter or frustrating loss, there is no music. There is no laughter, and there are no loud conversations. And in some cases, players come close to dressing two legs at a time.

After the Padres' 7-1 loss Thursday to the Mets, Whitson yanked on his clothes, shoved on his rings and slapped on his watch.

He was out of there.

"I really don't have a lot to say right now," he said firmly. "It was just one of those days at the office."

Tom Lampkin, Whitson's catcher, said the right-hander really didn't pitch as badly as it appeared.

"There were some pitches Whit threw that I thought were strikes that were not called strikes," Lampkin said. "He threw a lot of good pitches out there. He threw some great ones. He dominated so much more than people would think.

"But on the contrary, when he made bad pitches, it was like they were waiting on them."

Whitson allowed two runs on five hits through six innings, but his day went up in smoke in the seventh inning, when the Mets got five hits and five runs. He allowed a two-run homer to Dave Magadan and a bases-empty homer to Kevin McReynolds during that time and, by the end of the inning, Whitson had been excused. He lasted 6 2/3 innings, allowing seven earned runs, 10 hits and four walks.

It was Magadan's first homer of the season--an opposite-field shot--and McReynolds' second. Both came on fastballs. But in Whitson's eyes, a simple Vince Coleman grounder started all the trouble.

"The turning point," Whitson called it.

The situation was this: Catcher Charlie O'Brien was on third with one out when Coleman came to bat. Coleman grounded the ball toward first. Fred McGriff couldn't quite reach it, and the ball bounded off his glove and into right field. O'Brien scored, making it 3-1.

Up stepped Gregg Jefferies, who grounded the ball up the middle for another single. Then came the homers.

"I got the ground balls I needed," Whitson said. "They were just out of reach. There's nothing anybody can do. That's just the way it breaks. Sooner or later, it's got to turn around."

He has allowed a team-high nine homers this year in eight starts. He is 2-4, and his earned-run average is an uncharacteristic 4.55. His four walks were a season high.

"That's something I ain't going to say nothing about," Whitson said regarding Thursday's walks. "I can't say nothing about that."

He was finished dressing now.

"That's all I got," he said.

Someone asked another question.

"That's all I got," he repeated.

A minute later, Whitson walked out of the clubhouse and toward his next start.

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