Padre starter Bruce Hurst stood in front of his locker Sunday, nervously shuffling his feet, answering each question as if it were a police interrogation.
"That's my job, to help this team win," Hurst said.
It made no difference to Hurst that he was the winning pitcher with a seven-hit complete game, his third of the season--equaling half of the Padres' entire complete-game victory total.
"When you only go out there once every five days, I don't think it's asking too much of me to devote three hours of concentration," Hurst said.
And he certainly didn't want to talk about his success this season, going 8-4 with 2.91 ERA, and establishing himself as the ace of the Padre staff.
"My next one's my next one, this one's over with," Hurst said.
Hurst has this trouble with praise or flattery. He can't accept it.
Tell him he has a nice game, and he shrugs his shoulders, wincing. Tell him he's having one of the finest seasons of his career, and he grunts. Then tell him he's a viable candidate for the All-Star game, and watch him really get distraught.
Hurst, like it or not, has emerged as a legitimate nominee for the All-Star game for the second time in his career, and might find himself in Toronto July 9.
"He deserves it as much as anybody," Padre Manager Greg Riddoch said.
Said Padre catcher Benito Santiago: "I think it'd be great to have him there with me."
Said Padre right fielder Tony Gwynn: "Bruce has pitched well all year, he should be there."
Yet, if it's all right with everybody, Hurst would just as soon stay home, hit the beach with the wife and kids, and catch the game on TV. In 1987, the only other time he was selected, he didn't even pitch. He only warmed up in the 13th inning.
"That's the last thing I want to think about," said Hurst, who has more victories than all but four National League pitchers. "That stuff is just a distraction. Whatever happens, happens. It doesn't really matter. I get paid by the San Diego Padres to win games, not pitch in All-Star games."
Hurst will get paid if he's in the All-Star game. He has an incentive in his contract that will pay him $25,000 if he makes the team.
Still, considering the travel to Toronto, the off-days that are gone, Hurst hinted that it might be more pain than achievement. While several of his teammates already have plane tickets and hotel reservations for Toronto--such as Santiago--Hurst hasn't bothered.
"I'm not planning to go, I really don't think I'll go, I'd be shocked if I were to go," Hurst said. "There's so many guys that deserve to go more than me.
"Really, I think too much is made of it, anyway. I'm not going to look back at my career and see how many All-Star games I was in. I want to go to the World Series, that's where I want to go.
"Believe me, that's a lot more fun."
And while Hurst seemingly has a lot better chance of being on the All-Star team than the Padres do of making the World Series, he's doing everything in his power to keep the Padres afloat in the National League West race.
The Padres, 10-5 in Hurst's starts this season, came from behind late once again to win, improving their record to 36-34, seven games behind the Dodgers.
Who'd ever have imagined the Padres would win the game on an error, made by All-Star shortstop Ozzie Smith?
This is a guy who had not made an error in 60 games this season, three shy of the National League record. He had handled a whopping 267 chances without an error, 19 fewer than the National League record set by John Kerr in 1946.
"I still don't believe it," said Bip Roberts, Padre center fielder.
It happened in the eighth inning, after the Padres tied the game in the seventh on Santiago's solo homer off Cardinal starter Francisco Olivares.
Roberts, leading off, hit a ground ball toward the hole. Smith fielded it cleanly, found himself a bit off-balance, and threw to first. The throw was wide, forcing Pedro Guerrero off the bag, and Roberts scooted by under the tag.
The crowd moaned. Smith dropped his head. The streak was over.
"He makes that play 10 times out of 10 times," Roberts said. "The man's a wizard. Maybe they'll look at it again and change it to a hit."
Perhaps a bit rattled, Juan Agosto walked Tony Fernandez on five pitches . . . as a pinch-hitter. Gwynn, who has been bothered by shin splints, was kept out the starting lineup for the first time this season. Pinch-hitting for the first time, Gwynn hit a grounder to first, enabling Roberts and Fernandez to advance a base.
"I took the ugliest hack I've taken in awhile," Gwynn said, "but I got the job done."
The Cardinals brought in right-handed reliever Scott Terry, who intentionally walked Fred McGriff, loading the bases. Jerald Clark, needing only a fly ball to the outfield, hit a ground ball to Guerrero. He threw to second base for one out, but on Smith's throw back to first, Terry failed to put his foot on the bag. Clark was safe, and the Padres had the run they needed.
Hurst went out in the ninth with Larry Andersen and Craig Lefferts furiously warming up in the bullpen. They never were needed. The Cardinals went down in order.
"That's Bruce, he just loves to finish games," Gwynn said. "He'd rather finish a game himself than leave it to someone else.
"Actually, Bruce has pitched well all year long. He's not an overpowering guy, but he changes speeds so well, and when he hits the corners, he's tough.
"The key to him is keeping the ball down, and when he gets those hitters out on his front foot, they're spent already."
The only real mistake Hurst made was to pitch to the bottom of the lineup. Tom Pagnozzi homered off Hurst in the second inning, sending the crowd of 30,882 into an absolute frenzy. It was the first homer by a Cardinal regular since May 18.
And there was that embarrassing moment in the third inning, when Hurst gave up a leadoff double to Olivares, his second hit in two games off Hurst. That drew the good-natured cuts from Gwynn, who suggested that Hurst might start thinking about throwing him spitballs.
But beginning in the fourth, Hurst virtually was unhittable. He didn't allow a runner to reach second base in the final six innings, retiring 17 of the last 20 batters he faced. And of the three singles he allowed after the third inning, two of three batters were picked off first base.
So, with performances like this, doesn't Hurst at least reluctantly believe he could be going to the All-Star game?
"Hey, if I go, I'll be shocked," Hurst said. "If I don't go, I'll be happy."
Did you expect anything different?