The Padres have fought the urge all season. They've even chastised those who dare mention it. But after what transpired on this trip, they now acknowledge it's simply a part of their heritage.
They're crazy. They're zany. They're wacky. They're totally unpredictable.
They're the Padres.
Just when you thought their season was lost, the Padres on Wednesday night pulled off an improbable 7-5 victory against Dennis Martinez and the Montreal Expos.
Martinez is a pitcher the Padres dread as much as anyone. Martinez (10-6) came into the game with a 1.99 ERA, yielding a 1.45 ERA the past eight starts. Never had he given up more than four runs in a start this season.
So the Padres, the team that managed to get shut out Monday against Expo starter Chris Haney and watch him get sent down to the minors after the game, made Martinez look like a batting practice pitcher.
They ripped Martinez for nine hits and seven runs (five earned) in 5 1/3 innings. It was the most runs surrendered by Martinez this season, and was the Padres' highest run total since June 30.
"I learn more every day how little I know," said Merv Rettenmund, Padre batting coach. "How can I explain something like this?"
How do you explain your starting pitcher, Adam Peterson, saying he had his best stuff of the year while warming up and then giving up five runs in the first inning before heading to the showers?
How do you explain Jose Melendez, a former starter who has been converted to long reliever, who shut down the Expos on three hits in six innings for his fifth victory, second-highest on the team?
How do you explain it when another pitcher, Bruce Hurst--renowned as a religious man who has never been heard to utter a profanity--gets ejected from a game by three umpires at once?
How do you explain a team overcoming a 5-1 deficit against Martinez, when it never had accomplished the feat this season?
How do you explain a team that grounded into an apparent double play but instead scored three runs on a bases-clearing error?
"I don't think I've ever been on a team like this," said Larry Andersen, who recorded his second consecutive save. "I don't mean this in a bad light, but it's got to be one of the most inconsistent teams I've ever been on.
"It's been absolutely crazy.
"But you know, I love it.
"It's taking on my personality."
The Padres won only three of seven games on this trip, but they picked up three games on the reeling Dodgers and closed to within 7 1/2 games in the National League West standings. They return to San Diego having won three of the past four games.
The Padres' trip started when their team bus, overweight by 25 tons, was pulled over on Park Avenue in New York. The bus arrived an hour late to Shea Stadium.
They went on to find out that pitcher Ed Whitson needed elbow surgery . . . They had their annual team meeting in New York, this time without Jack Clark . . . They struck out 13 times against David Cone . . . Greg Harris was within six outs of throwing a no-hitter against the Mets . . . Padre catcher Benito Santiago forget how many outs there were in an inning . . . Donald Trump and Marla Maples came to watch a game . . . They were shut out by Haney and some guy named Tony Fassero.
And then there was the encore performance Wednesday night.
After delighting the Olympic Stadium crowd in the first inning by surrendering five runs, the Padres entertained them in the second by forgetting how many outs there were in the inning. With one out, and Delino DeShields on first base, Melendez struck out Marquis Grissom, and Santiago threw out DeShields at second. That's right, three outs.
The Padres, however, started to line back in position, Melendez headed toward the mound, when home plate umpire Jim Quick wanted to know what they were doing. Even in Canada, three outs are all you get.
In the fifth inning, Roberts was fined by third base umpire Mark Hirschbeck for throwing his batting helmet after a strikeout. Roberts, however, was throwing his helmet only on the dugout floor. It just so happened to bounce toward the TV cameras.
Hirschbeck gestured for the fine. Padre Manager Greg Riddoch came out of the dugout arguing. And as the argument ensued, Hurst, bullpen coach Ron Oglesby and the Padre bench began voicing their defense of Roberts.
Hurst, whose last verbal tirade came when he told someone to 'Go wash your car,' then raised his hands over his head and began bowing in mock tribute. That was all they needed to see, and Hurst was ejected for the first time since the 1988 American League playoffs.
"I didn't say anything," Hurst said, "I certainly didn't curse. They cursed me, I guess thinking somebody had to curse in the argument."
Said Andersen, laughing: "Well, I did hear Bruce say, 'Gosh darn.' I think they know he doesn't swear, so when he said that, they knew the intent."
Then came the magical sixth inning.
Trailing 5-3, Tony Gwynn led off with a single to center, and stole second. Fred McGriff walked. Jerald Clark loaded the bases by hitting a single to left. And Santiago followed with another single to left, scoring Gwynn and keeping the bases loaded.
Martinez, still allowed to stay in the game, fell behind 3-and-2 to Tim Teufel. The next pitch was a bouncer hit to third baseman Tim Wallach. Wallach threw to home for the force out, and it was catcher Ron Hassey's intention to throw to first for the double play.
What he didn't anticipate was McGriff, who barreled into home, clipping the right leg of Hassey as he threw the ball.
It left Hassey off-balance, and the ball sailed 20 feet over the head of first baseman Andres Galarraga. It was thrown so quickly that right fielder Dave Martinez couldn't get down the line to stop it. By the time it was retrieved, Teufel was crossing home plate standing up.