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Rasmussen Ends Wait for Victory : Baseball: Pitcher sees long drought conclude with a 4-1 victory over the Houston Astros. Fred McGriff hits second grand slam in as many nights.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Dennis Rasmussen should have won an Oscar for the way he disguised his anguish. No one among the Padres ever knew his feelings.

“The only one who knew what I was going through was my wife (Sharon),” Rasmussen said. “It was tougher on her than anyone. She couldn’t pitch for me, she could only listen.”

Finally on Wednesday night, after two excruciating months , Rasmussen’s torment ended. He led the Padres to a 4-1 victory over the Houston Astros in front of a crowd of 12,586 at San Diego Jack Murphy Stadium. The victory ended his nine-game losing streak.

Rasmussen allowed only three hits in 7 2/3 innings. Larry Andersen closed out the game, getting his eighth save.

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Padre first baseman Fred McGriff claimed a share of the spotlight, too. He tied a major league record by hitting his second grand slam in as many nights. The homer gave Rasmussen all the runs he needed.

“Right now, I’m just in one of those grooves,” said McGriff, who has 24 homers this season. “I can’t explain it any other way.”

McGriff’s heroics were set up in the first when Bip Roberts opened the game with a single to left. Tony Fernandez followed with a double to left and Tony Gwynn was walked on four pitches.

McGriff worked the count to 3-2 and then smashed Jim Deshaies’ fastball into the right-center field seats.

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It was McGriff’s second grand-slam in four at-bats, and his fourth homer in eight at-bats. The last National League player to hit grand slams twice in a row happened to be sitting in the Astro dugout. It was third base coach Phil Garner, who hit grand slams in consecutive games in 1978 for the Pittsburgh Pirates.

So just what kind of newfound respect did McGriff receive?

After the game, McGriff was stopped before heading into the clubhouse by a small boy, who asked McGriff to autograph a baseball card.

The card was of Ron Karkovice, Chicago White Sox catcher.

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The game also provided an intriguing post-game subplot when Padre Manager Greg Riddoch kept his office closed for 20 minutes to meet with left fielder Jerald Clark. The Padres have been removing Clark from of several games for defensive purposes because of his sore ankles; Clark expressed his objections.

“We decided to keep playing him now until he says it hurts,” Riddoch said.

Said Clark, who’s in a seven-for-45 skid (.155): “Hey, my ankles are OK, it’s just my mechanics that are bad. Believe me, I’ve been more frustrated than anyone. I know I’m not the hitter I’ve shown the last couple of weeks. I didn’t expect it to last this long.”

Meanwhile, Rasmussen has rarely looked better. He won for the first time since June 15.

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After a shaky first inning, in which he walked two batters, Rasmussen retired 17 of the next 19 batters, allowing only six fly balls to the outfield.

He began to tire in the eighth, however, and loaded the bases with two outs. Riddoch decided to take no chances. He lifted Rasmussen and brought in Andersen. The shutout was ruined when shortstop Tony Fernandez couldn’t handle Craig Biggio’s sharp grounder toward the hole, but Andersen struck out Jeff Bagwell to end the inning and preserve the victory.

“I certainly never gave up on myself,” Rasmussen said. “Every time I just went out and tried to keep my team in the game. I pitched good enough to win a lot of times.

“But I’m not going to fool anyone. Winning is the bottom line, and I wasn’t winning.”

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Rasmussen, after winning three of his first four decisions since returning May 25 from the disabled list, lost nine consecutive games. It was the league’s longest losing streak and only two shy of the franchise record of 11 consecutive defeats, which was set by Gary Ross in 1969 and by Steve Arlin in 1972. It’s a record Rasmussen gladly will not be sharing.

“It was a tough time,” Rasmussen said. “I’ve gone through droughts before, but nothing like this. It’s tough reading the papers every day, seeing someone give up five, six, seven runs, and getting a no-decision. For me, it was a loss every time.

“I know I could have come out of games and gotten a no-decision, too. I could have shut it down, and guaranteed myself of not losing. But that’s not me. I want to win.

“That’s what’s made this so frustrating. If I had just won some of those games, pulled some of them out, we’d be right in the pennant race. We’d only be three, four games out.

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“Hopefully, I can keep up my end of it now, and we’ll get right back in this thing.”

Said Padre general manager Joe McIlvaine: “This next week are pretty big games for the ballclub. The standings could turn significantly.”


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