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Padre Trio Adding Flourishes to Season

TIMES STAFF WRITER

It happens every year.

A team is eliminated from pennant contention every year, but the pressure-packed game from early in the season turn in drawn-out, late-September affairs.

Players plan vacations instead of extra trips to the batting cages.

But there are always a few who are different. These are the guys who view the end of the season about the same way as a high school senior sees the end of the night on which he finally got the date with the girls of his dreams.

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It’s over already?

Introducing Benito Santiago . . . and Fred McGriff . . . and Andy Benes.

The Padres’ 8-2 victory over the Dodgers on Wednesday night didn’t mean much from the Padres’ point of view. But Santiago ripped a three-run home run off of Tim Crews in the seventh, giving him a career-high 82 RBIs.

It was Santiago’s 16th homer of the season, leaving him two short of his career high of 18 in 1987.

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McGriff hit a bases-empty homer against Dodger starter Bobby Ojeda in the fourth, giving him 30 for the season. It is the fourth consecutive year in which McGriff has reached the 30-homer mark, and he becomes the first Padre to do it since Dave Winfield had 34 in 1979.

McGriff also has a career-high 102 RBIs. It is the first time McGriff has cracked the 100 RBI mark in his career, and he is only the fourth Padre to do it. Nate Colbert, Winfield, and Joe Carter preceded him.

And Benes won his 10th consecutive decision. His streak is the longest in the National League since Montreal’s Dennis Martinez won 11 in a row in 1989, and it is the longest for a Padre since Andy Hawkins and LaMarr Hoyt each won a club-record 11 consecutive decisions in 1985.

Not a bad night’s work for these three.

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Santiago called this the finest year of his career, even better than his rookie season in 1987 when he batted .300 with 18 homers and 79 RBIs.

“Yeah, it is,” Santiago soad. “I’m hitting .264 or .265 (.264)--it’s not like I’m hitting .310 or .315--but I have more RBIs and only need two homers to tie my career high.”

Santiago has now driven in 24 runs in his past 23 games and has hit safely in 24 of his past 33. During that stretch, he has 31 RBIs and four homers.

McGriff, meanwhile, has had his share of peaks and valleys all season, and Santiago and Benes have only begun their tears recently. But McGriff was happy to get his 30th homer.

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“I had a lot of pressure to keep it going,” he said. “I had hit 30 in Toronto for three straight years, and in the past, I always had 30 by the end of August.

“This year, I was sweating it.”

As for Benes, he hasn’t lost since July 15 in Montreal. He has allowed more than two runs in only one of his past 13 starts, and his ERA during that stretch is 1.63.

“I guess the second half has been as good as the first half was bad,” Benes said. “You try to learn from your mistakes. Each time out, you try to get a little better.”

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The season winds down, the Dodger leave San Diego and leave for an 11-day stretch drive. The Padres play out the string. Meaningful has turned into meaningless.

But not for these three. As the sun goes down, they continue to chase the shadows.


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