Home Runs Put Padres Past Phils : Baseball: Sheffield, Gwynn and McGriff connect in 6-5 victory. Padres snap four-game losing streak.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

It's the smallest bat in the major leagues. Padre right fielder Tony Gwynn calls it his peashooter. No one in his right mind would use it for power hitting.

Gwynn could care less. He uses the 31-ounce, 32 1/2-inch bat to win batting titles, not home-run crowns. His hits are the singles through the hole, not the mammoth shots that wind up on ESPN highlights.

So the Philadelphia Phillies only watched in disbelief Friday night when Gwynn sent Curt Schilling's fastball into the right-center field seats for a two-run homer, leading the Padres to a 6-5 victory in front of 8,798 rain-drenched fans at Veterans Stadium.

"I don't think anyone expected that from me," said Gwynn, who turns 32 today. "I feel like a little kid. I'll go back to my hotel room, turn on the VCR, and play it over and over.

"I don't care if I hit another the rest of the year now. I got mine. I got the zero off my back. Man, what a feeling."

Gwynn's two-out, two-run homer in the seventh inning was his first in 119 at-bats, dating to Aug. 26, 1991. In fact, it was only his third homer in his 10-year career against the Phillies.

Of course, it was only 386 feet.

"What do you mean?" Gwynn said, "that's a bomb for me."

It landed at the right time for the Padres. It not only erased a 4-3 deficit, but allowed the Padres to snap their four-game losing streak.

"Guys were calling it, predicting he'd hit a homer on the bench," said Padre first baseman Fred McGriff, who added an insurance home run in the eighth inning. "We know Tony can hit homers if he wants. But that's not his game. His job is to get on base and let us drive him in.

"Now, if I went up there and tried to do what he does, I'd be looking for another job."

The Padres, who appear to be disguised as an American League team playing in the National League this year, used three home runs to produce their offense. Sheffield also hit a three-run homer in the third inning. The Padres lead the league with 27 homers this year.

Considering their pitching woes of late, they're becoming the West Coast version of the Detroit Tigers.

"If you want to be successful in this league," said Merv Rettenmund, Padre hitting coach, "you either have to have speed or hit the long ball. We don't have the speed, so we're going after that long ball."

Yet, even with the abundance of homers, and McGriff's homer providing what appeared to be a comfortable two-run lead, the Padres still managed to make it rather interesting.

Bullpen stopper Randy Myers, who has pitched only once in the last 11 days, came into the game in the eighth inning. He faced 11 batters, threw 52 pitches, allowed five runners and narrowly escaped with his seventh save of the season.

The Phillies, who scored a run in the eighth on Mariano Duncan's single, had runners on first and third with two outs in the ninth. Kim Batiste, who had three hits in the game, was at the plate. Myers struck him out on three pitches.

"He makes us sweat out there," Gwynn said, laughing. "Me and DJ (Darrin Jackson) were looking at each other and saying, 'Why is this always happening to us?' Has he gone 1-2-3 ever this year?"

Said McGriff: "I see all these games on TV, these blowouts, and I think, 'Maybe we could have just one game like this. Just one easy game.' I don't know if it's possible."

The Padres thought they might have an easy one for a change early in the game when they staked starter Bruce Hurst to a 3-0, third-inning lead on Sheffield's three-run homer off Kyle Abbott. Yet, Hurst gave up two runs in the fourth inning--including a solo homer to Darren Daulton--and surrendered a two-run homer to Lenny Dykstra in the sixth inning.

Dykstra's homer not only turned a 3-0 lead into a 4-3 deficit, but added to ever-popular trivia question that continues to haunt the Padres:

What do Billy Doran, Brett Butler, Eric Karros, Mike Scioscia, Eric Davis, Steve Finley, Jerry Willard, Billy Hatcher, Mickey Morandini, Darrin Fletcher, Spike Owen, John Vander Wal, Gary Carter and Dykstra have in common?

Answer: Each hit his first homer of the season off the Padre pitching staff.

The Padre starting rotation continues to struggle. They have only two victories in their last 12 starts, yielding a 7.40 ERA. But on this night, there was forgiveness, thanks to Gwynn.

Jose Melendez (4-0), who faced only two batters in relief of Hurst, was the winning pitcher. It likely will be his last appearance in the bullpen. He's expected to start Tuesday against the New York Mets.

"I'll take the easy ones," he said.

The game almost was not played, with the start delayed 33 minutes. It rained most of the day in Philadelphia, and threatened most of the night, but the Phillies were able to keep their streak alive of playing 145 games without a rain-out at home.

"It was miserable out there," McGriff said. "but when the final out was made, no one cared. We finally got that 'W.' "Now, if we could only make things a little easier. . . ."

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