ATLANTA — This is getting to be repetitious. Very repetitious.
Another home run by Dale Murphy--his fourth in four days--was the decisive hit in the Atlanta Braves' 3-1 win over the Padres here on Sunday.
Murphy had done it the day before with a two-run blow against Tim Stoddard that beat San Diego, 7-5, in 10 innings. The Atlanta slugger is hitting .500 with four homers and 10 runs batted in.
His teammates are just as amazed by Murphy as the ordinary fan.
"He can carry a club, the way a Mike Schmidt or Pedro Guerrero can," said Glenn Hubbard, the Braves' second baseman who tied a major league record with 12 assists on Sunday. "The way Murph is hitting is just awesome. This is the best I've ever seen him, I think."
The stream of adjectives went on unabated.
"It's easy to take him for granted," Hubbard said. "It's like you expect this sort of stuff from Murph. And that's really not fair."
Brave pitcher Rick Mahler will take him, fair or otherwise.
"When he walks up there to the plate, I expect to see a homer," said Mahler, who needed only 1:49 to stop the Padres. "On a normal day, he's a great player. When he's hot, like right now, he's phenomenal."
Mahler believes the return of third baseman Bob Horner from wrist surgery has made a difference already.
"Murph isn't trying to take the whole burden on himself, like he did last year," Mahler said. "He doesn't have to now. We can have some other guys who can help. And I think that has helped him to relax some."
Murphy seems almost embarrassed by his recent exploits. He's not one of those athletes who tries to dodge the media, but he certainly acts bashful, almost apologetic when the spotlight finds him.
Someone asked if he was thinking of Dale Long's achievement of a home run in eight straight games.
"I can't think about that," he said. "How am I supposed to even address that question without it sounding stupid? Do you want me to say I expect to hit a homer in each of the next four games?"
Sure, Murph. Go ahead. Say it.
Not a chance.
Murphy, the record book shows, has homered in four straight games twice in his career. The first time was in July, 1978.
Murphy is more than a slugger, too. He is something of an ironman. Sunday marked his 500th consecutive game, longest in the majors at the moment.
Murphy had not seen much of LaMarr Hoyt, Sunday's Padre pitcher, and it took him one at-bat to adjust.
"He throws sort of an unusual breaking ball," Murphy said. "It's one of those kind that he starts at you and then it breaks toward the plate."
That was what he got on the first pitch in the fourth inning. The result was a two-run smash to left.
Murphy is pulling the ball more this year, partly by design and partly by accident. Manager Eddie Haas has suggested that he try to hit fewer balls to right field, as he has done in the past.
"It's not something I'm real conscious of," Murphy said. "I guess I am pulling the ball more. Plus I'm seeing more inside pitches.
"I don't want to get too aware of trying to pull, though, because that limits your ability to hit other pitches. I don't want to get in one frame of mind. I want to keep all my options open."
That's about as close to a filibuster as Murphy is going to come.
In the adjacent locker, Bruce Sutter was sipping a beer and enjoying a smoke after recording his second save of the year.
"It would be nice to get into the habit of Murph hitting a homer and me getting the save," Sutter said in response to a question. "But, no, I really don't think it's going to happen every game."
Sutter said he had never seen Murphy more than three or four games in a row, but he has been mightily impressed by the five games he has seen this year.
"If Dale isn't the best player in the league, he's right there," Sutter said. "If he's not No. 1, he's 1-A."
The Braves, understandably, were feeling pretty good after taking two of three games from the Padres.
Somebody asked the over-worked Hubbard if he had an incentive clause in his contract to cover a record for assists.
"No," he said, "but where's Ted (Turner)?"
Hubbard said Padre catcher Terry Kennedy said something to him about getting close to the record for assists. Not once, but twice.
"I think he was just trying to distract me or something," Hubbard said.
Kennedy probably should have put more energy into distracting Murphy.
About the only problem the Braves, or Hubbard, had was on the game's last play. A bouncer off the bat of Tim Flannery struck Hubbard on the chest. But he recovered to throw out Flannery to get the assist and the record.
Hubbard was generous toward the Padres.
"I don't think they're going to fold," he said, before heading off to the showers.