Houston Astro right-hander Mike Scott should give a small piece of sandpaper an assist Tuesday night after he pitched his first complete game and shutout in almost two years.
The Astros demolished the Padres, 11-0, at the Astrodome.
Not too much to talk about there. It was the Padres' worst defeat of the season.
Houston scored single runs in the first and fifth innings, and then put the game away with four runs in the sixth and five in the eighth.
What about the sandpaper?
Indirectly, that is what dominated the post-game conversation in both clubhouses.
A couple of weeks ago Chicago first baseman Leon Durham says he found a piece of sandpaper near the mound when Scott had pitched against the Cubs. That find, combined with some Scott pitches that moved more than usual, prompted Durham to give Manager Jim Frey the sandpaper.
Frey sent the sandpaper to the National League office.
Opposing hitters and managers have been talking and thinking about it ever since.
"We looked at the ball in the first inning when it came into our dugout and there was a scuff mark on it," said Padre Manager Dick Williams.
Williams asked home plate umpire Billy Williams to look at the ball. Williams had a better look at the ball than the Padre hitters did throughout most of the night, and he gave it right back to the pitcher.
"All I can say is that if it's wet," Williams said, "you have to hit it on the wet side. If it's scuffed, you hit it on the scuffed side."
The Padres didn't hit it much on either side.
Mixing 90 m.p.h. fastballs with wicked forkballs and good changeups, the right-hander from Pepperdine University had the Padre hitters off-balance.
"They should know I'm throwing the forkball," Scott said, "but it doesn't make any difference to me if they want to think that I am (doctoring the baseball)."
"They didn't look right," said pinch-hitter Bobby Brown, when he was asked about the three pitches he struck out on in the eighth inning. "He got me out of there real quick."
Brown wasn't alone. Scott allowed only four hits--two in the first eight innings--walked two and struck out five in improving his record to 5-2.
For five innings, Scott and Padre starter and loser Mark Thurmond (3-4) were involved in a lackluster pitching duel that had most of the crowd of 11,989 wondering why they left home on a humid day of 95-degree temperature. Well, the Astrodome is air-conditioned.
Houston, which had lost, 9-1, Monday night to the Padres, jumped out to a 1-0 lead on Bill Doran's leadoff home run to left field.
The Padres had their best scoring opportunity in the second inning when Terry Kennedy reached first on a passed ball following his strikeout and advanced to second on a walk to Kevin McReynolds. However, Graig Nettles struck out, Carmelo Martinez popped to second, Garry Templeton popped to short and Scott settled down.
Thurmond, continually behind on the hitters, managed to hold off the Astros until the fifth inning. That's when Doran hit a one-out single to score Craig Reynolds from second base.
In the sixth, the Astros weathered a Padre timeout and woke up their fans.
First, the timeout.
Leadoff batter Kevin Bass hit a foul tip that forced Kennedy to get his equipment fixed. He raced into the dugout and did not come back on the field until the repair was complete.
But nothing could repair the Padres in this game.
Bass singled and stole second, Jim Pankovits walked and Terry Puhl singled to load the bases.
That was it for Thurmond.
"He's struggling," Williams said. "He goes along for a few innings and then the bottom falls out. When you get behind on the count and have to come in, they're sitting on it."
Williams brought Craig Lefferts in the game and ordered his infield to play in.
Lefferts went to a 3-2 count on catcher Mark Bailey and was forced to come in with a fastball instead of his screwball out pitch.
"He made me look so bad on those first few screwballs that I was almost embarrassed," Bailey said. "I waited on a fastball on 3-2, and he threw it just where I like it."
The result was Bailey's first career grand slam, a towering drive over the 378-foot sign in left field.
With the score 6-0 and Scott getting stronger, the Padres were well on their way to their second loss against four wins on this road trip.
The Astros would drag it out just a little longer. In an eighth inning that will probably make some baseball follies show, Greg Booker allowed five runs on four hits, two walks and three wild pitches.
"I suffered a 21-6 loss when I won the pennant with Boston," Williams said. "11-0 still counts as just one loss."
And a forkball is just a forkball. At least that's what Gaylord Perry would say.
"I don't think I'm in that category," Scott said.
Eric Show (4-3) is scheduled to pitch against Nolan Ryan (6-3) tonight at 5:35. The game will be broadcast on KFMB (760-AM) and KCST-TV (Channel 39). . . . Kevin McReynolds extended his hitting streak to 11 games with a fourth inning double. . . . Surprise: Manager Dick Williams said Tim Stoddard (0-2, 5.40 ERA in 15 relief appearances) might be his starting pitcher in the second game of Sunday's doubleheader against the Giants.