ST. LOUIS — With 94-degree heat at game time Sunday, news of 80-degree weather in San Diego had Tim Flannery saying: "That's what I want to hear." But what he also heard in a telephone conversation from San Diego fans was not as pleasant.
Flannery, a Padre second baseman, was on the phone with some people in San Diego who asked: "What's wrong? What's wrong? What's wrong with the team?" He said he didn't have much of an answer other than: "Did you think it'd be easy?"
And the Padres, more than ever before, realize that defending their National League championship will not be easy. After yet another bizarre loss on a sweltering Sunday, this time 2-1 to Vince Coleman and the St. Louis Cardinals, Flannery said San Diego fans have become a little spoiled and must remember that everything went right last year.
"Last year, a lot of guys on other teams were hurt, but now this division will be a good race to the end," said Flannery, the Dodgers still one-half game in front. "We all feel we're right where we should be. People just shouldn't think we'll win by 10 games again. It'll be a fun pennant race to the wire, and I like it.
"Today was just a hot day. We've been on the road for what seems like the entire first half, and the guys are beat. You couldn't have a better time for the All-Star break . . . But it's time to turn it on. This team will. People forget that we had our backs to the wall against Chicago last year and turned it around.
"I'm just tired of these hotel beds."
And of the Cardinals. Again on Sunday, St. Louis did nothing spectacular other than hitting a few bloop singles and turning Coleman loose, which is what they're calling Cardinal Baseball.
Padre pitcher Eric Show was decent, throwing six-hit baseball over seven innings. His one glaring mistake was a pitch too far out over the plate to Terry Pendleton in the seventh, just after the Padres had gone ahead, 1-0, on Kevin McReynolds' RBI single.
Pendleton, his eyes lighting up, hit the ball over the right-field fence for a homer, tying the game.
Then Coleman, the rookie, ended it. In the eighth, against Dave Dravecky, Coleman was jammed with a pitch but hit a looper down left-field line. It would be a single for 98% of the players in the major leagues, but Coleman, the world's fastest left fielder, turned it into a double.
The next batter, Willie McGee, struck out, but only after second baseman Flannery and shortstop Mario Ramirez, who replaced the injured Garry Templeton, kept faking pick-off attempts at second base, basically to unnerve McGee, not Coleman.
Tommy Herr was the next batter, and Ramirez and Flannery did it again, running back and forth, faking the pick-off play.
"I'm trying to give Herr a hole, and make him do something different with his swing," Flannery said. "That's why we're moving like that."
Herr eventually grounded out, and the Padres walked Jack Clark intentionally, leaving it to Tito Landrum, who was pinch-hitting for Andy Van Slyke. Landrum was jammed on the first pitch, but he, too, managed to loop it over Flannery's head for a single. Coleman, who had been running on the pitch, scored before you could say "Cardinals win."
And it just showed the contrasting styles between the teams. The Padres scored their run by getting three singles (Terry Kennedy, Carmelo Martinez and then McReynolds), and the Cardinals scored their final one on speed.
"We're a team that's got to hit to score," said Deacon Jones, the batting coach. . "It's that simple. Without the ability to scrap up runs, you've got to swing the bat. This game is timely hitting, but we're not getting that.
"Now, the Cardinals? They're funky. Speed will do that. They get a funky hit (like Coleman's), and then they'll get a big bopper (like Pendleton's). Funky, funky."
Certainly, though, the Padres played better on Sunday then they had been, considering they'd committed eight errors in three games against the Cardinals before the series finale. On Sunday, Show didn't even let the Cardinals steal a base, as catcher Kennedy suggested he throw without a big kick.
What that did was make his release quicker, which let Kennedy get a quicker jump on the runners. Kennedy threw out Van Slyke stealing and even got Coleman, who appealed the call.
"I asked Eric to go back to his old habit of no kick, and it was like night and day," Kennedy said.
Said Show: "I saw last night what they (Cardinal baserunners) did, and decided to throw over there and stop their running game if they got on."
The Pendleton home run?
"I'd probably lost a little pop by the seventh inning," he said. "But I wanted to hold it very badly and did everything I knew how to do at the time to make the one-run lead last."
Elsewhere in the clubhouse, it was more quiet, for the Padres had ended the road trip with a 4-8 record. Why? The consensus:
--They are tired of the road.
--They aren't hitting.
--They aren't scoring enough easy runs.
--They are suffering from injuries.
--The competition, especially in St. Louis, wasn't bad.