SAN DIEGO — Proving Padre pitchers were more than just a one-day temptation, Gary Carter did it again. Tuesday night, he hit three home runs; and, Wednesday night, he hit two more, lifting the Mets to a 9-2 win and a series sweep.
Again, he had the semi-faithful Padre fans in San Diego Jack Murphy Stadium rooting for him in the ninth inning, as he stepped to the plate with a chance to become the first major leaguer to ever hit six homers in two days.
He faced a rookie named Bob Patterson, who carried a 27.00 major league earned-run average.
But Carter drew a walk, and Patterson drew boos.
"That was neat," said Carter. "You could tell the San Diego fans were supportive when they booed the guy."
Of course, Padre pitchers were cooperative. On this night, Carter hit his homers off starter and loser Roy Lee Jackson (in the first) and reliever Ed Wojna (in the seventh). In three days against the Padres, Carter had 9 hits in 13 at-bats, 5 home runs and 10 RBIs.
"Carter has a chance for player of the week, huh?" Padre catcher Terry Kennedy asked.
In the meantime, the Padres used 15 pitchers in three days.
The Padres, who yielded just two earned runs to the Mets and Expos back East last week, gave up 46 earned runs to those teams out West this week.
Carter, who has five homers in his last eight at-bats and eight on this road trip, said: "It's a very big thrill, but more than anything, it's a feeling at the plate. It's a stance I feel comfortable with. I'm going up with such a feel of confidence."
Because of a bad knee, he has tried a closed stance and an open stance.
He finally compromised.
"It's semi-open now," he said.
And is the pennant race in the West semi-closed? The Padres now trail the Dodgers by nine games.
"I'm going go Orange County tomorrow to spend time with my daughter who's expecting a baby," Manager Dick Williams said. "I'm going to get away from all this for a day."
You see, the Padres are off today.
You could say they were off Wednesday, too.
After Carter's second home run, the Mets led, 6-1. It was the seventh inning. And then in the eighth, the Padres (and the crowd of 15,676) finally made noise. Steve Garvey singled, went to second on Graig Nettles' walk and scored on Terry Kennedy's single. Carmelo Martinez walked, loading the bases for Kevin McReynolds.
Ron Darling ran the count to 3 and 0. But on a 3 and 1 pitch, he lined a ball hard down to third, but Howard Johnson backhanded it and ended the inning and the notion.
And for the third consecutive evening, a Padre starter couldn't make it through five innings. That is, if you want to call Roy Lee Jackson a starter. He's been a reliever since coming over from Baltimore's Triple-A club, and he has been pretty good at it. When LaMarr Hoyt injured his shoulder, though, Jackson moved in as a starter, and actually defeated the Mets back on Aug. 23 in New York.
He threw five scoreless innings that day.
Wednesday, he threw one scoreless inning.
Because in the second inning, Carter got him, which isn't a surprise, folks, because Carter has gotten them all this week.
On the second pitch to him Wednesday, he hit homer No. 1.
It was a heavy hit ball to left, and Jackson just stood there staring at what pitchers stare at when they goof.
In the third inning, Jackson got to face Carter again, this time with two men on base. If you can't throw it by him, do you pitch around him? Maybe. Jackson threw three balls out of the strike zone, and pitching coach Galen Cisco came out to ask him why.
He struck out on a breaking ball, ending the inning. Still, the Mets had added a run on a Wally Backman single.
In the fourth, Jackson didn't see Carter, but he saw Danny Heep hit a single and Howard Johnson hit a run-scoring double to right-center. Tony Gwynn had dived for it, but missed. Kevin McReynolds was there to field it, throwing it in to Tim Flannery, who threw it in to catcher Terry Kennedy.
The ball bounced in front, though, and scooted by Kennedy. Still, Jackson would have stranded Johnson on third if he could've got pitcher Ron Darling out.
No problem. Darling hits .182.
But Jackson, with the count 0 and 1, hesitated in his delivery, and home plate umpire Randy Marsh called a balk.
Later, Carter stepped up in the fifth with two men on, and Jackson was gone now, as Greg Booker was in just to face him. On a 2-2 pitch, Carter singled by a diving Garry Templeton and had another RBI, his ninth of the series.
Could No. 10 be far off?
Could the end be far off for the Padres?
"We've been struggling, but that doesn't mean we should come to the ballpark with our heads down," Tony Gwynn said before the game. "Just because we're losing doesn't mean we have to hang our heads and be in bad moods. I learned that last year when we once lost seven straight. I was down, then. But I'm happy. I've still got my family to go home to. Sure, I'd rather be eight games in front.
"We know we're better than we're playing . . . I guess it's time to put up or shut up."