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Over the Hill? No, Nettles Hits Over the Fence : Hot Streak Highlighted by Homers in 8-3 Win Over Giants

June 20, 1986|STEVE DOLAN | Times Staff Writer

SAN DIEGO — Take away the question mark concerning Graig Nettles. Replace it with an exclamation point.

Since Nettles is 41 years old, some people have wondered whether he is over the hill. Nettles has responded by hitting baseballs over the wall.

He hit two homers and drove in four runs Thursday afternoon as the Padres defeated San Francisco, 8-3, in front of 22,788 fans.

Sometimes, Nettles is brief in discussing his accomplishments. This time, he gave a speech.

"I've been written off by good writers, and I've been written off by bad ones," Nettles said. "It makes them look foolish when I do well. Just say I'm having a bad year or am in a slump. Every time I slump, people look at my age and write me off. People should get the age factor out of their minds and call it a slump."

Old or not, Nettles is experiencing another one of his hot streaks.

Tuesday night, he had a game-winning, two-run homer in the eighth as the Padres beat San Francisco, 8-5.

He has hit safely in seven straight games, batting .500 (12 for 24). He has four homers and nine RBIs in the streak.

So now, there seems little concern about the age-old question of whether he should retire.

"To put a number of years on how long I can play is silly," Nettles said. "I've asked people not to do that. I'm nowhere near the end."

With each passing home run, Nettles is getting nearer to the top 20 home run hitters of all time.

He is 25th on the all-time list with 380 homers, two behind Frank Howard. With 26 multiple-home run games, he is tied for 38th on that all-time list.

And he's definitely No. 1 on the Padre list of third basemen for now.

"He's playing like a guy who doesn't want to be platooned," Manager Steve Boros said. "I couldn't afford to take him out now if Lefty Grove was in there. He's swinging the bat about as well as a power hitter can right now. Graig is on one of those streaks that he's famous for."

Nettles has been platooned at third base with Jerry Royster.

However, the platoon system is out for now. The left-handed hitting Nettles will start tonight against Dodger left-hander Rick Honeycutt at Dodger Stadium. Depending how well Nettles does against Honeycutt, he may start Saturday against left-hander Jerry Reuss.

Thursday, Nettles made a rare start against a left-hander, San Francisco rookie Terry Mulholland. The second time he faced Mulholland, Nettles hit a ball to right-center that left no doubt it was a home run as soon as it left the bat.

It left no doubt in Boros' mind that Nettles should start tonight.

"I played every day of my career until two years ago," Nettles said. "It wouldn't be a big adjustment to play against left-handers. I need my days off like everyone. I still feel physically like I can play 150 games a year."

Goose Gossage, a longtime teammate, said Nettles is not slowing down.

"Graig has the type of body that comes along once in a thousand years," Gossage said. "He's also the most mentally tough person I've ever come in contact with. He just has an aggressive attitude about not throwing in the towel on his career. God only knows when that'll be. He never ceases to amaze me."

At the outset of Thursday's game, things were not going well for the Padres.

Boros was hoping to get seven innings from starter Eric Show because the bullpen was tired. It didn't look as if Show would make it that far.

He struggled in the second and third, allowing one run in each inning.

Then, he really struggled in the sixth, walking three consecutive batters with two outs. However, he escaped the inning by striking out pinch-hitter Harry Spilman.

In the seventh, Show allowed only a walk, but Boros didn't want his starter to go beyond the inning.

Show had left his previous start after seven innings with a stiff elbow. "I felt better than I did my last game," Show said. "I only came out today as a precautionary measure. I don't see any reason to take a chance with it (the elbow). If it stays like this, I don't know if I'll be able to close out a lot of games."

In Show's last two games he has been supported by 20 runs. It is quite a contrast to earlier in the season, when the Padres scored few runs for him.

"I don't feel guilty about taking these games," Show said. "When you've had as many close games or no-decisions as I've had, you'll take them 12-0 or 8-3."

Show had support Thursday from teammates besides Nettles.

Kevin McReynolds hit a run-scoring triple off the wall in right-center in the third inning. Garry Templeton hit a two-run triple to left-center in the sixth.

The Padres now hit the road for 12 games, their longest trip of the season.

San Diego concluded its longest home stand of the season with a 7-7 record.

"We certainly want to play better than .500 at home," Boros said. "Considering how we played in the middle two series this home stand, we're happy to win three of four against the Giants."

Give credit to the ageless third baseman.

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