ATLANTA — Tim Stoddard does not want his story told. He says people would read it and think he's whining.
"It'd sound like I'm going, 'Wah, wah, wah,' " he said Friday night.
But in a game that had to have made any Padre fan cry, Stoddard entered a tied game in the eighth inning, walked the only two batters he faced and lost, 5-4, when Atlanta's Ozzie Virgil hit a sacrifice fly to score Dale Murphy from third.
"The headlines will say, 'Stoddard blew it,' " Stoddard said. "Let's leave it at that. I'd rather not comment."
So nobody knows how he really feels, how he has handled near total ineptitude in two years as a Padre. In 72 appearances since joining the team, Stoddard has two victories and a save. If Big Tom Niedenfuer thinks he has it half bad, then Big Tim Stoddard has it all the way bad. At home, he is booed when he stands up in the bullpen. He is cheered when he finally sits down in the bullpen. He is booed when he walks to and from the mound.
"Yeah, but they cheer me when I get 'em out," he said.
"Look, the fans don't throw the ball. I don't pay attention to them. If I did, I would've quit a long time ago. They have every right to boo you. That's what baseball is all about.
"Look, I walked two guys, and it ended up being a horse (bleep) performance, no matter how you look at it."
He shut up.
Atlanta's Murphy put the runs up. The Padres had jumped ahead, 1-0, in the first inning, but Murphy--who's in his worst slump--hit a three-run homer off starter Andy Hawkins in a four-run Atlanta fifth inning.
The Padres tied it up, 4-4, on Garry Templeton's two-run eighth-inning double. Harry Dunlop--managing the team while Steve Boros attends his daughter's wedding in Spokane, Wash.--used Stoddard rather than Goose Gossage in the bottom of the eighth because Gossage had no time to warm up.
Stoddard had been warming for two innings.
And leading off the Braves' eighth were right-hand hitters Murphy and Bob Horner.
Stoddard's a right-hander.
"He was gonna throw one inning," Dunlop said.
Against Murphy, the count reached 3 and 2, but Stoddard walked him. The count was 3 and 2 with Horner, too, and then Horner fouled one off that third baseman Tim Flannery went charging for but couldn't reach near the third-base seats. Then Stoddard walked him.
Dunlop came to get him then.
Craig Lefferts ran in from the bullpen. Ken Oberkfell sacrificed, moving Murphy to third and Horner to second. Rafael Ramirez was walked intentionally to create a double-play situation with Virgil--a slow runner--coming up.
"They had to play for the double play," Virgil said. "And I'm ideal for a double play because I'm no speedster."
But Virgil bombed one to center. Marvell Wynne caught it but couldn't throw Murphy out at the plate.
In the top of the ninth, Tony Gwynn doubled with two outs--his batting average up to .350. But Kevin McReynolds grounded out to end it.
"I wouldn't say it was fun," Dunlop said when asked how he liked managing. "We lost. I mean, I enjoyed the managing part but I didn't enjoy the end result."
Two innings might have changed the end result:
In the top of the fifth, the Padres still led, 1-0, when Templeton doubled and took third on Flannery's bloop single. Hawkins was ordered to sacrifice bunt, but he punched it too hard, the ball rolling down to the third baseman, Ramirez. Thus, Templeton had to stop in his tracks as Ramirez handled the ball. Ramirez threw to second for the force, and Templeton still didn't try for home. Shortstop Andres Thomas threw to first to complete the double play, and Templeton still stood on third.
He was stranded there.
And then there was the bottom of the fifth, when Murphy homered. Hawkins quickly recorded two outs in that inning, but then Claudell Washington bunted toward third. Graig Nettles--who started the game at third --figured he couldn't make a play on it and let it roll foul.
It didn't roll foul.
Omar Moreno followed with a single, and Murphy hit a 3-and-1 cut fastball to deep left-center.
Prior, Murphy had only two homers and four RBIs in the entire month.
"I've been humbled the whole season," Murphy said.
Stoddard--whose contract guarantees him $500,000 this year and $500,000 more next year--has been consistently bad.
He's used mainly as the mop-up man, so when he throws well, nobody notices.
His teammates say he resents that.
But he won't say; he won't defend himself.
So the catcalls continue. After he walked both batters in the eighth, an Atlanta writer screamed: "He's terrible! I think Dunlop should've used Dane Iorg instead of Stoddard!"
Padre Notes Pitcher Eric Show is back with the team after a thorough examination of his right elbow. His injury is called flexor tendinitis, and he's being treated with a cortisone creme salve that penetrates the skin. How bad is it? He walked up to catcher Terry Kennedy before Friday's game and said: "Wanna play toss?" And they threw for a good 10 minutes.