CINCINNATI — Even a munchkin hit a home run Friday night. Bip Roberts (no career homers coming in) knocked one over the left-field wall in the second game of a doubleheader here, awakening his Padre teammates from a very deep sleep. Bip's not much bigger than Steve Garvey's bat, so it was quite a shock.
He was immediately mobbed in the dugout and he granted Bip-sized high fives for half an inning. The Padres had just been bombed, 7-2, in the first game as Padre pitchers yielded four home runs (two by Buddy Bell, one each by Dave Parker and Tony Perez). But when Roberts hit one in the second inning of the nightcap, the guys figured that if he could hit, so could they.
The Padres bounced back with a 13-hit attack, got homers from Steve Garvey and Jerry Royster and won, 7-1. More remarkable, pitcher Eric Show, who was making only his second start since July 8, threw a four-hit complete game and earned back his spot in the starting rotation.
Show, who has had elbow pain for almost two months, was pitching at Riverfront Stadium for the first time since Pete Rose broke Ty Cobb's all-time hit record against him last year. Show had been haunted by it, but all that was forgotten Friday. As he fondled two $20 bills, he said he felt like a million bucks.
No, his elbow didn't hurt. His right side did, though, but that's because "this was almost like spring training." He had been inactive recently and his muscles weren't used to that constant motion of windup and throw, windup and throw.
Roberts' homer was remarkable, too. A switch-hitter, he hit it from the right side of the plate and immediately went into his "Rickey Henderson trot." The Yankees' Henderson happens to be Roberts' idol (they both grew up in Oakland), so this was expected. Just as Henderson does, Roberts dipped his shoulders as he rounded second, his gold neck chain protruding from his uniform--just like Rickey.
And when he returned to the dugout, his buddy Marvell Wynne screamed: "Do it, Rickey! Do it!"
Roberts beamed later: "Who'd have thought I'd hit a home run in the big leagues. Not me. That's the last thing I expected when I started my swing. Wow, there it went. I didn't know where I was."
There were some smart-alecky remarks flying around in the clubhouse.
Said third base coach Jack Krol: "It just goes to show you that if you hang around this game long enough, you'll see anything."
First base coach Sandy Alomar: "I almost fainted."
Batting coach Deacon Jones: "Bip going downtown? It scared the (bleep) out of me. I thought he'd be swinging for the fences every time after that. But he didn't. Doesn't the Bible say, 'A little child shall lead them?' Well, a little rookie led us."
Alomar, again: "Now, we know the baseballs are juiced."
So it was a happy ending after all. For a while, this looked like a troubleheader, not a doubleheader, for the Padres. In that first game, they immediately fell behind, 3-0, in the first inning and were trailing, 5-0, by the third inning. In six of the first eight games on this road trip, San Diego had trailed first. And four times, the Padres had been behind after only an inning.
"We don't score enough runs (to be a come-from-behind team)," Manager Steve Boros said after the first game. "We're a good catch-up team if we're a couple runs down, but we just don't score enough. Only the Cardinals have scored less than us, and they're about to catch us."
Padre pitchers keep serving up home run balls. In the first eight games of the trip, San Diego pitchers gave up 15 homers. (They have allowed 10 since Wednesday.) Are the pitchers tired or what? Boros said it's more likely that they're sick and tired of getting no help from their offense.
"Yeah, that could be," Boros said. "They've got to put zeroes up there every night."
Buddy Bell's three-run, first-inning homer off Dave Dravecky (8-10) got the Reds started in the first game. And he hit one with nobody on in the third. Since coming to the Reds from the Texas Rangers, Bell has said he's felt like a "dumb bell" because National League pitchers have confused him so much.
"The adjustment took too long, to be frank," Bell said Friday. "But better late than never."
Parker's homer, his 24th, was nothing new, but Tony Perez' home run was his first of the year. Perez has 378 for his career--just one short of Orlando Cepeda's all-time major league record for Latin American players--but he may have saved his best for last. He has just announced his retirement at the end of the season, and the crowd here was dying to cheer for him. When he hit it, the stadium erupted with a three-minute standing ovation.
"Well, it took me long enough to hit one this year," he said. "I finally did it, and now I feel better. I knew when I hit one, they (the fans) would be excited--especially after I announced retirement."