SAN DIEGO — The last-place Padres did it again to the first-place St. Louis Cardinals Saturday, and this time their victory represented a managerial triumph for Larry Bowa.
After John Kruk opened the 10th inning at San Diego Jack Murphy Stadium with a walk, Bowa opted to have Tony Gwynn bunt. Taking the bat out of the hands of the National League's leading hitter could have left Bowa open to criticism, but Chris Brown made him look smart with a single that won the game for the Padres, 4-3.
The Padres have taken two of three from the Eastern Division leaders, both in extra innings.
Gwynn went to bat with a .366 average, not to mention league highs of 120 hits and 8 triples, but the situation called for a sacrifice. He followed Bowa's order to the letter, and two batters later, the game was history.
In all fairness, it should be stated that Bowa's strategy might not have worked if pitcher Ken Dayley, a left-hander, hadn't walked the left-handed Marvell Wynne.
With Wynne on first, Dayley had to pitch to the right-handed Brown, who lined his 1-1 pitch to center field for the hit that sent Kruk lumbering home from second with the winning run.
"I wanted to hit it up the middle," Brown said. "Willie McGee was coming in, and I was just hoping he wouldn't get there quick enough."
McGee fielded the ball on the bounce, but even the relatively slow-footed Kruk was fast enough to beat his throw to the plate by a wide margin. When Kruk arrived, his teammates streamed onto the field and the Mitt Day crowd of 31,851 celebrated the extra-inning victory.
Asked if he had considered using a pinch-runner for Kruk--Tim Flannery and James Steels were available--Bowa said, "No. I was down to two people, and besides, John deceives you. He's not the fastest guy in the world, but he can run better than people think."
And the decision to have Gwynn bunt?
"I'll bunt any time if we've got a chance to win," Bowa said. "I don't like to bunt with Tony, but we've got to try to win, and sacrificing in that spot gave us our best shot."
Gwynn himself thought the bunt was a great idea.
"Actually, I was glad," he said. "The last two nights, I was all tied up in knots."
Gwynn had been hitless Friday night after getting two hits Thursday, but had looked as loose as ever in hitting his eighth triple of the year in the sixth inning Saturday. He scored on a sacrifice fly by Carmelo Martinez to cut the Cardinals' early lead to 3-2, and Kruk tied the score with a single an inning later.
Kruk wouldn't have had a chance to play a key role--and might not have played at all--if left fielder Stan Jefferson hadn't been forced to leave after four innings with what were described as viral chest pains. Kruk didn't start because left-hander Joe Magrane was pitching for the Cardinals.
When Jefferson left, Martinez moved from first base to left and Kruk took over at first. Magrane struck him out his first time up and made him look bad in the process, but in the seventh, Kruk poked an outside pitch to left field. Randy Ready, who had singled with two out and taken second when pinch-hitter Bruce Bochy walked, scored the tying run.
"The big key was the walk to Bochy," Herzog said. "Two out, a man on first and a 3-2 lead. That was our downfall--too many walks."
Magrane gave up four hits in nine innings, but walked six. Yet even with the two walks issued by Dayley in the decisive 10th, Padre pitchers went the Cardinals one better. Starter Eric Show walked five in only five innings, Mark Davis walked two and Lance McCullers and winner Rich Gossage one each.
"Maybe the pitchers are too worried about the lively ball," Bowa said.
Lively ball or not, there were no home runs hit Saturday, and three of the seven runs scored were unearned. Show gave up all of the St. Louis runs, and two of them stemmed from errors by shortstop Garry Templeton and center fielder Shane Mack.
After the Cardinals scored in the first inning on doubles by Ozzie Smith and Tommy Herr, Templeton helped the Cardinals score in the third by dropping the ball after stepping on second base for a force out. The Padres scored an unearned run in the third because of a throwing error by catcher Tony Pena, but Mack made it 3-1 in the fifth by heaving the ball far over third baseman Brown's head after catching a routine fly.
In the latter instance, Bowa was critical of Show for not backing up third base.
"Physical errors are going to happen, but one upset me," Bowa said. "Eric should have backed up that play at third. He might not have gotten the ball anyway, because Shane air-mailed it, but he should have been there."
Gwynn led off the sixth with what looked like no more than a double, and continued to third when the ball caromed away from right fielder Jim Lindeman. An inning later, Kruk delivered the hit that set the stage for overtime.
Magrane called this sequence the turning point.