SAN DIEGO — It was to be the kind of story that anybody with enough nerve to still love the San Diego Padres would just love.
Trailing the Chicago Cubs, 6-3, after five innings Wednesday night, the Padres brought Greg Booker to the mound.
Booker . Greg. C'mon. You remember. It's only been, what, Groundhog Day since he's pitched?
He was full of shadows Wednesday night, retiring six straight Cubs, with only two balls hit out of the infield.
In the sixth, the offense repaid him. They loaded the bases on a single to left by John Kruk, a popup by Tim Flannery that third baseman Keith Moreland dropped, and another single by Garry Templeton. There was one out. In stepped catcher Bruce Bochy.
Bochy . Bruce. He also started Tuesday in place of Benito Santiago, but overall, he's started fewer games than Eric Show.
It's not easy playing behind the leading candidate for Rookie of the Year, and Bochy has done it as quietly as any. He drew a walk that led to the tying run in a Saturday's win over St. Louis. He drew a walk and scored an important run in Tuesday's win over Chicago.
If anyone has earned a grand slam in Wednesday night's situation, or at least an RBI grounder, it was Bochy.
But not this time. This time, the story ended.
On a 2-and-1 pitch from Rick Sutcliffe, a forkball that Sutcliffe didn't even possess until this season, Bochy did the only thing that could have killed this rally. He grounded into a double play.
Nothing else happened for the next three innings, and the Cubs won, 6-3, to stop the Padres' shot at a three-game sweep.
To make it worse for the 19,873 at San Diego Jack Murphy Stadium, in this last meeting between these two teams until next March, the two principals in the now famous Wrigley Field brawl were the heroes.
Andre Dawson, who on June 7 was hit by Show's fastball and charged Show twice, hit a two-run homer, added a single and scored another run.
Sutcliffe, the guy who precipitated the brawl by charging Show immediately after he hit Dawson, was the winning pitcher, hanging in for a complete game despite allowing 10 hits. At times, it looked as if he was just pitching to rub it in.
The Padres had a base hit in all but two innings. Sutcliffe stranded four runners in scoring position. For the first time all year, Sutcliffe walked no one.
"That's unbelievable for me," Sutcliffe said about that last statistic. "I'm not throwing as hard as I did in 1984, but I'm feeling stronger. And the big thing is, I didn't have the forkball then. I got a lot of big outs with that tonight."
Sutcliffe, 14-4 and a Cy Young Award front-runner was happy for yet another reason: "This is not a club to be taken for granted anymore," he said of the Padres. "The Cardinals found that out."
Speaking of taking somebody for granted, last night's two perfect innings gave Booker a forum to speak on the subject. It was the right-handers first work in 15 days. He has pitched in just three of the last 17 contests.
He is 27 years old and a two-year veteran and he wants more work.
"I handle this by getting a noose ready every night," said the squad's No. 10 pitcher, who is 0-1 with a 3.89 ERA. "I'm ready to hang myself every night. It's tough."
He was asked if he worries that, when Storm Davis comes off the disabled list (probably next week), he will be shipped out.
"No, I don't worry, how can it be worse than it is now?" he said. "I'm 27 years old and I'm not over the hill yet, I haven't even reached the hill yet.
"It's tough, being 27 and just sitting, sitting, sitting. I hear the bullpen is overworked, overworked. And I haven't pitched in 15 days? I must not be part of the bullpen."
He was asked whether, under the circumstances, there is added pressure to make each appearance count.
"The way its been, if I pitch good or bad, I still don't pitch for two more weeks. What does it matter? Tonight I come in, we're down three runs, and it feels like the World Series.
"I can't argue about not getting into every game, there's three good people before me. And I'm not complaining, I've never complained. But it's tough."
So it was for the Padres Wednesday night, as high pitching by starter Mark Grant and tough fielding breaks helped the Cubs to the win.
In the fourth, the Cubs scored two runs to take a 4-2 lead they never lost. Dawson led off with a single up the middle. One out later, Moreland hit a slow grounder to shortstop Templeton. He caught it and cocked his arm to throw out Dawson, then realized Dawson was already on top of second base. So, still with the arm cocked, he turned to throw to first.
By this time, the ball was so confused it fell from his hand. Error, shortstop. Runners on first and second.
Jody Davis then lined a single to right. Tony Gwynn grabbed the ball and cocked to throw home and--wouldn't you know it--it must have been the same ball. It also fell from his hand. He did a pirouette and picked it up, and Dawson would have scored anyway, but Moreland was able to make it to third.