SAN DIEGO — Some games are lost on a pitching change. Monday night, the Padres lost on a personality change.
With two out in the eighth inning at San Diego Jack Murphy Stadium, the new Padres led the defending world champion New York Mets, 5-1.
At that time, it seemed as if the old Padres--the guys who began the season 12-42--stormed the field accompanied by a resounding, "Remember us?"
With two errors, one rookie mistake and four unearned runs, the old-look Padres blew the lead and the game, 6-5, in 10 innings.
The official ending came with none out in the top of the 10th, when Howard Johnson hit Keith Comstock's third pitch of the game deep to left field for his 33rd home run. But, don't blame Comstock. That was just one.
Comstock was pitching because Goose Gossage, who hasn't pitched since last Wednesday, has tendinitis in his right arm. The team didn't make that announcement until Monday night.
With the Dodgers' loss, the Padres had a chance to creep to within one game of fifth place for the first time since the first week of the season. That will have to wait.
With the St. Louis Cardinals' victory, the Mets remained 5 1/2 games out of first in the National League East in their own little pennant race. That obviously will not wait.
Back to the eighth. With one out, and all proceeding normally, Kevin McReynolds hit a low bouncer to third. Chris Brown went down, got it, but then came up without it. By the time he finally located the ball and threw to first, McReynolds was safe.
Gary Carter flied to center for the second out. Howard Johnson singled to center, and even then, with runners on first and second, there were still two out and the bottom of the Mets' order was up.
But then, it got weird.
Rafael Santana lined a single to center, except rookie center fielder Shane Mack, a defensive replacement in the eighth, thought differently. He thought it could be a lineout. So as the ball traveled toward the gap, he dove for it. He wasn't close. The ball rolled to the wall, and Santana had his second triple of the season, and the Mets were just down 5-3.
"It was a mental mistake. I guess he'll (Mack) learn you let a ball like that go in for a single when you're leading 5-1," Manager Larry Bowa said.
Mookie Wilson at least hit a triple that should have been a triple as he drove the ball to the right-field wall, driving in Santana to make the score 5-4.
New pitcher, Lance McCullers. Next up, pinch-hitter Lee Mazzilli. He tried a surprise bunt, but it was a poor one, right back to McCullers, for what looked like the third out, but McCullers throw to first was even poorer. It was in the dirt, and while John Kruk dug it out, he couldn't hang onto it. Error McCullers. Tie game.
This was more of a shame for the Padres because they had broken a 1-1 tie in the fifth with three straight macho at-bats, three of the best all season.
A couple of walks issued by Ron Darling and Darling's throwing error loaded the bases with one out. The Padres did the rest.
Slumping Carmelo Martinez, who entered with four runs batted in in August, immediately fell behind Darling 0-and-2. He somehow waited out the count to 2-and-2, and then grounded a single into right to score a run.
Up next was Kruk, who got ahead of Darling 2-and-0, understandable considering he was hitting .572 lifetime (8 for 14) against Darling at the time. But then Darling got it back to a full count.
Despite all his recent hits, Kruk was somehow able to lay off the next pitch. It was ball four. The easiest RBI that Kruk has had all month.
With bases still loaded, up stepped Benito Santiago, and now Darling was really steamed. He threw two quick strikes, and Santiago looked confused. But he hit the next pitch into right field, and Darryl Strawberry had to slide on his belly to stop the ball from going to the wall, and two runs scored.
Of course, some would say that even with that, the Mets deserved it more. Someone like Keith Hernandez, who threw two of the best on-field tantrums here since Larry Bowa was getting acquainted with the umpires.
With bases loaded and two out in the seventh, Hernandez hit a shot up the middle, hard enough and low enough to get a couple of runs. Except pitcher Mark Davis accidentally got in the way. The ball tipped off Davis' glove and right to second baseman Tim Flannery. He caught it. On the fly. End of inning.
Hernandez dropped his bat and helmet and marched onto the infield shaking his fists and cursing.
If that seemed as if he was mad, you should have seen the next inning, when he came to bat with go-ahead runs on first and second. He hit another shot, right up the middle, just as hard, maybe a little higher. Only another pitcher wandered in front of it. This time it was McCullers who unbelievably caught it with his face turned toward center field, catching it only as a means of self-preservation. End of inning. Start of another tantrum.
This time Hernandez turned and flung his bat into the foul territory between the third-base line and the dugout. It tumbled and turned and finally bounced off the tarp below the third-base line box seats. It didn't near anybody, although third base coach Sam Perlozzo was nervous enough to do a little dance.