SAN DIEGO — So far this summer, the Padres have been forced to play a different game from other teams, on a different-sized field, with apparently different rules, and that's what gets to Padre Manager Larry Bowa.
Tuesday night, the Padres lost, 4-3, to the New York Mets, and were swept in a three-game home series for the first time since May 25-27 against Philadelphia. Here's why.
The Mets need only one swing to score a run. The Padres need three or four swings.
The Mets have six players who can come to the plate and win a game. The Padres have two.
The Mets seem to play with outfield fences no more than 200 feet away. The Padres play with fences they can't even see.
The Mets won Wednesday with two two-run homers, including the game-winner by Howard Johnson in the seventh. They swept this series by using a homer to win each game. They have outhomered the Padres, 16-6, in their season series, which was won, 8-4, by the Mets. Overall this season, the Mets have 160 homers (third in the league) to the Padres' 86 (11th).
The Padres' leading home-run hitter, John Kruk, has 18. Four Mets have more than that. And it's not just the Mets. It's everybody. The Padres have been victimized by 24 game-winning homers. And Bowa, who knows his players are doing all they can, is tired of it.
Wednesday, the manager made his strongest plea thus far for a power hitter. Any power hitter. Now.
"Sometimes we are just out-talented, that's all," a frustrated Bowa said. "It's difficult playing with teams like the Mets, where anybody from No. 2 to 7 in their lineup can hit one out. Two swings, four runs, and that's it.
"We can't ask guys to hit homers who aren't capable of hitting them. You go with what you got, there's nothing you can do. But in situations like these, we just can't compete."
More than for himself or his team, Bowa hurt for starter Ed Whitson, who pitched his best game in more than a month. It was a game so endearing to the 17,715 at San Diego Jack Murphy Stadium that many gave Whitson a standing ovation when he was knocked out with one out in the ninth.
Whitson allowed nine hits, but only as many as two an inning twice. He struck out 10, tying a career high. He did things like getting Kevin McReynolds (.282, 23 homers, 77 RBIs) to end four innings--three times with runners on base, once on a double play.
But he allowed a two-run homer to Keith Hernandez (his 15th) in the third. And a two-run homer to Johnson (his 34th) in the seventh that overcame the Padres' 3-2 lead. A lead, incidentally, fashioned with three singles, three doubles and a sacrifice fly.
"Whitson makes two mistakes, and they are two runs," Bowa said. "The other guy (Dwight Gooden) makes mistakes and doesn't get burned. That's the difference."
Didn't Whitson know it.
"Blame me for the loss, I threw the balls, but I cannot throw any better than I did tonight," he said. "The real disappointing part is that they got eight guys who can take you deep, and for us, we just scrap and scrape. We've got no Keith Hernandez, no Gary Carter, no Howard Johnson. You have to almost pitch perfect, and pitchers are human, too."
Particularly gainst Johnson, who has been accused of using a bat that spends the off-season as a life preserver.
"I've was hitting the same before and after all the controversy," Johnson said. "I just think I'm doing it because I'm a better hitter. I'm maturing, I'm a smarter hitter, and I'm playing every day."
The reason for the fuss is that the 26-year-old Johnson's 34 homers gives him more homers than in his previous three major league seasons combined (33).