ST. LOUIS — Tony Pena and John Kruk have been at opposite ends of the hitting spectrum all season. But they traded places Friday night.
The Padres' Kruk, third in the National League with a .325 batting average, came up as a pinch-hitter with the bases loaded in the eighth inning and drilled a line drive off St. Louis relief ace Todd Worrell.
Unfortunately for Kruk and the Padres, Cardinal second baseman Tom Herr leaped high and snared the ball.
Pena, meanwhile, hasn't had much success at the plate this season, as his .222 average would attest. He came through in the clutch in the bottom of the eighth, though, blasting a two-run homer off Padre reliever Mark Davis to provide St. Louis with a 4-2 victory.
Pena's homer ended an 0-for-27 slump and was his first home run in a Cardinal uniform at Busch Stadium. All four of his homers this season have come on 2-and-1 counts.
Padre Manager Larry Bowa opted to stay with Davis, a left-hander, instead of bringing in right-hander Goose Gossage.
"I'm going with left-handers against this team," Bowa said. "I can't switch pitchers in every situation against this team, except with (Jack) Clark. They're all switch-hitters; I'd run out of pitchers."
Bowa lamented the scoring opportunities squandered by the Padres. San Diego stranded 15 runners and failed to deliver the knockout punch to St. Louis starter Joe Magrane, who was on the ropes throughout the first four innings.
"You give them life every time you don't get a guy when he's throwing like that," Bowa said. "You can't guide the ball. We hit it hard."
The Padres couldn't cash in their best opportunity, which was in the eighth. Tony Gwynn singled off reliever Ken Dayley with two out and moved around to third base when Terry Pendleton booted Stan Jefferson's grounder. Dayley then walked Randy Ready to fill the bases.
Enter Kruk, batting for Carmelo Martinez. Kruk drilled Worrell's first pitch, but Herr timed his leap perfectly.
In the Cardinal half of the eighth, Davis struck out Willie McGee, leading off, but Pendleton singled. After Tom Pagnozzi flied to center, Pena belted his homer.
"I was trying to throw a strike instead of trying to throw a good low strike," Davis said. "A breaking ball right down the middle won't get a lot of people out."
Said Bowa: "Our bullpen hasn't been doing the job the last few games. You praise them when they do the job, you don't when they don't."
Lance McCullers, making his team-high 64th appearance, bailed starter Eric Nolte out of a tight spot in the seventh. With one out, Vince Coleman bunted for a single and moved to second on Ozzie Smith's comebacker to Nolte. Nolte proceeded to walk Herr, though, and McCullers was summoned to face Clark.
McCullers ended the threat by fanning the Cardinal slugger on three pitches.
San Diego broke on top in the third. With one out, Martinez and Benito Santiago singled. Shane Mack became the first of three Padres to be hit by a Magrane pitch, loading the bases. Garry Templeton singled sharply to left, scoring Martinez, and Luis Salazar followed with a line single to right, scoring Santiago.
But, with the bases still loaded, Nolte was unable to make contact, striking out, and Gwynn grounded out to first to end the inning.
Nolte couldn't hold the lead, though. After striking out Jim Lindeman and Pena in the third, Magrane singled to center for the first St. Louis hit. Coleman followed with a single to left, and Smith coaxed a walk to load the bases.
Herr subsequently drilled a single to center, sending Magrane and Coleman across the plate. Nolte induced Clark to pop out to Templeton to end the rally.
The Padres sent six batters to the plate in the second but failed to score. Back-to-back singles by Mack and Templeton put runners on first and third with none out. Salazar followed with a slow roller to Pendleton, who threw out Mack at home.
Templeton, stealing on the play, advanced to third and two pitches later, Salazar swiped second for his third stolen base of the season. The Cardinals then elected to walk Gwynn, loading the bases. Jefferson's sinking liner to left was caught by Coleman, who tumbled over after making a shoe-string catch that ended the Padre threat.