SAN DIEGO — Houston first baseman Glenn Davis lashed out at the summer of his disillusionment Thursday with three home runs in the first six innings against the Padres.
And then that summer just got worse.
Rob Nelson, a recently acquired 23-year-old first baseman who the Padres hope will emulate Davis, won the game in his first at-bat for the team. He grounded a ninth-inning pinch-hit single just under Davis' glove, just over the first-base bag, to give the Padres an 8-7 victory at San Diego Jack Murphy Stadium.
And Davis never really had a chance at hitting No. 4.
In his first three at-bats, Davis took Padre starter Mark Grant deep to all three fields. All came with at least one strike in the count (3-2, 0-1, 1-1). But he never saw another one.
With one out in the eight innings, Padre reliever Lance McCullers, protecting a 7-6 lead, threw four pitches out of the strike zone, the last of which Davis lunged at, breaking his bat and grounding the ball to second baseman Randy Ready.
"At the last minute, the bottom just dropped out of that pitch," Davis said. "I don't know what it was, but it was sure a nasty pitch.
"The thought (of hitting four home runs in a game) does cross your mind, but I approached it the same way I approached it the other time. What's going to happen will happen. I just wanted to get a good pitch, and let it (the bat) go."
The 8,052 fans, many of whom booed Davis when he took the plate, suddenly began shouting "Cork, cork," asking for the broken bat to be checked.
Great nights have had better endings. Davis finished the game in the on-deck circle in the ninth, as Kevin Bass grounded out to end the Astros' one-run rally that had tied it, 7-7.
All it did was set up Nelson's heroics. Against just-entered Astro reliever Manny Hernandez, who joined the club on Aug. 31 from Triple-A, Garry Templeton started things with a single to right. It was his third hit of a 3-for-3 night. Marvell Wynne bunted Templeton to second. Then, on the first pitch to Nelson, who was batting for third baseman Luis Salazar, Hernandez threw a wild one, allowing Templeton to take third.
Three pitches later, Nelson calmly grounded the ball underneath a diving Davis for the victory, which snapped the Padres' two-game losing streak.
Nelson had come to the Padres from the Oakland A's Triple-A farm club in Tacoma as the second player to be named in the deal that sent Storm Davis to the A's.
"It's the best thing that could have happened to me," said Nelson, who had lost a battle for the A's starting first-base job with another rookie, home run leader Mark McGwire. "I'm glad to get a chance, and I'm willing to do whatever it takes."
Thursday wasn't easy for the Astros to take, as the loss dropped second-place club to five games behind the leading San Francisco Giants in the National League West with just 22 games left. It was the Astros ninth loss in 13 games with the last-place Padres this season.
The Padres haven't been Davis' favorite team to play, either.
He was the 11th player in the big leagues this season to hit three homers. He was the first Astro to do it since June 21, 1973, when Lee May did the same. And it was wonderfully fresh contrasted with the kind of season he is having, particularly against the Padres. He had hit in 17 of his last 29 games, but had just 21 hits in those games for a .200 average. That kind of season. Overall, he was hitting .247 with 22 homers and 76 RBIs.
Second baseman Tim Flannery was upset Thursday over comments made by Manager Larry Bowa after Wednesday's 3-2 loss in Atlanta. Bowa was steamed Wednesday because the Braves' Gary Roenicke was able to score the winning run in the sixth when he apparently could have been thrown out at second base after a hit to left field. Roenicke went into second base slowly on the hit, but Flannery took the throw from left fielder Shawn Abner several feet to the left of the bag, in no position to make a tag. Afterward, when publicly questioning the hustle of his club, Bowa cited that play as an example, and Flannery, who is playing on a bad ankle anyway, didn't appreciate it. "He apologized, but I'm hurt, and I'm embarrassed," said Flannery, who had an early-afternoon meeting with Bowa Thursday. "Whether he meant it or not, it's said and done, and guys over on the Astros are joking about it." Flannery added: "Talking about the play didn't bother me, but don't say I don't hustle. I've given the guy my guts this year. I might leave this game hitting .230, but I will have given it everything, and everybody knows that." Said Bowa of their meeting: "I just told Tim how I saw the play, and why I said what I did. I might have overreacted, and if I did, I apologize. These guys have to understand that I take a loss as hard as anyone."