SAN DIEGO — Of all the pluses to come out of the Padres' late-season return from the dead, none has been more important than the performance of Randy Ready.
As a utility man, Ready has a job that makes him more or less anonymous. He plays second base against left-handed pitching, fills in occasionally at third base or left field, and does a lot of bench-sitting in between. But he has quietly put together a remarkable set of statistics, and he had his biggest day of the season in the Padres' 10-2 rout of the Houston Astros Sunday at San Diego Jack Murphy Stadium.
Starting at second because left-hander Jim Deshaies was pitching for the Astros, Ready drove in four runs with a double and a home run. He doubled in two runs in a three-run first inning and hit a two-run homer in a five-run fifth. He also drew a pair of walks, rounding out a perfect day at bat that raised his average to .307.
Padre Manager Larry Bowa was all smiles after the game, with good reason. The runaway victory completed a three-game sweep of the defending National League West champions, a sweep in which the Padres mauled Astro pitchers for 29 runs on 41 hits. Jimmy Jones went the distance and scattered eight hits, and Carmelo Martinez and Chris Brown also hit home runs. The Padres did almost everything right in front of 11,120.
As many good things as Bowa had to talk about, he saved most of his kind words for Ready.
"Randy has been a very pleasant surprise," Bowa said. "Last winter, Jack McKeon (Padre general manager) asked me if Randy could help us. He had been sent down to Las Vegas when I was managing there. I told Jack I knew he could hit, but I certainly didn't think he would hit .300 on a part-time basis.
"Do you realize how tough it is to hit when a guy isn't playing every day? On top of his hitting, he has done a good job in the field wherever he has played. He has a great attitude, he works hard, and he never complains.
"I think it's more fun for him this year. He was in Milwaukee for a while but never played for sustained periods. Now he's a valuable player--at second base, third base, left field, pinch-hitting, probably even first base. He's very important to us."
Ready, 27, a product of the Milwaukee Brewers' farm system, performed well in every minor league in which he played. But the Brewers couldn't find a position for him, so they traded him to the Padres on June 12, 1986 for first baseman Tim Pyznarski.
"That was a big break for me," Ready said. "I didn't fit into the Brewers' plans, but I knew there was a place for me here, and I came here with a different attitude. I have no control over the role I'm in, but I do have control over the way I approach my job and the way I handle it. I get in all the extra work I can and keep myself ready."
Ready's double produced the first two runs of the game, so he drew credit for his fourth game-winning RBI of the year. His home run increased the Padres' lead to 8-2 and chased Deshaies.
Jones, meanwhile, breezed along as he boosted his record to 8-6. He gave up just one extra-base hit: Ronn Reynolds' first home run of the season, which hit the left-field foul pole in the third inning.
"I've been fortunate enough to get a lot of runs when I pitch," Jones said. "That makes it easy."
Jones' complete game was the Padres' second straight after Eric Show went the distance Friday night. That feat has been accomplished only once previously all season, when Eric Nolte and Mark Grant did it Aug. 29 and 30.
With Sunday's drubbing, the Astros closed their season series here with seven losses in a row and a 1-8 record. They are 4-11 against the Padres this season with three more to play and, after the game, Manager Hal Lanier was quite upset.
"That shouldn't happen in a pennant race," Lanier said. "If these guys can't get up for these games, they got what they deserved."
The Padres, 47-41 since their 12-42 start, stayed within one game of fifth place and moved to within 2 1/2 of fourth. Still, Bowa isn't obsessed by these goals.
"We want to finish out of the cellar, but let's not lose sight of where we came from," he said. "At one time, we were 15 games out of fifth place. What we've done is unbelievable."
Billy Hatcher was back in left field for the Astros Sunday after a 10-day suspension for being caught with a corked bat. "It was very embarrassing," Hatcher said. "I had just broken my last bat, and I picked up the first one (pitcher Dave Smith's) that felt good. Now I've got a new shipment of bats, and they're all legal." . . . Benito Santiago's 17-game hitting streak is the Padres' longest since Steve Garvey hit safely in 17 straight games in 1984. The club record is 25, set by Tony Gwynn in 1983. . . . Gwynn's two singles raised his average, best in the major leagues, to .370. He is three points ahead of Wade Boggs of the Boston Red Sox, the American League leader. . . . After two games in San Francisco, the Padres will return home to meet the Atlanta Braves Wednesday night and Thursday afternoon.