SAN DIEGO — Even though Mark Grant pitched a two-hitter, struck out nine and led the Padres to a 3-0 victory Wednesday night at San Diego Jack Murphy Stadium, he had to shoulder some pain. At least, it looked that way.
Most of the night, Grant used his new-found fastball to fool the Atlanta Braves. But Grant feigned a shoulder injury to try to psych out Dale Murphy with a flair that has become Grant's trademark. Here's what happened:
After Grant struck out the first two Braves, left fielder Dion James hit a ball off Grant's right shoulder and between shortstop Garry Templeton's legs for a single.
Pitching coach Galen Cisco checked Grant but determined that he was fit to continue.
It didn't look like a smart decision at the time because Grant's first practice pitch hit the screen. His second and third bounced in the dirt in front of the plate.
Murphy was watching with interest from the on-deck circle. After one pitch, Murphy stepped back and gave Grant a look as if to say, "Are you sure you want to keep throwing?"
After the second pitch, Murphy, who was 7 for 15 in his career against Grant, just shook his head.
Grant conceded after the game, that it was all an act, that the ball only hit his jersey.
"I tried to lay a decoy on him," said Grant, 23. "I was just trying to maybe get him on his heels a little. I'd have to work pretty hard to throw one 40 feet after throwing one against the screen. Dale has been around a while. I think he knew I was playing."
Said Murphy: "I figured he was deeking (decoying)."
No matter. Something worked. Murphy struck out. Grant struck out Murphy again in the sixth.
The Padres gave Grant a lead to work with in the sixth. Stanley Jefferson walked and stole second after Carmelo Martinez struck out. John Kruk doubled to left to score Jefferson. Benito Santiago drove in Kruk on the next pitch with a single to center. That extended Santiago's hitting streak to 20 games, the longest in the National League this year.
Grant came out the next inning and looked stiff. After Gerald Perry flied to right, Grant threw nine straight balls and walked the next three to load the bases. Dave Leiper got up in the bullpen.
But Grant struck out pitcher Kevin Coffman and then got Albert Hall to fly to left.
Grant was never in trouble after that. Murphy's fly ball to the warning track in the third was the only hard-hit ball until Perry got a single up the middle in the seventh.
In his last five starts, Grant is 4-0 with a 1.67 ERA. It was about five starts ago that Cisco told Grant to start throwing his fastball overhand, and that has made the difference, Grant said.
It was the second two-hitter for the Padres this season. Jimmy Jones threw the other one in a 2-0 win on Aug. 10 against the Braves. It was also Grant's first major-league shutout.
His performance overshadowed a triple by Tony Gwynn, Gwynn's 200th hit of the season. It was also a team-record 13th triple.