SAN FRANCISCO — Two outs. To win a baseball game of great import Wednesday, the Padres needed just two outs from one of the National League's best relief pitchers.
They gave him a three-run lead. They gave him time to warm up. Pitching coach Pat Dobson even made a special trip to the mound, where he gave him the ball.
In return, two outs.
"Is that asking too much?" Dobson asked later.
Incredibly enough--and when discussing the Padres, we don't use the word lightly--it was.
Mark Davis retired just one of the four San Francisco Giant batters he faced in Wednesday's ninth inning, and he ended his day's work by allowing a two-out, three-run double by Will Clark that give the Giants an 8-7 victory in front of 20,945.
If you saw it and didn't believe it, you are not alone.
"A nightmare," Dobson said. "A . . . nightmare."
If you were listening on the radio and didn't believe it, you are not alone.
"I was in the clubhouse and listening to it from in there and I thought, 'You got to be kidding me!' " starter Ed Whitson said.
Sure they were. Davis was a perfect 12 for 12 in save opportunities. Those 12 saves ranked third in the league. He had inherited 28 runners this season and allowed only 7 to score.
After he entered this game, with runners on first and second and one out in the ninth, the first thing he did was strike out pinch-hitter Harry Spilman.
Sure they were kidding. There is no way, absolutely no way, Davis could then have been capable of:
--Allowing an RBI single to Brett Butler, who had entered with all of 12 RBIs in his previous 25 at-bats.
--Walking Chris Speier, who was hitting .202 at the time, on four pitches to load the bases.
--Throwing two strikes in his first three pitches to Clark, then throwing two straight balls to fill the count, then throwing a high curveball that Clark punched into the right-field corner.
In most situations, the hit would have scored only two runs. But with the full count, the runners had all taken huge head starts. Right fielder Tony Gwynn took one look at the hit and knew.
"It was over, right then," he said. "I ran as hard as I could, picked it up, threw to the cutoff man, he threw home . . . and it wasn't even close."
Speier scored the winning run, halted on the other side of home plate and thrust his arms toward the sky. Clark stood on second and pumped his arms into the air. The rest of the Giants danced out from the dugout, many with their hands clutching their heads.
If it was not the Padres' most devastating loss all season, it was the one that caused the most disbelief. It wasn't even close.
A small list:
Davis couldn't believe himself.
Lance McCullers, who started the ninth and lasted just three batters, couldn't believe he was taken out for Davis.
Dobson couldn't believe either one of them pitched so poorly.
And catcher Benito Santiago can't believe that some of the pitchers won't listen to him.
What's hardest to believe, actually, is that the Padres still took two of three games here and will begin a three-game series in Atlanta on Friday with a 4-4 record on this trip, the longest of the season. Anybody who predicted that record last week might have been laughed out of San Diego Jack Murphy Stadium.
Nobody bothered to remind the Padres of that record Wednesday afternoon.
"A tough one," Manager Jack McKeon said with his most depressed voice and words since he took over the club May 28. "You'd think you'd have that one in the bag."
"These types of losses really hurt," said Whitson, who allowed four runs in six innings.
Three of those runs were scored on Clark's three-run homer, and another on Clark's RBI single. In all, Clark, 24, was 4 for 5 with 7 RBIs and was the first Giant to knock in that many runs in 18 years. The last was Jim Ray Hart on July 8, 1970.
"Once I start feeling comfortable at the plate, I get what I call the Superman effect," the self-assured Clark said.
As we said, disbelief. But mostly on the Padres' side. Start with Davis, who now has two losses in four days, having been beaten by the Dodgers' Kirk Gibson, 5-4, on Sunday.
"I pitched very stupid today," Davis said softly afterward, staring vacantly into other teammates' vacant stares. "I didn't make the right choice. I didn't pitch very intelligently. I can't do that and have us get to .500."
Davis said he threw a curveball to Clark when perhaps he should have thrown a fastball. He said he made other pitching blunders.
A furious Dobson agreed. And the pitching coach was just as mad at McCullers, who entered the game to start the ninth and allowed a one-out walk to Bob Brenly and a single to left to Jose Uribe to set it up for Davis.
"If this happens again," Dobson said, "I'm going to start calling the pitches. Talking about not pitching intelligently after the fact don't help you a bit. They can get mad at themselves all they want now. All I know is that the result was an 'L.'