Padres vs. the Dodgers at Chavez Ravine. Not so long ago, the stars would come out at night for this series. Fans would debate Garvey vs. Guerrero at first, Nettles vs. Madlock at third, Williams vs. Lasorda in the dugout.
No more. It's two weeks before the All-Star break, and instead of a glamorous showdown of No. 1 contender meeting the defending world champion on its home turf for the first time, it has turned into a barroom scrap of two teams staggering to stave off elimination. Tuesday night, they staggered into the 13th inning tied, 2-2.
And you can be assured that no one was debating the relative merits of Bip Roberts vs. Jeff Hamilton.
"Hell, who thought it'd turn out like this?" Padres Manager Jack McKeon said. And that was beforehand.
The game was a microcosm of why the the crowd of 37,385 was watching the two worst run-scoring offenses in the land.
There were 26 strikeouts, 15 by the Padre offense, through the first 11 1/2 innings of their 2-2 game.
There were two extra-base hits.
And, of course, there were the Padres, who stole this show of offensive ineptitude. After scoring two runs in the fifth on Roberto Alomar's two-run single, the Padres' next hit did not come until 17 batters later, when Luis Salazar doubled with two out in the 10th. That was only the second ball hit by the Padres that even went out of the infield during that stretch.
Really, there's no need to look further than the first baseman of each team--Jack Clark of the Padres, Eddie Murray of the Dodgers--to find the roots of these teams' offensive woes.
Clark, escaping the wrath of New York, and Murray, fleeing the impoverished land of the Orioles, were supposed to be resurrecting their baseball talents, remember? Clark was going to have an MVP-type season, the Padres told everyone, and if you didn't believe them, you could watch 'em all on TV in late October. The Dodgers had a sneaky suspicion the Padres might be right, so they rescued Murray from Baltimore and told the Padres that they'd have to get by them first.
Funny how this game works.
Clark, who entered the night hitting .213 with nine homers and 39 RBIs--oh yeah, and 85 strikeouts--struck out three more times and had two singles and a walk, which led to Flannery's run-scoring single.
Murray, hitting .236 with seven homers and 41 RBIs coming in, went one for six with three strikeouts and a broken-bat double.
Who would have imagined that a fellow by the name of Mickey Tettleton would have four more homers than Clark and Murray combined?
"I don't know what you call it, a slump or whatever," Clark said, "but it's like a nightmare that won't go away. If we were in first place, maybe you could have a little more patience. You could tell the guys, 'Thanks for holding me up, I'll be there for you in the second half.'
"But this? This? I don't know how to deal with it. Last year was my toughest year in baseball, but I could deal with it. This, I have no idea.
"I'm fighting myself every day. I don't know whether my swing will come back now, or whether I'll be totally screwed up for the year.
"I've got pride, lots of pride. But I have a real hard time finding it warranted for me to get a paycheck. I have a real hard time finding it warranted for me to be in the lineup.
"I keep thinking I'll come around, hoping that I'm just around the corner. But to tell you the truth, I don't even feel close. Sometimes, I feel like I don't even know what I'm doing."
His teammates must have had the same kind of feeling Tuesday, with just five of their outs reaching the outfield.
They were up to their usual tricks again, managing to hit just one ball out of the infield in the first three innings and blowing a scoring opportunity in the fourth when Garry Templeton flied out with two runners on.
Remember now, this production was coming off someone who had not pitched in a big-league game since the third game of the World Series on Oct. 18 and who had reconstructive surgery on his left elbow nine days later.
Understandably, the Dodgers' John Tudor began to tire in the fifth, and the Padres finally took advantage. They opened the inning with consecutive singles by Mark Parent and Shawn Abner, moved into scoring position on a sacrifice bunt by Bruce Hurst and loaded the bases on Bip Roberts' walk.
Roberto Alomar, the man who drew McKeon's wrath Saturday night when he failed to cover first on a bunt and was threatened with an all-expenses trip to Las Vegas, appeared to pull another boner when he swung at the first pitch instead of waiting to see if Tudor could solve his control problems.
"People don't realize it, but there's a lot of luck in this game, too," McKeon said.
Whatever, it paid off for Alomar as he slapped a single to right, scoring Parent and Abner. Ricky Horton relieved Tudor after he had thrown 69 pitches and promptly induced Tony Gwynn to ground into a double play, ending their offensive bonanza.