SAN FRANCISCO — The Padres came wandering into this city for the weekend rather bashful, and really, a bit reserved. Sure, they had the feeling all along that they were better than the San Francisco Giants. But when you're standing there watching the 1989 National League pennant going up the flag pole on Friday, and admiring the ring ceremony on Sunday, it's not exactly a good time to be running your mouth.
So the Padres waited all of about 45 hours, and once their 4-3 victory Sunday afternoon assured them of their first sweep of the Giants at Candlestick since 1982, they figured this was as good a time as any to start telling the world about the new kid on the block in the National League West.
Oh, the Padres (5-2), who have won five consecutive games, stopped just short of guaranteeing a division championship. They still have yet to play the Cincinnati Reds, you know. But remember the Giants, that big, bad team who ran amok in the National League last season, intimidating everyone who stepped in their path? Well, if you listen to the Padres, the Giants have become nothing more than pussycats.
"They just aren't the same team as they were last year," Padre catcher Mark Parent said. "I sensed that on Friday, they just don't seem as cocky. They don't intimidate us like they did before.
"What we did this weekend was send a message to the Giants: 'You guys aren't even going to be competing with us this year.' And pretty soon, we'll be sending that same message to the Reds.
"The Reds are the team to beat, anyway, not the Giants."
The Padres showed no mercy. Sure, the Giants are having bullpen problems, and only one week of the baseball season has been completed, but the Padres talked of the defending champions as if they were the Bad News Bears.
"It's a beautiful feeling, isn't it," Padre first baseman Jack Clark said. "They teed off a lot of people last year. They thought they were the greatest thing last year, and they let everybody know it.
"They didn't have that great of talent last year, and they're showing it now. Everybody's going to be gunning for those guys."
Said Padre left fielder Fred Lynn: "It's a devastating thing for them. It's very disheartening to get swept, especially at home. When you're on the road, you can shrug your shoulders and say it's one of those things. But when it happens at home, believe me, you start looking for ways to get beat.
"We just have so many ways we can beat you. We can beat you with three singles. We can go over the fence. Or we can throw two pitchers at you at one time."
Yes, things are going so good for the Padres these days that they actually have people fighting to get on the mound for saves.
The Padres, who Friday forgot how many outs there were in the second inning, and Saturday had two different players picked off base in the fourth inning, pulled off a slapstick routine in the ninth Sunday that's bound to find its way on blooper films for years.
Reliever Greg Harris was walking from the dugout to the mound for the bottom of the ninth--concentrating on what he needed to do to protect the lead provided by Benito Santiago's two-run homer in the top of the inning--when he looked up, startled.
There on the mound, already with the ball in his hand, was reliever Craig Lefferts, who had sprinted from the bullpen. They looked at one another, and for a moment, were too stunned to talk.
Harris: "What's up, I thought I was pitching."
Lefferts: "Oh, no, I thought I was."
So they both turned around simultaneously to the dugout, looking for a way to get out of this mess.
Padre pitching coach Pat Dobson pointed to his right arm, signaling that Harris would remain the pitcher. A funny look spread across Lefferts' face, and his mind raced trying to figure out what to do next, and then he took off running back to the bullpen.
"It was very, very embarrassing," Lefferts said. "I can't even tell you what the fans said, because I couldn't bear to listen. I won't hear the end of this for a long time."
Said center fielder Joe Carter, walking by: "So Lefty, what's the deal, you got a clause in your contract for incentives or something?"
And Lynn: "When I saw them both on the mound, I said, 'Well, I guess Lefty's going to manage, too. If he's not going to get the call, he'll just call himself.' "
Ah, when you're winning games like the Padres, who were trailing 3-2 into the eighth inning in each of the three games at Candlestick, and have scored 16 of their 21 runs this season after the seventh, you can afford to have levity in the clubhouse.
"I can't believe how much fun we're having," said Parent, who went two for three with an RBI in his first start of the season. "This whole series was a blast."