PHILADELPHIA — Jack McKeon, hoping to celebrate the two-year anniversary of his reign Monday night as Padre manager, instead might have been left wondering after the Padres' 9-5 victory over Philadelphia why he ever subjected himself to this ordeal in the first place.
"No one ever said this job would be easy," McKeon said, "but nights like these can drive a man to drinking."
Here he was, calmly watching pitcher Bruce Hurst throwing a no-hitter for six innings, while the Padres were cruising to a five-run lead.
The next thing he knew, Hurst was getting hammered in all directions. He looked toward his bullpen. And winced.
His primary setup man, Greg Harris, was unavailable after being pummelled during Sunday's brawl.
"I didn't have much to go to," he would later say. Still, with the way Hurst was falling apart, he had to get someone up in the bullpen, and finally asked for Mark Grant.
Grant had lost McKeon's confidence weeks ago. Heck, he hadn't pitched in a game that the Padres had won since April 13. It also was the last time Grant appeared in a game that was even tied, much less ahead.
"The way he was pitching, and with all of the left-handers coming up," McKeon said, "I thought, he'd get them out. But they worked him over pretty good."
Hurst yielded a leadoff walk to Von Hayes. Watched his no-hitter end on Ricky Jordan's single. The shutout bid ended on Randy Ready's single. And by the time McKeon yanked him, Hurst had given up a walk, four singles, and a triple.
Hello, tie game.
It's Mark Grant again.
"I was anxious to get in a critical part of a game again," Grant said. "It's been awhile. So when you get in a situation like that again, you want to make sure you do your job so you can get another shot.
"You want to regain people's confidence."
Grant's performance--two hits in 1 1/3 innings--hardly left McKeon raving about his performance, but it did leave him in an awfully good mood. And, after all, when you win your first game of the season, and it just so happens to be on your boss' anniversary, that sort of thing can leave a lasting impression.
"I don't know what it is, but 5-0 leads are a jinx to us," McKeon said. "It's unbelievable. It must be the fourth or fifth time we've blown one of these.
"It was one of those situations when as a manager you're damned if you do, and damned if you don't.
"Fortunately, everything turned out all right."
Grant ended the seventh-inning jam by retiring Tommy Herr on a fly ball to center, pitched a scoreless eighth, and then was taken out in the top of the ninth for pinch-hitter Fred Lynn.
Lynn had already made a valuable contribution to the Padres before the game even started. Watching switch-hitting shortstop Garry Templeton the past few weeks, he had detected a flaw in his swing while batting left-handed, that didn't occur when batting right-handed.
Templeton knew something was wrong. He entered the game hitting .318 with three homers and 16 RBIs while batting right-handed, but was hitting just .182 with no homers and four RBIs left-handed. Templeton thanked him for the advice, and promptly went two for four, with both hits batting left-handed.
But now it was Lynn's turn. The last time he batted in Veterans Stadium was 14 years ago in the 1976 All-Star Game when he homered off Tom Seaver.
This time, he was facing right-handed reliever Jeff Parrett. Lynn immediately fell behind in the count, 0-2, but then watched four straight balls, taking the walk.
The rally was born.
"It's been difficult because I haven't done it that much," said Lynn, a nine-time All-Star. "I've always been a starter. But if you're going to contribute, you've got to accept the role and make the best of it.
"Once you get used to it, it's all right. It's kind of a challenge, really. And I've got to feel I'm intelligent enough to handle it."
Once Lynn performed his job, the rest of the Padres took over from there. Joey Cora pinch-ran for Lynn. Bip Roberts sacrificed. And Roberto Alomar reached first on an infield single, leaving runners on first and third with one out, and Tony Gwynn at the plate.
If the situation sounds familiar, think back to May 16, the last time the Padres played the Phillies. It was the ninth inning. The Padres had runners on first and third. There was one out. Roger McDowell was the mound. And Gwynn was at the plate.
The only difference was that the game two weeks ago was in San Diego, and that the Padres were trailing by one run.
"I couldn't believe it," Gwynn said. "The same exact situation. I kept thinking about that the whole time I walked up there. I wanted to make sure I pulled the ball this time to get the run home. The last time didn't work out too good."
Last time? Gwynn hit into in a game-ending, double-play to shortstop Dickie Thon.
This time? Gwynn slapped a ball through the right side of the infield, scoring Cora for the game-winning run, and setting the stage for Joe Carter, Benito Santiago and Mike Pagliarulo to follow with RBIs.