San Diego led St. Louis 6-1 last Thursday night and starter Eric Show had given the Padres six good innings, so when the first two Cardinal batters reached base in the top of the seventh, manager Dick Williams gave Show a pat on the back and summoned Craig Lefferts from the bullpen. Show should have felt only good vibes about his performance, but as he said later, "As soon as I left the game, I had a premonition of doom."
Before Show reached the clubhouse, Lefferts gave up a homer to Cardinal first baseman Jack Clark, cutting San Diego's lead to 6-4. Still, the Padres weren't that worried. Williams had Goose Gossage warming up in the bullpen, and No. 54 had blown only four leads all year.
Gossage pitched an uneventful eighth, but pinch-hitter Steve Braun opened the Cardinal ninth with a double. Vince Coleman followed with a single to center, driving in Braun and making the score 6-5. Then it was doomsday.
With one out, leftfielder Carmelo Martinez misplayed Tommy Herr's fly ball, with Coleman scoring the tying run and Herr ending up at second. Clark walked, and after pinch hitter Mike Jorgensen struck out, Terry Pendleton singled in Herr to put the Cardinals ahead 7-6. When centerfielder Al Bumbry, getting a rare start in place of the slumping Kevin McReynolds, missed his cutoff man, Clark came around third. Gossage threw home to get him, but catcher Terry Kennedy couldn't get his mitt on the ball. It rolled into the Padre dugout and Pendleton scored, too. Final score: 9-6 Cardinals. "You don't see that a lot at this level of baseball," Clark said of the Padres' ninth-inning collapse. "They reminded me of the Giants."
It was the fifth straight loss and a devastating emotional blow for the Padres, who at week's end had lost 12 of their last 17 games and, since July 4, 9½ games to the Dodgers in the standings, going from five up to 4½ down. After the Thursday night collapse, Gossage remained in the dugout to perform some devastation of his own, doing a Rambo number on several bats and other assorted gear. Twenty-one of his 24 teammates huddled in the privacy of the trainer's room and sulked for 15 minutes, until Jerry Royster pretended to hang himself with a bandage. At least it looked like he was pretending.
Williams, in the meantime, canceled his usual postgame press conference. "I have no comment to make, gentlemen, that's my statement," said the manager. "You saw it, you write it."
The Padres' slump was total. Say what you will about the departed Alan Wiggins (and all the Padres wanted to say to the second baseman, who checked in for a second drug rehabilitation this spring and now plays for Baltimore, was goodby), his speed atop the lineup has been missed. With Wiggins and Tony Gwynn batting one-two in 1984, the Padres scored 93 first-inning runs. This year they have scored only 34, none since July 6. Since Wiggins left, the second-base platoon of Royster and Tim Flannery has achieved the highest on-base average (.381) among the league's leadoff hitters and played well in the field, but they've stolen only seven bases. "We've lost that speed," Williams says. "We can't steal that base. We don't have any [base stealers] in the organization, and they're a little hard to come by."
As are relievers to help Gossage, who has been himself (2-2, 1.83, 21 saves) on most occasions. Lefferts was one of the premier table setters in the majors last year when he had a 2.13 ERA and held opponents to a .229 batting average, but his '85 numbers are 3.59 and .249. Williams had all but given up on free-agent acquisition Tim Stoddard ($500,000 a year, 1-5, 3.64), and when he used him in desperation last week, the big righthander lost two games. In addition, McReynolds is in a deep trough (two for his last 35 at bats, with three RBIs) and rightfielder Gwynn, the NL batting champion last year, is nursing a sore wrist and hitting .298.
The Padres' streak reached six Friday night when they stranded 12 runners in a 2-1, 12-inning loss to 17-game winner Joaquin Andujar, who, remember, Williams had snubbed in favor of his own LaMarr Hoyt when selecting his starting pitcher for the recent All-Star Game. But on Saturday Andy Hawkins, who was 11-0 on June 9 but had won only one of his seven previous starts, beat the Cards 2-0 with ninth-inning relief from Gossage. "It's been a long time coming," Williams said. "This has been a very long week." And it was longer still after Sunday's 4-2 loss to the Cardinals. In that game, Hoyt lost for the first time since May 15, breaking his string of 11 straight victories.
"I still think we're going to be there at the end of the season," said Gwynn last week. "We're going to snap out of this, but we better do it soon."