SAN DIEGO (AP) _ Fred McGriff wasn’t swinging the bat well when the San Diego Padres were in Houston last week. A return to Jack Murphy Stadium must have helped.
McGriff’s second homer of the game, a leadoff shot in the seventh inning Monday night, gave the Padres a 6-5 victory over Houston and handed the Astros their fourth straight loss.
It was the 14th time in his career and second time this season that McGriff has homered twice in a game. The first came to open the second inning; the second, a first-pitch leadoff shot against Mike Capel (1-3) broke a 5-5 tie in the seventh inning.
Asked if he could hit almost any pitch out when he is in one of his hot streaks, McGriff said: ″I wish it was that easy. I’d hit 60, 70 or 80. I never go up there trying to hit home runs. I’m just trying to get hits. Recently, I’ve just been bad. My timing has been bad. I wasn’t swinging the bat too well last week in Houston. I’m sure they came after me because they figured they could get me out.″
Capel thought he had thrown McGriff a good pitch, his first, in relief of three Houston pitchers to open the seventh.
″I never faced him before,″ Capel said. ″I was just trying to get ahead of him. I got it out over the outer third of the plate, and I thought it would be a good spot. I didn’t want to go down the middle. I thought it was down, (catcher) Craig Biggio thought it was down, we thought it was a good pitch.″
McGriff, who has hit just five homers since the All-Star break, concurred.
″It was a good pitch, but I got it some kind of way,″ McGriff said.
McGriff’s two-homer game, his first since May 9, accentuated a two-day homer barrage for the Padres. On Sunday, in a 13-0 victory over Cincinnati, the Padres set a club record by hitting five home runs in a nine-inning game. Bip Roberts contributed the first two-homer game of his career in that one.
The Padres, moving to 55-57, are two games under .500 for the first time since June 6, and at 7 1/2 games behind the NL West-leading Dodgers, remain on the fringes of the race.
″We’ve never been out of it,″ Padres reliever Larry Andersen said. ″Any time you play, you’ve got to believe you’re going to win. If you don’t, you don’t belong in the game.″
The Astros had tied the game with three runs in the top of the seventh.
Padres starter Bruce Hurst, who retired the first 12 batters he faced, walked Mike Simms to start the seventh and gave up a single to Rafael Ramierez. One out later, a walk to pinch-hitter Javier Ortiz loaded the bases.
Casey Candaele followed with a single to score one run and knock Hurst out of the game. Reliever Jose Melendez then balked home a run and yielded a sacrifice fly to pinch-hitter Luis Gonzalez for the tying score.
McGriff’s second homer gave Melendez (6-3) the victory. Craig Lefferts, the Padres’ third pitcher, got the last out for his 18th save.
Hurst, seeking his sixth straight victory and 15th of the season, allowed five runs, four earned, while striking out five and walking three.
McGriff put the Padres ahead when he led off the second with his 21st homer, a drive over the fence in left-center off Jimmy Jones..
The Padres added two runs in the third when left fielder Mark Davidson got his glove on fly ball hit by Tony Gwynn but dropped it when he ran into the fence, resulting in a double that scored Oscar Azocar and Tony Fernandez.
The Astros got their first baserunner off Hurst when Ken Caminiti opened the fifth with a single to center. After a walk to Simms, Ramirez hit into a double play, but Davidson’s double scored Caminiti to make it 3-1.
Benito Santiago’s two-run, two-out single in the fifth knocked out Jones and made it 5-1. The Astros added an unearned in the sixth on an error by third baseman Jack Howell.
NOTES: The Padres’ three-game winning streak is the first time they have won three in a row since June 22-24 in St. Louis. ... The Astros’ six-game losing streak has come after a season-high nine-game winning streak. ... The Padres have not been at the .500 mark since June 29. ... Jones failed to win for the fifth time in his last five starts. He has one loss and four no- decisions over that span and was spared a defeat when the Padres blew a 5-1 lead.