SAN DIEGO — As the Padres cling to their National League West championship hopes, they’re losing more than games.
They’re also losing their sense of humor.
During the Padres’ 6-3 loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates before 18,617 Sunday afternoon at Jack Murphy Stadium, they found little to laugh about. And they took exception to the Pirates’ jocularity.
Padres starter Jim Deshaies was knocked around for 6 2/3 innings as the Pirates tallied eight hits and six runs. But he wasn’t about to sit by as Pittsburgh added insult to injury.
In the seventh inning, Deshaies was set to walk Barry Bonds intentionally. When he looked in to throw his first pitch, however, Bonds was laughing. Deshaies came off the mound and started to yell at Bonds.
As Bonds and Deshaies faced off, players from both teams came onto the field. No punches were thrown, and order was restored quickly.
“He had some sort of inside joke,” Deshaies said of Bonds. “In the heat of the moment, I wasn’t in the mood to see somebody yukking it up. I just asked him what’s so funny.”
Deshaies at first thought Bonds might be laughing at him. Deshaies suffered through his worst start of the year and dropped to 3-4. He walked six batters while struggling to find his control. Deshaies threw 125 pitches, and only 68 were strikes.
“I was just venting a little frustration and showing Barry that I didn’t appreciate it,” Deshaies said.
Bonds said the laughter was innocent. During the sixth inning, he was joking with players in the Padres bullpen about a blooper pitch Pirates starter Bob Walk threw to Gary Sheffield. He continued the joking with Sheffield the following inning.
“Sheffield started laughing, and I couldn’t hold it in,” said Bonds, who hit a two-run home run in the top of the sixth to give Pittsburgh a 4-1 lead. “I guess Deshaies thought I was laughing because they were walking me intentionally. He asked why I was laughing. I said, ‘I wasn’t even looking at you.’ Sheffield started the whole thing.”
Said Deshaies: “Goofing around the bullpen is one thing, but laughing at the plate … especially after he hits one the inning before.”
The Pirates had both the last laugh and the first one. After Deshaies pitched three hitless innings, they opened the scoring with two runs in the fourth on four singles and a walk. Two more runs came on Bonds’ homer, then the Pirates chased Deshaies with a leadoff double by Jay Ball and the walk to Bonds. Both came around to score the Pirates’ final two runs and boost the lead to 6-1 when Jeff King singled and Don Slaughter doubled off reliever Jose Melendez.
“It was a weird game,” Deshaies said. “The first couple innings, I felt like I had great command. … I thought I should have pitched well, but I didn’t.”
But Walk did pitch well for the Pirates. He allowed just four hits and one run over eight innings to improve to 8-4. He only mistake came in the fourth inning when he tried to slip a fastball past Sheffield.
Sheffield knocked the pitch into the left-center field stands for his 29th home run. Sheffield went 2-for-4 to remain first in the league with a .336 batting average. He also took sole possession of the RBI lead with 92, one ahead of Philadelphia Phillies catcher Darren Dalton, who didn’t play Sunday.
It still appears the home-run title could be the roadblock on Sheffield’s Triple Crown quest. The third baseman is second in the league and two behind the leader. That’s not nearly as a big a problem as the fact the leader is teammate Fred McGriff.
Sheffield got within one of McGriff with his fourth-inning shot, but McGriff answered in the ninth.
Danny Cox came in to pitch the final inning for the Pirates and was greeted by Sheffield’s leadoff single. McGriff then came up and blasted a 1-0 fastball over the left-field fence for his 31st homer.
After the game, Sheffield was informed he needed only to tie for the home-run lead to win the Triple Crown. The last National League Triple Crown winner, Joe Medwick in 1937, tied for the homer lead with 31.
“Fred’s already there,” Sheffield said with a smile. “I don’t think he’s going to let me do it.”
NOTES: After committing an error and going 0-for-3, Padres shortstop Tony Fernandez was pulled from Sunday’s game before the seventh inning. “I was tired. I needed a rest,” Fernandez said. “(But) I didn’t want to come to the ballpark and say I couldn’t play. Everyone would make a big deal about it.” Fernandez has missed only six games this year.
• Pittsburgh’s Barry Bonds went 2-for-2 with two RBIs on Sunday. He has 12 home runs and 29 RBIs in 35 games played at Jack Murphy Stadium. Bonds, who lives in Temecula and can become a free agent after the season, reiterated his desire to play in San Diego. “I’d love to play here,” he said. “This is the right atmosphere for me. There’s no place like home. I just like this ballpark. I love this atmosphere. It’s a great place to play baseball. If you hit it well, you’ve got a chance for it to go out here all the time.”
Published in the Times Advocate on Aug. 31, 1992.