Chicago Manager Jim Frey wouldn't second-guess himself tonight after ordering his pitcher to walk Tony Gwynn, the major leagues' leading hitter, and face Steve Garvey at a critical point in the Cubs' 7-5 loss to San Diego in Game 4 in the National League championship series.
"We thought we had a better shot at getting Garvey than Gwynn," Frey said of the Padres' first baseman, who included a run-scoring single in the seventh inning among his four hits and five RBI. "That was our thinking."
The plan backfired. Garvey's single scored Bobby Brown, giving the Padres a 4-3 lead. Gwynn went to third on the play and scored when Jody Davis mishandled a pitch by reliever Tim Stoddard.
Those runs offset Chicago's two-run eighth inning, and gave the Padres a chance for Garvey to add to his heroics with a dramatic, two-run homer in the bottom of the ninth.
"I think you've got to respect Garvey," said Frey, who told reporters he didn't want to take a chance with Gwynn, hitless in three previous trips. "You can't fault the pitcher, either.
"There are a heck of a lot of guys in these funny uniforms who couldn't have done what he did," Frey said of Garvey. "We played the odds."
Davis, who visited with Stoddard twice during Garvey's seventh-inning at bat, agreed.
"Tomorrow, we'd do the same thing. Tony's the batting title leader, and you know he's going to get his hits," Davis said. "We thought we had a better chance with Steve, but what can you say? He did it to us all night long."
Neither Gwynn nor Garvey, who now has an NL playoff career batting average of .356 (31 for 87), expressed surprise at Frey's decision.
"Tony is the leading hitter, and he's a lefty facing a right-hander," Garvey said. "Strategically, it was a good move. We as baseball players come up in situations like this and we don't always succeed. But when you do, you take a lot of pride in that."
Going into Sunday's final game, Padres Manager Dick Williams says, "I love our chances. We're in our park with our 10th man for the final game."
The Padres will be facing Rick Sutcliffe, 16-1 during the regular season and a winner over San Diego in the league championship's opener Tuesday in Chicago.
"I think we can beat him," Williams said confidently.
Eric Show, 15-9 during the regular season and the loser in Chicago's 13-0 victory in the first game, will oppose Sutcliffe.
"It's just one more game and we're going to find a way to win it," said Gwynn. "I'm so hoarse from yelling that I can't talk."