San Diego Field Questionable

The moment the San Diego Padres finished their workout Friday afternoon, a worker hurried across the infield and began digging up the pitcher's mound.

The Qualcomm Stadium grounds crew had some five hours to transform the baseball diamond into a football field.

Because of a San Diego State-Hawaii football game Friday night, several Padres were a bit worried about the condition of the field for Saturday afternoon's Game 3 of the NL championship series.

"Right-center field's going to be chopped up a little bit," said Tony Gwynn, an eight-time NL batting champion. "The infield will be fine, the outfield will be chopped up a little bit."

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  • San Diego pitching coach Dave Stewart wondered if the mound would be OK.

    "If it's too soft, the guys will come down without good footing," he said. "But the grounds crew had done a pretty good job of getting it back in shape this year."

    The Padres should be used to playing on a field that's been beaten up by a football game. The team has shared Qualcomm Stadium with the Chargers since the baseball team's inception in 1969.

    San Diego State was originally scheduled to play host to Hawaii on Saturday night, but the game was moved ahead a day several weeks ago when it became apparent the Padres were going to still be playing in October.

    The Padres hope for a new downtown baseball-only stadium. There will be a measure on the ballot Nov. 3 to approve using hotel taxes to build a downtown ballpark.

    No pressure for Sterling

    San Diego's Sterling Hitchcock says he feels no pressure heading into Saturday's start against Atlanta's Greg Maddux.

    Hitchock already has been a giant-killer once in the postseason, beating Randy Johnson and the Houston Astros 6-1 in the clinching Game 4 of their divisional series.

    Despite holding a 2-0 lead over Atlanta, the Padres are the underdogs against Maddux and the Braves in Game 3.

    "There's no pressure on me," Hitchcock said. "I'm not supposed to win."

    Winning streak

    The Padres bring a five-game NL championship series winning streak into Saturday's game against the Braves.

    San Diego lost the first two games of the 1984 NLCS to the Chicago Cubs before winning the final three to earn its only World Series berth. The league championship series went from best-of-5 to best-of-7 in 1985.

    The Padres have qualified for the postseason only twice previously in their 30-year history -- in 1984 and 1996.

    And another streak

    Including the playoffs, the Padres are 179-0 when leading after eight innings dating to July 24, 1996, at Houston. They are 90-0 in 1998.

    The main reason? Closer Trevor Hoffman, who had 53 saves in 54 opportunities during the regular season.

    No-bat Braves

    The Braves hit just .172 and scored two runs in the first two games of the NLCS. The heart of the batting order has been especially unproductive, going 3-for-28.

    No. 3 hitter Chipper Jones was 1-for-8; cleanup hitter Andres Galarraga was 0-for-8; No. 5 hitter Ryan Klesko was 0-for-5, and No. 6 hitter Javy Lopez was 2-for-7. None of the four had an RBI.

    Hit or miss

    San Diego's Jim Leyritz, whose three-run homer for the New York Yankees against Atlanta's Mark Wohlers in Game 4 turned the tide of the 1996 World Series, has never faced Greg Maddux.

    That doesn't mean he's not familiar with the Atlanta ace.

    "I know that he's the type of pitcher that if he makes a mistake, you'd better hit it," said Leyritz, who has six career postseason homers. "Because he's not going to make many."

    Leyritz didn't start either of the first two games of the NLCS, but will be behind the plate Saturday because he's Sterling Hitchcock's regular catcher. Leyritz and Hitchcock were also teammates with the Yankees.

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