About the only problems Willie Hernandez had last year concerned the postseason. The bullpen ace of the Detroit Tigers had trouble adjusting to the limelight after his remarkable season.
Hernandez, after winning the Most Valuable Player and Cy Young awards and playing a prominent role in the Tigers’ drive to the world championship, was overwhelmed by the attention.
He returned to his native Puerto Rico and was besieged. Hernandez, accustomed to quiet in the off-season, became a nervous wreck. He was in demand for numerous appearances. What should have been a joyous time was turned into a nightmare. The 29-year-old left-hander wondered if it was all worth it.
“I never had a chance to work on my baseball,” Hernandez complained. “My arm was out of shape when I went to training camp. I didn’t expect to be ready when the season started.”
Hernandez was not only ready to start the season, he has already proved that last season was no fluke. The Tigers are on the move, and Hernandez is getting the job done out of the bullpen.
While hot-hitting Lou Whitaker took care of the offense with three hits, including a home run Tuesday night at Detroit, Hernandez choked off a Texas rally in the ninth inning to preserve a 4-1 victory.
In his last nine appearances, eight of them this month, Hernandez has not given up a run. In those nine games he has pitched 10 innings, given up only two hits and earned six saves. For the season, he is 2-0 and has nine saves. In two other Tiger victories, he pitched scoreless ninth innings. The world champions have won only five games this season without help from Hernandez.
“I don’t know if I really want all the success and attention I had last season,” Hernandez said. “People can drive you crazy. On the day I won the Cy Young, my phone rang from 5:30 p.m. to 3:30 a.m.
“I also learned that sometimes people take advantage of you. They ask for your time and don’t understand that you have to spend some time with your family. I wound up sick. I don’t want to go through that again.”
Last season, easily the best of his eight in the majors, Hernandez had 32 saves and a 9-3 record with an earned-run average of 1.92. In 17 appearances this season, Hernandez has given up runs in only two games. His ERA is 1.19.
New York 10, Minnesota 7--About the only consolation for the Twins in this game at New York was that they weren’t knocked out by ninth-inning lightning.
True, for the fourth time in five games, they were struck down by a home run, but there was a difference. In the other three it came in the ninth inning, twice, with two out.
The end came mercifully in the seventh inning of this one when Ken Griffey hit a grand-slam home run to climax a seven-run rally that wiped out a 7-3 deficit.
Just as it did Monday night when Don Mattingly hit a three-run, two-out home run to beat the Twins, 9-8, bases on balls set up the knockout blast.
With one out in the big inning, Willie Randolph singled. That was the only hit in the rally except for Griffey’s home run. Four consecutive walks forced in two runs and the bases were loaded for Griffey.
This was one they couldn’t blame on Ron Davis. He didn’t make an appearance after losing the other three. Curt Wardle, who walked Butch Wynegar to force in a run, was tagged by Griffey for the home run on his next pitch.
Kansas City 5, Baltimore 3--The Royals are enjoying a new-found power attack. In this game at Baltimore, Frank White and George Brett hit consecutive home runs in the fourth inning, and Jim Sundberg climaxed a five-run rally with a three-run home run.
Scott McGregor (1-4) served up all three of the home runs.
Dan Quisenberry retired three batters in the ninth to pick up his fifth save. In the last three days, the underhand specialist has a victory and two saves.
Seattle 5, Boston 0--Mike Moore pitched a seven-hitter and Phil Bradley and Spike Owen each had three hits at Boston, and the Mariners beat Dennis (Oil Can) Boyd.
The Mariners jumped on Boyd (4-2) for 8 of their 14 hits in 2 innings with Bradley figuring in the two rallies that made it 4-0 in two innings.
Oakland 6, Milwaukee 3--Pinch-hitter Dusty Baker hit a bases-loaded double in the ninth inning at Milwaukee to climax a five-run rally that beat the Brewers.
Rollie Fingers came in to protect a 2-1 lead in the ninth but gave up three hits, including Baker’s double and three walks.
Chicago 2, Cleveland 1--Greg Walker singled in the tie-breaking run with two out in the eighth inning at Chicago to give the White Sox their fourth win in a row and their sixth in the last seven games.