Tom Seaver collected the 300th victory of his illustrious career on Aug. 4. But the magic number has turned out to be more of a millstone than a milestone for the Chicago White Sox’s right-hander.
In fact, in his last five starts, Seaver has three no decisions and two losses, including a 3-2 defeat at the hands of the Royals Tuesday night at Kansas City. But Seaver could be excused for losing on this night, since his teammates were up against 21-year-old Bret Saberhagen, who at the moment might be the best pitcher in the American League.
Saberhagen, the former star at Reseda’s Cleveland High, has piled up some impressive credentials. Tuesday’s seven-hit victory, which moved the Royals to within 1 1/2 games of the Angels in the West, tied him with Ron Guidry of the New York Yankees for the league’s best record at 17-5. The right-hander also lowered his earned-run average to 2.77. Guidry’s ERA is 3.04.
Kansas City Manager Dick Howser wouldn’t be drawn into any comparisons. However, he was effusive in his praise of Saberhagen, who gave up seven hits in winning his seventh straight game. It was also Chicago’s seventh straight loss at Royals Stadium.
“He’s our No. 1 guy right now. We expect him to do that every time out,” Howser said. “He gives up three infield hits and an opposite-field home run. You can’t pitch any better.
“I don’t know (if he’s the best). He’s one of the top five starters on our staff. I think his record speaks for itself. That’s indicative of how good a pitcher he is.”
Seaver (12-10) gave up six hits, but one was a two-run home run in the first to Hal McRae, his 13th of the season. Seaver pitched out of a bases-loaded jam in the seventh inning but gave up a run in the eighth on Pat Sheridan’s sacrifice fly.
The White Sox scratched out a run in the third and got their final run in the ninth when Harold Baines hit his 16th home run of the season.
New York 6, Seattle 3--Phil Niekro won the 298th game of his career, pitching seven shutout innings at New York before needing relief help as the Yankees won their fourth straight to pull within 3 1/2 games of the idle Toronto Blue Jays in the East.
Niekro (14-9) pitched 7 innings and has won his last four decisions. The 46-year-old knuckleballer gave up five hits and blanked Seattle into the eighth inning, bidding to become the oldest pitcher to ever throw a shutout in the majors.
Niekro extended his consecutive scoreless-inning streak to 17 before issuing bases-loaded walks to Dave Henderson and Danny Tartabull with two outs in the eighth.
Dave Righetti then relieved Niekro, who had given up five hits. Righetti threw a wild pitch, allowing a run to score, and gave up a walk that loaded the bases again before retiring Jack Perconte on a grounder. Righetti pitched the ninth for his 25th save.
Dan Pasqua’s two-run homer capped a five-run New York outburst in the first inning against Billy Swift (4-9).
Oakland 3, Baltimore 2--The A’s moved within six games of the first-place Angels in the West, edging the Orioles at Baltimore.
Pinch-hitter Steve Henderson singled home the tiebreaking run in the eighth inning, and Jose Rijo teamed with two relievers on a three-hitter.
Oakland not only ended Mike Boddicker’s scoreless streak at 19 innings when they scored twice in the fifth, but Henderson’s hit sent Boddicker down to his 14th defeat of the season.
Rijo held Baltimore hitless for five innings before the Orioles scored twice on three hits in the sixth. John Shelby led off with his fourth home run of the season, and Cal Ripken singled with two outs and scored on a double by Eddie Murray.
Steve Ontiveros worked the eighth, and Jay Howell came on in the ninth for his 24th save.
Boston 6, Texas 4--Jim Rice went 4 for 5, including a homer, and drove in three runs, leading the Red Sox over the Rangers at Arlington, Tex.
Rice hit his 24th home run to lead off the second inning and added RBI singles in the third and the fifth.
Bruce Hurst (10-10) gave up seven hits over 7 innings and struck out 10 for the victory.
Minnesota 4, Milwaukee 3--Former Dodger Steve Howe, pitched 3 innings of hitless relief to hold off the Brewers at Minneapolis.
In the seventh, Kirby Puckett’s sacrifice fly tied the score at 3-3 and pinch-hitter Dave Engle delivered a run-scoring single as the Twins scored what proved to be the winning run.