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American League Roundup : Blue Jays Support Stieb, Move Closer to Title

Dave Stieb held the Brewers to seven hits before needing help in the ninth inning Friday night at Milwaukee as he pitched the Toronto Blue Jays a step closer to their first division title with a 5-1 victory.

The Blue Jays, in stretching their lead to six games over the New York Yankees in the East, gave Stieb, their ace, unusual support. They hit four home runs, including back-to-back blasts by Jesse Barfield and Cecil Fielder in the fourth inning. The Blue Jays have nine games left and can win the title by winning four of them.

The Yankees’ game against Baltimore was postponed because of the rains produced by Hurricane Gloria. The teams have scheduled a doubleheader Sunday.

All season long, Stieb, who has a 14-12 record, has gone up against the best opposing pitcher. When the Blue Jays play New York, he sees Ron Guidry; when it’s Boston, he meets Oil Can Boyd, and when it’s Milwaukee, he faces the talented rookie, Ted Higuera.

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Last Sunday at Toronto, Stieb tangled with Higuera, a 14-game winner. Stieb gave up only one earned run but lost, 2-1.

This time, Higuera, who figures to be the league’s Rookie Pitcher of the Year, was throwing the home run ball, and Stieb had an easy time, ending his three-game losing streak.

The Brewers didn’t spoil Stieb’s shutout until the seventh, when a walk, a single and two infield outs produced a run.

“It was nice to have a lead out there,” Stieb told the Associated Press. “Although I feel good that we are so close to winning the division, it has been frustrating.

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“Baseball is a game of cycles, and it just seems like I’m on the mound every fifth day when the club has trouble scoring runs. The last time I faced the Brewers, I got beat by a ball that landed a few inches fair.”

Stieb has “lost some tough games,” Toronto Manager Bobby Cox said. “A win like this should get him going. We needed the win to get going, too.”

After Stieb put the first two batters on in the ninth, Dennis Lamp came in to get the final out.

“Don’t let his record fool you, Stieb is a quality pitcher,” Manager George Bamberger of the Brewers said. “They can do everything. They have super relief pitching.

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“And (Lamp) isn’t even the stopper.”

In addition to Barfield and Fielder, Lloyd Moseby and Damaso Garcia also hit home runs.

Barfield’s home run was his 27th, tying his career high in 1983.

The victory was the first for Stieb since he beat Cleveland Sept. 2. He is headed for his worst season since 1981, when the Blue Jays were the worst team in the East and he was 11-10 in the shortened season.

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The next two seasons, Stieb won 17 games in each. Last year, when the Blue Jays finished second in the division to the Tigers, he was 16-8.

Minnesota 4, Kansas City 1--Last season, when Bud Black and Frank Viola pitched against each other, it was usually a tight duel. They were just about the two best left-handers in the league. Both have struggled this season.

But while Viola has finally straightened out, Black never has. Viola pitched a three-hitter in this game at Minneapolis to improve his record to 17-14 and prevent the Royals from regaining sole possession of first place in the West.

It was 1-1 in the fifth inning, but Gary Gaetti broke the tie with his 19th homer. After a double by Steve Lombardozzi, Kirby Puckett hit his fourth home run, and Black was on his way to his 15th defeat against only nine victories.

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“I just feel sorry for Bud Black,” Viola said. “Imagine if he pitched like he’s capable--those guys would be running away with it.”

Puckett now has 72 runs batted in, tops for leadoff batters in the league.

“It definitely feels good to beat these guys,” Twin Manager Ray Miller said. “They’re in first place, and you get a little adrenaline flowing. When you play the Texases and the Clevelands, it takes a little edge off it.”

Detroit 5, Boston 1--A year ago, Willie Hernandez was the toast of baseball. He was pitching the Tigers to the pennant and on his way to the Cy Young Award.

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Although he seems certain to exceed last season’s number of saves (32), the left-handed bullpen ace is not having much fun.

After getting the final four outs at Detroit to pick up his 31st save, Hernandez expounded on his troubles this year.

“I pitched when I was hurt and I made a fool of myself,” said Hernandez, who has lost nine games this season after losing only three a year ago. “It was a difficult situation. My team needed me, so I took the ball. If we had won those nine games, we might have been fighting for the pennant.”

Alan Trammell hit a two-run home run in the third inning to provide the Tigers with the runs they needed. Walt Terrell, with the help of Hernandez, improved his record to 14-10. The loser was Oil Can Boyd (15-12).

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Chicago 4, Oakland 3--Scott Fletcher’s line drive to right field in the top of the ninth inning scored Rudy Law from third base with the White Sox’s winning run at Oakland.

Law opened the ninth with a pinch single off Steve Ontiveros (1-3). Jay Howell relieved Ontiveros and was greeted by Jerry Hairston’s pinch single that sent Law to third.

Right fielder Mike Heath almost made a diving catch on Fletcher’s liner, then threw to second to force pinch-runner Bryan Little as Law scored.

The victory was the 16th in the last 22 games for the White Sox.

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Chicago’s Carlton Fisk drove in a run with a sacrifice fly in the fifth to make his season RBI total a career-high 103.

Oakland had pulled into a 3-3 tie on Jose Canseco’s bases-loaded, two-run single with one out in the eighth.

Seattle 6, Texas 0--Frank Wills pitched one-hit ball for eight innings at Seattle and ended his eight-game losing streak. Wills walked four and was replaced by Ed VandeBerg in the ninth.

Dave Henderson hit a three-run home run in the eighth for the Mariners, who scored only one run in seven innings off loser Mike Mason.

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