Don’t let the 2-2 record fool you, Dennis Leonard is embarked on a fabulous comeback. The Kansas City right-hander, taking a regular turn for the first time since May, 1982, is the victim of lack of hitting support.
In his fourth start since recovering from a torn tendon below his right knee, Leonard pitched a two-hitter Tuesday night at Detroit. But he lost when Mike Laga hit a home run in the seventh inning on a fly ball that barely reached the second deck overhang in right to give the Tigers a 2-1 victory.
The Tigers’ other run in the first inning was unearned because right fielder Darryl Motley dropped a fly ball.
It was the second consecutive 2-1 loss for Leonard, who was a 20-game winner three times before injuries threatened to end his career. Laga’s home run made a winner of Frank Tanana in a duel reminiscent of the late 1970s when the two were just about the best pitchers in the American League.
Leonard, who did not pitch at all in 1984 and spent most of last season in rehabilitation, has been sensational in all four outings. He has pitched 30 innings, given up 23 hits and only three earned runs. He has struck out 14 and walked only four.
“Leo (Leonard) deserved a better fate,” Manager Dick Howser of the world champion Royals said. “That ball would have been just another out in our park. When you pitch like he did you desevere to win. His ERA is under one. Leonard has been this good. He’s pitched like the dickens. He can’t pitch any better than this.
“We are not scoring any runs. Don’t forget, though, we had trouble scoring runs last season. Nothing comes easy when you don’t score many runs.”
The only Royals’ run came in the fourth when George Brett drew his 21st walk of the season, was bunted to second and scored on Motley’s single.
Leonard set down 17 consecutive batters after issuing his only walk, to Laga to start the second.
“Tanana pitched tough, too,” Howser said. “He had good curves and change-ups, the stuff he throws.”
Someone remarked that Tanana seemed to have a good change-up.
“That was probably my fastball,” Tanana said, laughing. “But I’m not offended.”
Before arm and shoulder problems set him back, Tanana threw hard. In improving his record to 3-1, he improved his record against the Royals to 7-20 lifetime.
“The important thing is we didn’t win,” Leonard said, “but it is encouraging to pitch so well and to be free of pain. I know the club will start hitting and we will get into the pennant race.”
New York 14, Minnesota 11--On a night in New York when Ron Guidry didn’t pitch well and had plenty of company, the Yankees did it with their hitting.
In a nine-run sixth inning, Rick Henderson singled and then hit a three-run home run to climax the big outburst. The big inning made a winner of Ed Whitson, who gave up five runs and six hits in 3 innings.
Guidry, who entered the game with a 3-1 record and an ERA of 1.29, was tagged for 10 hits and 6 runs, 5 of them earned, in 5 innings.
There were 31 hits in the slugfest, 17 of them by the Twins.
Hot-hitting Kirby Puckett didn’t hit any home runs, but he had three of the Twins’ hits and one was a double. Billy Beane, acquired from the New York Mets during the winter, paced the Twins with 5 for 5 and drove in four runs.
Cleveland 6, Texas 5--The prairie winds were blowing in from right field at Arlington, Tex., but Mel Hall just blasted the ball through it.
Hall hit a three-run home run in the eighth inning to bring the Indians from behind to tie. In the ninth inning, Julio Franco singled home Andy Allanson from second with the winning run. Hall’s drive into the wind hit the top of the fence and, although it bounced back onto the field, was ruled a home run by first base umpire Nick Bremigan.
Jim Kern pitched 1 inning of hitless relief to gain the victory, and Ernie Camacho pitched the ninth to pick up his fifth save.
Baltimore 8, Chicago 1--After pitching two bad games, Scott McGregor checked some 1983 film-- when he was a big winner--and later discovered that he wasn’t pitching that poorly.
McGregor pitched a four-hitter at Chicago, losing his shutout when Wayne Tolleson homered in the ninth.
“I felt good in the spring,” McGregor said, “then lost it again. But tonight I had my good stuff again.”
A two-run double by Lee Lacy and a two-run home run by Cal Ripken in the seventh broke the game open.
Floyd Rayford hit a two-run homer, his first home run of the season, to climax a three-run eighth for the Orioles.
Milwaukee 5, Oakland 4--Billy Joe Robidoux lined a base-loaded single to left to score Earnest Riles with the winning run in the ninth inning of a rain-delayed game at Milwaukee.
Oakland’s Jose Canseco hit his fifth home run of the season in fourth inning, a shot over the center field fence.
Rob Deer hit a three-run homer in the eighth to give Milwaukee a 4-3 lead, but Dusty Baker hit one in the top of the ninth to tie it.