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American League Roundup : Puckett Does It Again, Leads Off With 11th Homer

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For the second game in a row, hot-hitting Kirby Puckett hit a home run on the first pitch Saturday night at Detroit. It was the new slugging star’s 11th home run in just 24 games.

Friday night, Puckett hit the first pitch Jack Morris threw, and the Minnesota Twins went on to win handily, 10-1.

Saturday night, although he gave up a two-run home run later in the first inning to Gary Gaetti, Walt Terrell (3-1) made the outcome different.

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Terrell checked Puckett the rest of the night and, with the help of Darrell Evans’ 11th career grand slam, pitched the Tigers to a 7-4 victory. Pat Sheridan and Darnell Coles also homered for the Tigers.

Of Puckett, Terrell said: “He hit a fastball for a home run Friday, so I figured I’d throw him a breaking ball. I did----right down the middle.”

Hardly anyone has ever had a better beginning than Puckett, the third-year center fielder who hit only four home runs in his first two seasons.

Puckett has hit safely in 16 games in a row, has had home runs in four in a row and in six of the last seven. The 1-for-4 performance dropped Puckett’s average five points to .391.

It was mainly Tony Oliva, once one of the best hitters in baseball, who talked the right-handed hitting Puckett to move up on the plate and start pulling the ball. It has succeeded beyond expectations.

Although he is the leadoff man, Puckett has already driven in 22 runs.

“It isn’t unusual for a guy to hit so many home runs early, “ Tiger Manager Sparky Anderson said, “but it is unusual to change his style that way. If he’s had 22 RBIs leading off, I guess he would have 40 or 50 batting third.

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“The ball is jumping off his bat right now. But the next time you see him, he’ll be in a slump. He isn’t going to hit .400 and he isn’t going to hit 50 home runs. He is a strong man, though.”

Anderson is probably right, but, at the rate Puckett is hitting home runs, it projects to 75.

Cleveland 8, Chicago 7--It may have been a day for the older set at the Kentucky Derby, but it wasn’t for baseball’s oldest pitcher. In this game at Chicago, Phil Niekro, 47, was bombed for eight hits and five runs in six innings.

Never mind, old fellow, the young Indians are sizzling. The Indians battled from behind with three runs in the seventh and two in the eighth to stretch their winning streak to six and remain one game out of first in the East.

Brett Butler, whose bunt single and a wild throw accounted for two runs in the seventh, singled home the winning run in the eighth.

Rich Yett, only 23, pitched 2 hitless innings to win it.

Baltimore 3, Kansas City 2--Ken Dixon held the Royals to four hits in eight innings at Kansas City and improved his record to 3-1, when Cal Ripken hit an opposite-field double to drive home Lee Lacy in the eighth.

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Mark Gubicza, having a tough time getting a win this season, fell to 0-4. He gave up only six hits, but departed after walking Lacy to open the eighth. Dan Quisenberry threw the pitch that Ripken hit to win the game.

Boston 4, Oakland 3--Before the season opened, the weak point of the Red Sox was said to be the bullpen. Sure enough, relievers blew a couple of games in the first week.

Recently, the Red Sox have come up with a long-short combination that has worked. Sammy Stewart, acquired from Baltimore between seasons, is the long man, and Bob Stanley is the one who closes out the game.

In this game at Boston, Stewart came to the rescue of Mike Brown in the fifth inning at Boston and pitched 2 innings of one-hit ball. Stanley got the last two outs for the save.

Last Wednesday, the same combination worked the same way to win another game.

“The bullpen’s poor reputation is undeserved,” Stanley said. “We have some good arms and the addition of Sammy makes us stronger. I don’t know how we were lucky enough to get him.”

New York 9, Texas 4--Since they started keeping the records in 1900, only four players in more than 85 years had hit three sacrifice flies in one game.

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In just two days, that feat has been tied twice. Thursday at San Diego, Vince Coleman of the St. Louis Cardinals hit three of the run-producing outs.

In this game at New York, Don Mattingly became the sixth player to do it.

The Yankees took advantage of the wildness of rookie Bobby Witt, who walked six of the 13 batters he faced. Mattingly hit sacrifice flies in each of the first two innings as the Yankees built a 5-2 lead with only two hits.

Although he gave up 11 hits in six innings, Yankee rookie Bob Tewksbury didn’t walk anyone and improved his record to 3-1.

Seattle 4, Toronto 2--Alvin Davis was 4 for 4, drove in a run and scored another at Toronto as the Mariners won their second game in a row.

The Blue Jays, who had the best record in the league last season, are off to a 9-14 start.

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