What do you mean, a June Swoon?
Instead of falling apart as expected, the amazing San Francisco Giants have zoomed into first place in the National League West and are giving evidence they intend to remain there.
The Giants, to the delight of 47,030 fans Sunday at Candlestick Park, beat Houston, 4-2 and 3-2, to sweep the four-game series and vault over the Astros to a 1 1/2-game lead in the division.
Manager Roger Craig has engineered a shocking turnaround. With the season approaching the halfway point, the Giants have a 38-31 record. Last season, when they finished with the worst record in the West and lost 100 games for the first time in their storied history, they were 26-43 at this time and 15 games behind. Already their annual cry of “Wait Till Next Year,” was being heard.
It has been eight years since the Giants were leading the league this late in the season.
To a man the Giants give the credit to Craig. Craig, one of the few former pitchers to have any success as a manager, has done wonders with some of the Giant pitchers. An example is the resurrection of Vida Blue, making strides toward the league comeback award.
There were two more examples Sunday. In the opener, Mike Krukow, 8-11 last season, pitched a seven-hitter to improve his record to 9-4. Krukow, in his 11th season in the league, has a career high of 13 victories.
In the nightcap, Juan Berenguer, Craig’s newest project, came through for the fourth time in less than a week. Berenguer gave up a game-tying hit in the top of the eighth, but became the winner when rookie Mike Aldrete hustled to avoid a double play with the bases loaded and one out in the eighth to enable Rob Thompson to score the winning run.
Berenguer was credited with a scoreless inning and his first victory as a Giant. In his new role as ace reliever, which began last Wednesday, Berenguer has pitched 7 scoreless innings in four games. He saved three of them and won the other.
In the few seasons that the Giants have started off well they have always flopped in June. With the month winding down, the Giants are 13-8 in the month. It is their competition that is in a swoon.
The Giants aren’t ready to gloat, yet. After all, it’s only 7 1/2 games from top to bottom in the West.
New York 4, Chicago 2--Although he has a better record than his more famous teammate Dwight Gooden, Ron Darling has been hearing mostly criticism from Manager Davey Johnson of the Mets.
After Darling improved his record to 8-2 by pitching a five-hitter and not walking a batter for the first time in his career in this game at New York, Darling earned praise.
“That is Ron Darling,” Johnson said. “He knows I’m fond of him. I’ve been more critical of him than anybody on the staff because I’ve had him longer. He’s come such a long way and now he’s an accomplished pitcher. I know how good he can be and today showed just how good. Believe me, I don’t expect that all the time.”
Len Dykstra and George Foster homered for the Mets and Darling had an infield hit and scored a run in the third.
“I wasn’t aware that I didn’t walk a batter,” Darling said. “Davey expects the best of me and I don’t mind it. With his urging and my hard work, maybe I will achieve what he expects.”
St. Louis 7, Philadelphia 4--It has been a dismal season for the Cardinals, but slowly they are beginning to see the light. From the best hitting and scoring team in the league, the Cardinals went to the worst.
But, in winning the last three games of the series at Philadelphia, the Cardinals scored 24 runs and pounded out 33 hits. In the finale, they got continued good pitching from rookie Greg Mathews, 4-1, since being brought up three weeks ago.
Terry Pendleton, batting only .206, hit a three-run double to spark a five-run sixth that carried the Cardinals to victory.
Montreal 2, Pittsburgh 1--Vance Law hit a pinch single in the eighth inning at Montreal to score Herm Winningham from third with the tie-breaking run.
The Expos had runners on first and third with one out and Manager Bob Rodgers settled on Law as the hitter.
“I knew Vance wouldn’t hit into a double play,” Rodgers said. “I also knew he was good on the hit-and-run, so I gave the sign. He made me look good.”
Joe Hesketh gave up nine hits in seven innings, but, with the help of Jeff Reardon, improved his record to 5-4. The Pirates stranded 11 runners.
Cincinnati 5, Atlanta 2--Eric Davis, benched earlier in the season because he wasn’t hitting as the Reds’ leadoff hitter, is coming through as a cleanup hitter.
In this game at Cincinnati, Davis walked and scored the first run in the sixth, then smashed a two-run home run in the seventh to win it for John Denny (5-6). Since being inserted into the No. 4 spot, Davis is 5 for 13. The opposite-field blast was his seventh home run of the season.
Denny, pitching well after a poor start this season, gave up five hits and struck out six in seven innings. John Franco and Ron Robinson each pitched a scoreless inning for the Reds.