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American League Roundup : Hrbek Booming in June After an About-Face

Kent Hrbek has made a change in his batting stance and it has made American League pitchers dislike facing him.

Actually, the new stance has Hrbek facing the pitcher. After a slow start this season, Hrbek is on a hitting spree.

Hrbek, the American League slugging leader, tripled in a run in the first inning at Minneapolis Friday night to start the Minnesota Twins on their way to a 6-4 victory over the Kansas City Royals.

Mike Smithson held the world champions to three hits until the ninth when the Royals rallied for four runs to chase the 6-foot 8-inch right-hander.

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The Minnesota fans were booing Hrbek, who has a $1-million contract, when he started poorly. Now, they roar with his every appearance. He has been in a June boom. He is 38 for 95 and has hit 8 home runs and driven in 27 runs since the end of May. For the season he is hitting .327 with 17 home runs and 55 runs batted in. His slugging percentage is .590.

The new stance began as a joke. He was doing a dressing-room imitation of Oscar Gamble.

“I was just goofing around with it in batting practice,” Hrbek told the Associated Press. “It’s a little awkward-looking, but that’s just the starting point. It’s where you finish up that counts.

“This is probably the hottest I’ve ever swung the bat. I’m seeing the ball so well. It’s like taking batting practice.”

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Never one to stubbornly stick with an unsuccessful stance, he shifted into the new one about a month ago. It is an exaggeratedly open setup in which his front foot--and his nose--point at the pitcher.

As the pitch approaches the plate, Hrbek brings his front foot back toward the plate, cocks his bat, uncoils his crouched body, and sweeps the bat through the strike zone.

Detroit 4, Milwaukee 2--Manager Sparky Anderson likes the way Kirk Gibson responds under pressure. In this game at Detroit, Gibson hit a two-run home run with one out in the 11th inning off Brewer bullpen ace Dan Plesac to give the Tigers their eighth win in the last 11 games.

“Gibson can end a game quick,” Anderson said. “I’ve seen him end games quick seven or eight times like that. It’s a joke. You put the game on the line and he’s a great competitor. He’s something, that boy. I’ve seen him do it against all the great pitchers, too.”

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Although Frank Tanana gave up only four hits and one earned run in eight innings, it was Willie Hernandez who benefited from Gibson’s eighth home run, a shot that landed into the upper deck in right just under the roof.

Oakland 8, Chicago 6--Jose Canseco and Mike Davis each hit three-run home runs in a seven-run sixth inning at Oakland that gave the A’s a comeback victory. Canseco leads the majors with 64 RBIs.

A’s pitcher Chris Codiroli held the White Sox hitless for 5 innings but had to leave because of a sore elbow.

Seattle 6, Texas 5--Jim Presley hit his 15th home run with one out in the seventh inning at Seattle, snapping a 5-5 tie and giving the Mariners a victory.

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Left-hander Matt Young (7-4) worked the final 2 innings to pick up the victory. Jeff Russell (1-1) took the loss.

Toronto 14, New York 7--Jesse Barfield drove in five runs and Damaso Garcia tied a major league record with four doubles in this slugfest at New York.

Barfield climaxed his big night with a three-run home run in the seventh that wiped out a 7-6 deficit.

The game marked another failure by Ron Guidry. Guidry, who has not won a game since May 4, didn’t lose, but he was hammered for seven hits and six runs in just 2 innings.

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There were 37 hits in the game, 18 of them by the Yankees, who stranded 12 base-runners. Three of the Yankee hits were home runs by Rickey Henderson, Ken Griffey and Don Mattingly.


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