The San Francisco Giants have half their pitching staff on the disabled list. They have others who merely hurt when they try to pitch.
But Wednesday at New York, the Giants received the news that may carry them to the division title in the National League West: Big Daddy is well again.
Big Daddy is Rick Reuschel, their 40-year-old right-hander.
Reuschel, in only his second start since coming off the disabled list, held the Mets to three hits in six innings and improved his record to 15-5 as the Giants shut out the Mets, 5-0, for the second consecutive game.
The victory concluded a 6-3 trip that strengthened their grip on first place.
The Giants return home, where they have a 39-20 record, to play 22 of their last 35 games and suddenly, their pitching problems don't seem so bad. The Giants lead the second-place Houston Astros by 3 1/2 games.
Bob Knepper was the unexpected winner of Tuesday night's 5-0 victory as a substitute for Ron Robinson, who joins Mike Krukow, Atlee Hammaker and Dave Dravecky as Giants unable to pitch.
Reuschel, though, has been the Giants' best pitcher since he joined them two years ago. He went on the disabled list with a groin injury July 29.
"Reuschel pitched a strong game," Giant Manager Roger Craig said. "He changes speed better than any pitcher I have ever seen."
The 6-foot-3, 240-pounder has won both starts since coming back, but last Friday he was hit hard by Philadelphia.
"I got a little tired today, but no problem," Reuschel said. "We came in here and won two out of three and proved we're just as good as the Mets."
In addition to getting their pitching straightened out, the Giants are developing a third hitter to go with the one-two punch of Will Clark and Kevin Mitchell.
Although David Cone kept the two sluggers pretty well under control, he couldn't handle Matt Williams, who drove in two runs with his 11th home run and a double.
The 23-year-old third baseman has hit his 11 home runs in 50 games.
The back-to-back shutouts ended the Mets' longest home stand on a sour note. They wound up with a 9-5 record and missed a chance to catch the Cubs in the tightening race in the East.
The Mets, who are 45-23 at home but only 24-34 on the road, play 23 of their last 36 games away from Shea Stadium.
"All our parts are in place--we don't need help," Met Manager Davey Johnson said. "We just have to keep playing well."
Cincinnati 8, Chicago 5--Injuries have plagued the Reds, one of the preseason favorites in the West, but they are getting well against the collapsing Cubs.
Catcher Joe Oliver, getting his chance because of injuries, had four hits, including a two-run home run, for the first time, in this game at Chicago.
It was the sixth loss in a row for the Cubs and the third consecutive win at Wrigley Field for the Reds, who are without four injured regulars.
It was only the 24th major league game for Oliver, who is batting .457 in his last 10 games.
Manager Don Zimmer summed up the Cubs' plight in one terse sentence.
"We're doing everything wrong you can do wrong," he said.
Greg Maddux (14-10) gave up 10 hits and four runs in six innings. Then, for the third consecutive outing, bullpen ace Mitch Williams pitched poorly in relief.
Atlanta 3, St. Louis 0--The Cardinals, with a chance to move ahead of the Mets and challenge the Cubs for first place, found rookie Marty Clary just too much at Atlanta.
Clary (4-2) held the Cardinals to five hits and stopped their three-game winning streak.
The Braves gave Clary the run he needed off Ricky Horton (0-1) in the fourth. With one out, Jeff Blauser got the first hit of the game, a double, and Lonnie Smith singled him home. Smith, the key man in the Braves' offense most of the season, singled in the sixth and scored the final run.
Pittsburgh 6, Houston 1--After sweeping a three-game series with the Cubs over the weekend, the Astros appeared ready to challenge the Giants in the West.
But in Pittsburgh they have run into trouble. A three-run throwing error by pitcher Jim Clancy in the first inning sent the Astros to their second loss in a row.
Kevin Bass homered in the top of the first to give the Astros the lead. But with two out and a man on second in the bottom of the inning, Clancy (6-11) fell apart. He walked two batters to load the bases, and Gary Redus singled in the tying run. Junior Ortiz then bounced back to Clancy. The pitcher had plenty of time, but his throw sailed 10 feet over the head of first baseman Glenn Davis and all three baserunners scored.
San Diego 7, Philadelphia 3--Andy Benes, the first pick in the 1988 amateur draft, gave up three hits in seven innings at Philadelphia and earned his first major league victory.
Benes, a loser in his first two decisions after being brought up Aug. 8, struck out four and walked five. Mark Davis finished up.
Roberto Alomar led the Padres' attack. He had three hits, stole three bases, scored two runs and drove in another.