In a season during which ace right-hander Rick Sutcliffe has been sidelined because of an injury, and Greg Maddux and Mike Bielecki have pitched ineffectively for long stretches, the Chicago Cubs are thankful they have Mike Harkey.
Harkey, a former Cal State Fullerton star, turned in another strong performance on the mound and at the plate Sunday in New York as the Cubs continued their role of spoiler in the National League East.
Harkey held the Mets to four hits and a run in eight innings and got a key hit in a 10-2 victory. The Cubs beat Frank Viola in handing the Mets their sixth loss in nine games. The Mets remained in first place in the division because Pittsburgh lost its fifth in a row.
There is almost as much talk about Harkey's hitting as his pitching. He singled with the bases loaded to drive in a run during a four-run second inning that broke open the game. Harkey had two hits in four at-bats and is 13 for 47 (.277). He has won four of his last five decisions to help the Cubs win 19 of their last 26.
Harkey is 11-5, despite a tender right shoulder that forces the Cubs to nurse him along, often giving him five or more days between assignments. The last Cub rookie to win 11 was Burt Hooton in 1972.
While the Cubs and Harkey, a 23-year-old right-hander, are hot, Viola is suddenly cold. The veteran left-hander (15-7) has given up 13 runs and 18 hits in his last 10 1/3 innings. He has lost four of his last six decisions.
After starring at Ganesha High in Pomona, Harkey was drafted by the San Diego Padres in 1984. He decided to go to college and in 1987, the Cubs made him their first-round pick.
He pitched pretty well when the Cubs brought him up late in 1988, but he lost three games. In 1989, he spent most of the season on the disabled list. First, it was his right shoulder, then his right knee. He was only 2-7 for triple-A Iowa of the American Assn.
This spring, the Cubs gave him a chance to join the rotation. He did, and in his third start, against the Padres, he had a no-hitter through seven innings, but rookie Phil Stephenson hit his first pitch in the eighth for a home run.
He has been the Cubs' most consistent pitcher. In 21 starts, he's had only three poor outings.
He said he didn't worry about facing Viola on the mound or at the plate.
"I just go out there one game at a time thinking about what I have to do," he said. "Any time I can help with the bat, it's a big plus."
Cincinnati 6, San Francisco 4--Manager Lou Piniella finally gave up on Eric Davis as his cleanup hitter after waiting patiently for him to produce all season.
Davis, who had 34 home runs and 101 RBIs last season, had only 15 homers and 54 RBIs in the Reds' first 111 games.
Piniella moved the center fielder to the leadoff spot and put Todd Benzinger in left field and batted him fourth.
Davis led off the bottom of the first with a single off Scott Garrelts, who came within one out of a no-hitter against the Reds July 29. It triggered a four-run first that sent the Reds on their way to a 5 1/2-game lead in the West.
The big hitter, though, was the fifth batter, rookie Hal Morris. He singled home a run in the first, then homered in the third to help Tom Browning improve to 12-6.
The result excited Piniella. "We'll win tomorrow and take the series, 3-1," he said. "We're just going out there and beating them."
Shortstop Barry Larkin, who had to leave Saturday's game with a hyper-extended left leg, returned to the lineup and drove in a run in the first.
St. Louis 6, Pittsburgh 0--New Manager Joe Torre already has the Cardinals out of last place in the East.
With Bob Tewksbury (7-3) pitching a six-hitter at Pittsburgh, the Cardinals had a season-high 17 hits and handed the Pirates their fifth loss in a row.
Todd Zeile hit his 12th homer and doubled to lead the attack that gave Torre an 8-3 record. The Cardinals got all of those hits without Willie McGee and Pedro Guerrero in the lineup.
The Pirates, who have lost eight of their last 10, are still only half a game out of first.
Montreal 6, Philadelphia 3--Dave Martinez hit two two-run homers at Montreal to lead the Expos to their fifth victory in a row.
While moving to within 5 1/2 games of the Mets, the Expos dropped the Phillies, who have lost five in a row, into sixth place, below St. Louis.
San Diego 9, Houston 0--Derek Lilliquist, a last-minute replacement for Andy Benes, pitched a four-hitter at Houston for the first shutout of his career.
Benes wasn't available because of an emergency in the family. It was only Lilliquist's third victory in 11 decisions.