AMERICAN LEAGUE ROUNDUP : This Time, It's Welch Who Figures to Be First A's Pitcher to Win 20

It's not really surprising that a pitcher for the Oakland Athletics seems certain to become the first to win 20 games in the American League this season.

After all, the Athletics usually win more games. And, they usually do have the first 20-game winner.

What is unexpected, though, is who the 20-game winner is. In recent seasons, it's been Dave Stewart.

Stewart probably will reach the figure for the fourth consecutive season, but he doesn't figure to be the first member of the staff to do it.

Bob Welch, the former Dodger right-hander who has never won more than 17 in 12 previous seasons, is just a victory away.

Welch gave up four hits in 7 1/3 innings Sunday at Oakland to beat the New York Yankees, 6-1, and win his 19th game. Mark McGwire hit his 29th home run, a long drive to right-center with two on in the first inning, and it was what Welch needed to improve his record to 19-4.

With the best bullpen in the league, the Athletics took no chances when Welch, who has won six of his last seven starts, faltered slightly, Rick Honeycutt took over for his sixth save.

"I really never gave it much thought," Welch said, "but now it's time to start thinking about 20. I always get ready for the next one.

"When I had 10, I thought of winning 11. I'm not worried about 20, I'm just preparing for it.

"When they throw up four on the scoreboard in the first inning, it's a good feeling. They made my job easier.

McGwire saw it a little differently.

"Bob makes our job easier," McGwire said. "For one thing he pitches very quickly. That keeps us on our toes. He doesn't mess around with the batters. He says, 'Here it is, hit it,' and most of the time we make the plays."

The four runs in the first came before Mike Witt (1-5), the former Angel retired a batter. The Yankees had won five in a row, but they were swept in the three-game series at Oakland.

Welch started out as a reliever for the Dodgers in 1978 and became a starter in 1980. He won 16 in 1982.

The Dodgers needed a shortstop and Welch was the price they had to pay in December, 1987 to get Alfredo Griffin and reliever Jay Howell.

The next season, Welch won 17 games for the Athletics, the Dodgers won the National League pennant, then beat the A's in the World Series. It proved to be a a good deal for both teams.

Boston 7, Seattle 2--Marty Barrett hit a two-run double in the ninth inning at Seattle to ignite a five-run rally and enable the Red Sox to increase their lead in the East to three games.

The Mariners, struggling to score runs on this home stand, tied the score against Tom Bolton (7-1) in the bottom of the eighth when Ken Griffey Jr. hit his 16th home run.

Barrett doubled after Tim Naehring walked with one out and John Marzano singled. Two walks, a hit batsman and Carlos Quintana's single accounted for three more runs.

Minnesota 5, Toronto 4--With the Boston Red Sox on a difficult road trip, the Blue Jays had an opportunity to make a move in the East.

They were at home for a weekend series with the Twins, the last place team in the West.

The Blue Jays blew their chances. They made a belated move in the ninth inning, but fell a run short against Allan Anderson (5-15).

Pat Borders hit a two-run homer to cut the lead to a run, but Anderson, a 17-game winner in 1989, retired Glenallen Hill to pitch his third complete game.

The Blue Jays lost two out of three to the Twins.

Cleveland 9, Detroit 5--Tom Candiotti almost always loses to the Tigers and Jack Morris almost never loses to the Indians.

But in this game at Cleveland, the usual results didn't occur.

Candiotti struggled through 7 2/3 innings to get the victory and improve his lifetime record against the Tigers to 3-9.

Morris (9-15) has lost six of his last seven decisions.

He was lucky to escape with just two runs scored in the first inning when he walked four batters, threw a wild pitch and commited an error. He yielded five runs in the fifth. His record against Cleveland is now 26-9.

Kansas City 7, Milwaukee 1--Tom Gordon is another of last season's 17-game winners who has had problems winning this season.

However, Gordon (8-8) pitched a five-hitter at Kansas City for his second consecutive complete game.

Danny Tartabull hit a two-run homer, his 11th. Since returning from the disabled list, Tartabull has 14 RBIs in 13 games.

Texas at Chicago--In what is believed to be the longest rain delay in baseball history, the game at Chicago was not called until 7 1/2 hours after it was scheduled to begin.

The White Sox delayed calling it because they wanted the Rangers to come back to Chicago to play Thursday when both teams were not scheduled to play.

Instead, it will be made up as part of a doubleheader Friday at Arlington, Tex.

More than 30,000 tickets were sold, but only about 200 people were left when the game was finally called.

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