The Oakland Athletics were the best team in baseball until Dave Henderson suffered a knee injury and was lost for the season. The loss of the clutch-hitting center fielder left a big hole in the team.
In only a few hours Wednesday, they swung two major deals that could assure them of remaining the best team in baseball.
First, they acquired Harold Baines, a left-handed lifetime .288 hitter from the Texas Rangers for two players to be named.
A few hours later, they obtained Willie McGee, an outstanding center fielder and the second-leading hitter in the National League.
For the 31-year-old McGee, they gave up promising young outfielder Felix Jose and two minor leaguers, infielder Stan Royer and pitcher Daryl Green.
Until getting Baines and the switch-hitting McGee, who was batting .335, the A’s were overbalanced with right-handed hitting. Now they have balance, they also have exceptional speed at the top of the lineup in Rickey Henderson and McGee.
The Cardinals, faced with McGee and eight other potential free agents, opted for the best deal they could get. It should help them in the future.
“We are focused on winning this year,” Oakland General Manager Sandy Alderson said. “We felt these moves would put us in position to do it.”
The Athletics could have used their two new hitters Wednesday night at Oakland. Right-hander Kevin Appier (11-4) held them hitless into the sixth inning and pitched a four-hitter as the Kansas City Royals beat the A’s, 6-0.
Appier lost his no-hitter when Henderson beat out an infield hit with two out in the sixth. The Royal starter got all the offensive help he needed to win his sixth in a row from Bo Jackson.
Jackson hit a three-run home run over the 400-foot mark in center field in the fourth inning for his fifth home run in 11 at-bats.
Despite the loss, the A’s lead the West by 6 1/2 games.
Boston 7, Cleveland 1--The Red Sox knew before the game at Cleveland that Toronto had ended its skid. It made no difference. Boston continued on its roll with more excellent pitching.
Dana Kiecker, who started the streak last Friday with a sharp performance, stretched the winning streak to six games.
Kiecker (6-6), a 29-year-old rookie, held the Indians to three hits in seven innings and Ellis Burks hit his 16th home run.
All six victories have come on the road and enabled the Red Sox to build a five-game lead in the AL East over the Blue Jays.
Minnesota 6, Chicago 1--The White Sox defense, which has been solid all season, collapsed at Minneapolis. They made four errors in the second inning and they were turned into four runs and Chicago’s fifth loss in a row.
Third baseman Robin Ventura made two of the errors and gave Mark Guthrie a nice lead. Guthrie (5-7) gave up five hits and pitched his first complete game.
“That was one of the ugliest innings I’ve ever seen,” White Sox Manager Jeff Torborg said. “We might be pushing too hard and pressing just a little bit.”
Detroit 4, Seattle 2--Cecil Fielder increased his major league home run lead by hitting his 42nd at Seattle to help the Tigers win.
Alan Trammell also homered for the Tigers, hitting his 16th to help Walt Terrell improve his record to 3-2 since rejoining the Tigers.
Fielder also leads the majors with 109 runs batted in.
Toronto 7, Milwaukee 3--Through 119 games, the Blue Jays led the majors with 138 home runs. They were also in a tight battle for first place in the East.
Then came the big slump, the killer being three consecutive shutouts at home against Boston. They went 11 games without a home run and fell six games behind the Red Sox.
When Tony Fernandez hit a three-run home run in the fourth inning at Toronto, the slump came to an abrupt end.
A five-game losing streak in which they scored only four runs ended with a 12-hit barrage.
New York 3, Baltimore 2--Matt Nokes and Kevin Maas hit home runs on consecutive pitches in the sixth inning at Baltimore to hand the fading Orioles their fifth defeat in a row. The Orioles are 12 1/2 games behind Boston in the East.
Tim Leary (8-16) gave up just one run and four hits in seven innings. Dave Righetti gave up Tim Hulett’s homer in the ninth, but earned his 29th save.