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Gullickson Doesn’t Throw for Numbers : Baseball: Tiger pitcher, who often benefits from Detroit’s offense, says he lets victories and defeats fall where they may.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Those people who say the numbers don’t lie?

They lie.

Bill Gullickson’s numbers lie. Or a couple, at least, grossly misrepresent the truth about his season.

One misleading statistic is Gullickson’s earned-run average, which was 4.13 before Gullickson took the mound for Detroit against the Angels Wednesday afternoon.

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What that number didn’t suggest was that Gullickson, just two years removed from pitching in Japan, was looking to become the major leagues’ first 17-game winner.

He didn’t, despite one of his finest outings of the season. He allowed one run on five hits, but Angel pitchers Jim Abbott, Mark Eichhorn and Bryan Harvey didn’t allow any in a 1-0 victory at Anaheim Stadium.

It marked only the fourth time this season the Detroit offense has been shut down completely.

The perception is that Gullickson (16-7) has been a fortunate recipient of the Tiger offense.

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How did he get 16 victories with an ERA more than four? By pitching on days the Tigers averaged more than six runs a game in the first half of the season--including games in which they scored, nine, 15 and 17 runs, the latter in a 17-0 victory over Kansas City July 19.

But didn’t anybody notice the shutout?

“People were saying the only reason I was winning was because I was getting so many runs,” Gullickson said. “But that’s the name of the game,” he said, “outscoring the other team.

“If I get 17 runs, one run, no runs, whatever. My job is to keep it close. If we get five or six runs, I pitch a little differently. Not a whole lot differently, but just so, ‘Boom,’ if they hit a bomb on me, it’s still OK.”

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Gullickson has the attitude of a pitcher who has been around, which he has.

He began his career in 1989 with Montreal, and had his best season with the Expos when he was 17-12 in 1983.

That was his high point, up to now. He appears certain to surpass it, having reached 15 victories before September for the first time in his career.

With 16 victories in his first 27 starts, he reached that number faster than any Tiger pitcher since 1987, when Jack Morris finished with 18 victories.

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What Gullickson has done is fulfill the cliche: He has pitched well enough to win. So what if opponents were batting .302 against him before Wednesday? He has kept them at bay in other ways, by rarely giving up unintentional walks, and by giving up homers with no one on base or when the Tigers are well ahead.

Gullickson’s season is also boosting the Tigers, who are in contention in the American League East.

“As long as you don’t get six or seven games behind, that’s OK,” Gullickson said. “Two or three, you can make that up in a few days.”

Gullickson does his job, and lets the victories and losses fall where they will, without worrying about what he “deserved.”

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“Oh yeah, I was probably more worried about wins and losses when I was just starting,” said Gullickson, 32. “At this point in my career, I’m just going out and giving a good effort. The wins and losses will take care of themselves.”

This one took care of itself, too, just not in Gullickson’s favor.

“He pitched great,” Detroit Manager Sparky Anderson said. “But this other kid pitched better.”

Gullickson agreed.

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“It doesn’t matter if you pitch good or bad, sometimes you’re going to get a loss,” he said. “The guy today, he threw a great game. A couple of mistakes here and there, and boom, we score five or six runs. But the guy shuts ‘em out. You say, ‘Gee, how did he do that?’ You don’t see it a whole lot.”

And for that, Gullickson can be grateful.


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