There is almost unanimous opinion among baseball experts that Dwight Gooden, only a few months out of his teens, is about to take over as the best pitcher in the game.
First, though, the talented right-hander of the New York Mets is going to have to learn how to beat Joaquin Andujar.
The two outstanding pitchers hooked up for the third time Wednesday at St. Louis and, for the third time, Andujar beat Gooden. Andujar pitched a five-hitter and the Cardinals handed Gooden his first defeat of the season, 5-1.
It was only the 10th loss in two seasons for Gooden and three of them have come in games in which he opposed Andujar, a 20-game winner last season.
A broken-bat single by Andy Van Slyke scored Tommy Herr in the seventh inning to break Gooden's string of 23 scoreless innings this season and led to his defeat. He gave up four hits and two runs in seven innings.
Andujar (3-0) had a three-hitter until the ninth, when doubles by Keith Hernandez and Danny Heep spoiled his bid for a shutout.
The Cardinals' speed continued to frustrate Met catcher Gary Carter. Tuesday night they stole five bases. On Wednesday they stole three more. One of their runs came on a perfectly executed squeeze bunt by Herr.
"There is only one sure way to stop their speed," Carter said. "Keep them off the bases."
Andujar, who retired 14 consecutive batters at one time, improved his record to 12-5 against the Mets.
"From a fan's standpoint, when you get Gooden and Andujar, that's about as good as you can get," Manager Whitey Herzog of the Cardinals said. "That's a heck of a matchup. And they didn't let anyone down."
Cincinnati 8, Houston 3--Nolan Ryan was on another no-hit kick at Houston, but Dave Parker broke up the hard-throwing right-hander's bid for his sixth no-hitter when he singled with one out in the seventh.
Duane Walker followed with a home run, and Ryan departed after eight innings, having given up three hits and two earned runs while striking out seven.
When he left, Ryan and Mario Soto were even, 3-3, but the Reds' ace improved his record to 4-1 when his team scored five times in the ninth.
The winning run was the result of the speed of Eric Davis. He walked with one out, stole second and went to third on a balk. He scored the tie-breaking run on Nick Esasky's short foul fly to right. Dave Concepcion followed with a home run. Pete Rose singled in the final run.
Montreal 7, Philadelphia 6--Before the season began, the Expos' Tim Raines predicted he would have an outstanding season. Going into this game, he was batting .220.
Raines had his first really productive game of the season Wednesday as he doubled, tripled, drove in two runs and scored two.
"Everything will be all right," Raines said. "I'm getting aggressive at the plate and finding the holes."
The Expos had to overcome four home runs, two by Ozzie Virgil, one by Garry Maddox and the first of the season by Mike Schmidt. Although he gave up eight hits in six innings, Bryn Smith improved his record to 3-0.
Chicago 5, Pittsburgh 2--Leon Durham hit a two-run home run and Davey Lopes had three singles and drove in two runs in front of only 3,981 at Pittsburgh.
Steve Trout, although he went only five innings, improved his record to 3-1. Lee Smith pitched three scoreless innings, striking out five, and picked up his fourth save.
Lopes opened the game in center field and moved to left field in the ninth inning. The former Dodger second baseman has started three games for the Cubs and is 5 for 13.
San Diego 3, Atlanta 1-- Carmelo Martinez and Graig Nettles hit home runs to account for all the Padre runs and LaMarr Hoyt and Rich Gossage combined on a five-hitter at San Diego.
Hoyt (2-1) pitched the first seven innings. He didn't walk a batter, extending his string without a walk to 27 innings. Gossage pitched two scoreless innings for his third save.