Many years ago when he was the pitching star of the New York Yankees, Lefty Gomez was asked how many games he thought he would win. "If Johnny Murphy's arm holds out, I should win 20 again," said Gomez, referring to the Yankees' bullpen ace of that era.
As 46-year-old Phil Niekro continues to pile up victories, he has a little switch on the Gomez saying. If Dave Righetti's arm holds out, Niekro is a cinch to reach 300.
Niekro struggled once again Sunday at New York, but picked up the 299th victory of his career when the Yankees hammered Oakland, 9-4. Niekro (15-9) won his fifth in a row and for the fourth time Righetti came to the rescue. Righetti has appeared in nine of the last 13 games Niekro has pitched.
Ron Hassey had four hits and Dave Winfield and Dan Pasqua hit home runs to lead the Yankees to their ninth win in a row, leaving them just 1 1/2 games behind Toronto in the East.
For the second game in a row, Niekro won despite wildness. He went six innings, gave up four hits, but walked five and gave up five runs.
Righetti pitched the ninth and gave up one run and four hits.
In his last two games Niekro has pitched 13 innings, given up 9 hits, 8 runs and walked 12. Fortunately, he plays for the best run-producing team in baseball.
In his previous start Niekro threw 159 pitches. He admitted he was a little tired Sunday.
"I pretty much fought my way mentally as much as anything," the knuckleball specialist told the Associated Press. "I didn't have what I call velocity on my fastball. I had no slider and no screwball."
Toronto 10, Minnesota 9--Lloyd Moseby hit two home runs and Jesse Barfield hit a three-run homer at Toronto, but the Blue Jays barely pulled out the victory.
Toronto led, 10-4, going into the ninth, but Jim Acker and Tom Henke couldn't quell the Twins' bats. They had scored five runs and had runners on first and second when Gary Lavelle came in to strike out Tim Laudner and end the game.
On a happy note for the Blue Jays, Jim Clancy came off the disabled list to give up just two hits and no runs in five innings.
Kansas City 13, Milwaukee 11--The Royals blew an 11-6 lead at Kansas City, then pulled out the victory when Steve Balboni hit a two-run home run in the 11th inning. The sweep of the five-game series left the Royals 1 1/2 games ahead of the Angels in the West.
The Royals, who open a series with the Angels tonight at Anaheim, got a lift from third baseman George Brett, who was in a batting slump.
Brett was 1 for 20 when he hit his 24th home run in the first inning. He also singled and doubled later to spark rallies.
The Brewers tied the score in the ninth when Randy Ready singled off Dan Quisenberry after the bullpen ace got the first two batters he faced with two runners on base.
Seattle 6, Detroit 2--Alvin Davis enjoys hitting at Tiger Stadium. In the Mariners' sweep of the three-game series, Davis went on a rampage. He was 6 for 12, scored 7 runs, hit 2 home runs and drove in 8 runs.
In the finale, Davis doubled and scored twice to help reliever Roy Thomas improve his record to 6-0. Thomas pitched shutout ball for 4 innings.
Boston 8, Cleveland 1--Tim Lollar pitched a five-hitter at Boston to improve his record to 7-9. Tony Armas had three hits, scored three runs and drove in another. Wade Boggs, the major leagues' leading hitter, went 2 for 5 and is hitting .362.
Chicago 7, Texas 6--Tom Seaver went 6 innings at Arlington, Tex., to win his first game since Aug. 4 when he won No. 300. It took five more White Sox pitchers to finally gain the victory.
The White Sox's amazing 37-year-old catcher Carlton Fisk stole home in a four-run first inning.