When this season opened, there was no comparison between pitchers Rick Sutcliffe and Mike LaCoss. Although injuries had made the 1985 season a miserable one for Sutcliffe, he was healthy again and was expected to make a contender of the Chicago Cubs.
LaCoss was the mop-up relief pitcher for the San Francisco Giants. After five dismal seasons in which he won a total of only 23 games, he was barely hanging on.
Six weeks into the season, there is still no comparison--but for a different reason. Sutcliffe is a big loser with the Cubs, and LaCoss is pitching the way you would expect the ace of a staff to pitch.
The two hooked up Wednesday at Chicago. Sutcliffe was pounded for 10 hits, including Jeffrey Leonard's three-run home run, and for 7 runs in 5-plus innings during an 11-3 defeat that dropped his record to 1-6. LaCoss, in his fourth start for the Giants, improved his record to 4-0, although he gave up 7 hits in 5 innings before leaving because of a blister on his pitching hand.
"I should have taken him out earlier," Giant Manager Roger Craig said. "Believe it or not, LaCoss has pitched so well for us that this was his worst game."
He meant as a starter. In LaCoss' Giant debut, the Dodgers clubbed him for four runs in one inning of relief.
In 1979, the 6-4 right-hander had a 14-8 record for the Reds and pitched in the All-Star game. Injuries and disappointments have beset him ever since. The Kansas City Royals gave up on him last spring, and it appeared that his major league career was over.
Craig invited LaCoss to the Giants' camp this spring, and the pitcher barely made the final cut. After his first outing, he settled down and pitched well in relief. In desperation, because of injuries and an overworked staff, Craig started LaCoss against St. Louis on April 29. He appears to be in the regular rotation for good now. His earned-run average is 1.69.
Sutcliffe, the Cy Young Award winner in 1984 when he went 17-1 after joining the Cubs in early June, was on the disabled list with three different injuries last season and had an 8-8 record with a 3.18 ERA.
In his first start this season, he gave up only two hits in seven innings but was beaten by the Cardinals. Although he lost to the Giants, 2-1, in 10 innings on May 4, the Cubs felt that he had regained his form. Instead, he seems to be worse. In his last two games, he has given up 12 runs in 12 innings and his ERA has soared to 5.14.
Because of LaCoss, the Giants are flying high. Because of Sutcliffe, the Cubs are tumbling down the ladder.
Montreal 3, Atlanta 2--In case the Mets think the race is over in the East, they had better look around. The Expos don't scare easily and are only three games back.
With Andre Dawson putting on a one-man exhibition in Montreal, the Expos won for the 10th time in 11 games. Dawson, in addition to hitting his eighth home run, stole home and threw out two runners from right field, one at the plate in the second inning and the other at third base in the fifth.
It was Smith vs. Smith on the mound. The Expos' Smith, Bryn, was the winner over the Braves' Smith, Zane.
Houston 6, New York 2--Bob Knepper pitched a five-hitter at Houston to become the first seven-game winner in the majors. He outpitched Bob Ojeda (5-1).
The Astros put Ojeda in a hole in the second inning. Shortstop Kevin Mitchell fumbled Phil Garner's grounder with one out, and the Astros wound up scoring twice.
Knepper (7-1) lost his shutout in the seventh when Gary Carter hit his fifth home run.
San Diego 10, Pittsburgh 4--Steve Garvey hit a two-run home run in the first inning at Pittsburgh, and the Padres went on from there to the rout. Former Dodger Sid Bream hit a two-run home run, his sixth homer for the Pirates.
The Padres pounded out 14 hits, including four by Tony Gwynn and three by Kevin McReynolds.
Philadelphia 8, Cincinnati 6--Mike Schmidt, who didn't start because of a cracked rib, hit a 408-foot single as a pinch-hitter with the bases loaded in the eighth at Philadelphia to spark a four-run inning.
Schmidt received credit for only one run batted in, but two other runs scored when a wild relay throw by Ron Oester ruined a fine effort by center fielder Eddie Milner in playing the ball off the wall.