Every team brings extra pitchers to training camp in order to give their hitters plenty of practice against live arms.
That is the reason the Toronto Blue Jays invited perennial minor league pitcher Mark Eichhorn to camp. But here it is September, the Blue Jays are fighting for a pennant, and Eichhorn is a key figure in their bid.
The Blue Jays kept the 25-year-old right-hander around because pitchers Tom Filer, Bill Caudill and Gary Lavelle were disabled. After seven not-too-successful seasons in the minors, Eichhorn has suddenly become a star out of the bullpen.
Eichhorn pitched 3 innings Sunday, giving up a harmless run in the ninth, at Toronto to preserve a hard-earned, 7-5 victory over Minnesota and keep the surging Blue Jays just 3 1/2 games behind Boston in the American League East.
Before pulling out their eighth victory in a row, the Blue Jays spotted the Twins a 4-0 lead. But Lloyd Moseby hit a grand slam in the fourth inning to get them even to the delight of 45,161 fans. Doubles by Willie Upshaw and George Bell put Toronto ahead in the fifth and Upshaw homered in the seventh to clinch the win.
Rookie Luis Aquino, who rescued John Cerutti in the second inning, pitched 3 innings of scoreless relief to get his first victory.
It was the eighth save for Eichhorn, who is 12-4. Not bad for a fellow who was 2-5 with a 4.52 earned-run average at Syracuse of the International League last season.
Eichhorn is having a dream season. If he pitches 32 more innings, he can become the first relief pitcher ever to win an ERA title in the majors. Most relievers have not pitched the required 162 innings to qualify. Eichhorn, with much the best earned-run average (1.73), has already pitched 130 innings.
One of the factors in Eichhorn's success is an unusual delivery. He throws with a sidearm motion that sometimes is almost submarine style. He does not throw hard, but he has struck out batters at the rate of more than one per inning (135).
"I don't like thinking about it, in fact, I don't even like talking about it," Eichhorn said. "I just want to keep it low key and help us win a pennant."
In August, Eichhorn pitched in 16 games and 38 innings. He was scored on only three times and gave up only four runs in 38 innings, winning five and saving three.
He gets the job done with a lively changeup and a slider that has so much movement that hitters call it a "Frisbee pitch."
In 1982, with his career going nowhere, Eichhorn, at the suggestion of pitching coach Al Widmar, tried the sidearm motion. With the success the San Jose native is having, it may start a trend.
Boston 4, Cleveland 3--The Red Sox skid seemed destined to continue at Boston when Scott Bailes took a 3-0 lead and a six-hitter into the seventh.
The Indians suddenly became generous and the Red Sox became antagonistic. An error by first baseman Pat Tabler opened the gates for three runs and when reliever Bryan Oelkers hit Bill Buckner with a pitch, Buckner started for the mound and both benches emptied. All that did was set up the tying run which Buckner scored on Jim Rice's double, the third double in the inning.
The Red Sox won it on a fluke in the ninth. With two out and Wade Boggs on second, Don Baylor hit a routine fly to left, but Mel Hall misjudged it and it fell for a base hit as Boggs crossed the plate with the winning run.
"The way we won this game definitely picks us up," Red Sox Manager John McNamara said after his team's third win in the last eight games. "We just battled our butts off."
Calvin Schiraldi, completing his first full month in the league, was the winner, striking out four of the five batters he faced. He had six saves in the month.
Chicago 3, Texas 1--The young Rangers are trying to fight off a frustrating feeling. In this game at Chicago they managed only four hits in 7 innings off Richard Dotson, who struck out 10, and they fell 5 1/2 games behind the Angels in the West.
In the two previous games the Rangers won, they thought they had gained ground, then learned that the Angels won both with miraculous ninth-inning rallies.
Carlton Fisk and Tim Hulett each singled in a run in the first inning and Dotson (9-13), with bullpen help, made the two runs stand up.
Oakland 7, Baltimore 0--Joaquin Andujar (8-6) pitched a five-hitter at Oakland for his first American League shutout. The A's won the series, 5-1, and dropped the Orioles 11 games back in the East.
Carney Lansford hit a three-run home run in the third to get Andujar all the help he needed. Jose Canseco hit his 27th home run and drove in his 99th run.
Kansas City 6, Milwaukee 1--Lonnie Smith went 4 for 5 at Kansas City and Steve Balboni had his annual triple to make it easy for Scott Bankhead (8-7).
In two games without injured George Brett, the Royals pounded out 31 hits.
Seattle 6, New York 2--Mike Moore scattered nine hits en route to his ninth complete game of the season, leading the Mariners past the Yankees.
The loss dropped New York 6 1/2 games behind first-place Boston and three games behind second-place Toronto in the American League East.
Moore (9-11) struck out 10 and walked two. New York rookie right-hander Doug Drabek (3-7) went 7 innings and took the loss, giving up 11 hits.
Don Mattingly played the entire game at third base, where he handled four chances without making an error. He is the first left-hander to play third base in the American League in two years.