The race in the American League West is closer than nip-and-tuck. It's so tight there are days a team can jump from fourth place to first.
It happened Tuesday night. While the teams ahead of them were getting knocked off, the Kansas City Royals jumped over three clubs to take the top spot.
Left-hander Bud Black, in his second fine outing since coming out of the bullpen, pitched the Royals to a 3-1 victory at Toronto. Rookie third baseman Bill Pecota went 4 for 4, including a home run.
Black, returning to the starting rotation after spending a season in the bullpen, gave up five hits and struck out six in eight innings. Dan Quisenberry pitched a scoreless ninth to get his third save.
The Royals are only percentage points in front, but things are definitely looking up for the 1985 world champions. First and foremost, their best pitcher, Bret Saberhagen, is back in his best form.
Then, too, George Brett, out since May 20 with a separated cartilage in his right rib cage, is about ready to play again.
Another factor is the return to form of Black. Black, a 17-game winner in 1984, was 5-10 last season with nine saves.
"I had all my pitches working," Black said. "When you get three runs early you want to make them hold up, and I did tonight. I still feel strong.
"In the fourth, I was overthrowing a bit but I re-grouped myself. I get a lot of satisfaction out of starting. The game is in my hands that particular day. You come to the park knowing the game is in your hands. I like the responsibility."
Last week, in his first start in more than a year, Black pitched six strong innings in a 6-3 win, also over Toronto.
Pecota, who will go back to the bench when Brett is ready, hit his second home run in the second inning to make the lead 3-0.
Oakland 10, Milwaukee 8--The Brewers, slowly sinking in the East, have lost seven in a row and are barely hanging on to first place.
Rookie Terry Steinbach drove in four runs with a triple, double and single at Milwaukee, and Mike Davis hit a two-run home run to climax the Athletics' five-run sixth inning that broke the game open.
After opening the season by winning their first 13 games, the Brewers lead the second-place New York Yankees by just 11 percentage points.
Former Dodger Dave Stewart (4-3) went 5 innings, giving up nine hits, including home runs by Dale Sveum and Robin Yount.
Texas 6, Cleveland 1--Some of the younger Rangers were toddlers about the time the two pitchers that faced them in the last two games at Cleveland were beginning brilliant careers.
They clobbered Phil Niekro, 48, Monday night and turned on Steve Carlton, a mere 42, in this game.
Although Carlton, in his first start for the Indians after some solid relief pitching, struck out 10 in seven innings, he was also charged with five runs. He left two men on base in the eighth and they scored when Larry Parrish greeted Rich Yett with a three-run home run.
Charlie Hough, a comparative youngster at 39, beat the Indians for the 10th time in a row. The knuckleball pitcher held the Indians to four hits in 7 innings and struck out six.
The Indians haven't beaten him since April 23, 1984.
Carlton has struck out 10 or more 84 times in his career.
"I thought Steve pitched well," Manager Pat Corrales of the Indians said. "His stuff was quality stuff. He just ran into a hot pitcher."
Texas Manager Bobby Valentine was also impressed with Carlton. "He was the Carlton of old," he said. "He had great stuff."
New York 5, Chicago 4--Mike Pagliarulo's second home run of the game tied the score in the 10th inning at New York, and Willie Randolph singled in the winning run with two out in the 13th to give the Yankees their sixth win in a row.
Greg Walker's sacrifice fly in the 10th scored Gary Redus from third. Redus reached third on an error by Randolph. Pagliarulo opened the bottom of the inning with a 425-foot blast.
Pagliarulo's homer in the fifth gave the Yankees a 3-1 lead, but Redus, who had four hits, hit a two-run home run off Dave Righetti in the eighth to tie it.
Boston 3, Seattle 2--The Mariners are no longer the patsies from the West. Even when they lose, it is a tough battle.
Joe Sambito worked out of a jam in the seventh, and Wes Gardner worked out of difficulties in the eighth and ninth.
In the ninth, with a Mariner on first and two out, Harold Reynolds hit a short fly to left. Shortstop Ed Romero charged into left fielder Mike Greenwell, and the ball dropped for a hit. Greenwell recovered quickly, retrieved the ball and threw out Mike Kingery trying to score from first, ending the game.
Jeff Sellers, chased in the seventh, became the winner.
Baltimore 10, Minnesota 7--The home run is once again a big weapon for the Orioles. They appeared on their way to a seventh consecutive home-field loss, trailing, 7-3, when they came to bat in the bottom of the eighth.
But Fred Lynn hit a grand slam off reliever Jeff Reardon to tie the score. With Reardon still out there, pinch-hitter Larry Sheets hit a three-run homer with one out in the ninth.
Ken Dixon, who appeared to be just getting in some work in a lost cause, pitched 3 scoreless innings to gain the victory.
Dave Van Gorder and Ray Knight also homered for the Orioles.