Rick Reuschel is a man of infinite patience. To be a winner on a young, mistake-prone team such as the Pittsburgh Pirates, it is almost a necessity.
And a winner is just what the 38-year-old right-hander is. Reuschel pitched a five-hitter Wednesday at San Francisco to beat the Giants, 4-0, for his third shutout in a month.
Reuschel, who needed only 91 pitches, retired 15 batters in a row after giving up two singles to open the second inning. Until the eighth, Reuschel had to protect a 1-0 lead.
Pitching for the last-place team in the National League East, Reuschel is 8-4 and his earned-run average of 2.19 is the best among starting pitchers in the majors.
Reuschel has learned that he must be almost perfect to win for the Pirates. Only once in his eight victories has Reuschel given up more than one earned run. He has lost a game in which he didn't give up an earned run and has a no decision in one in which he pitched eight shutout innings.
It has been Reuschel's lot to spend most of his career with losing teams. He first learned patience when he broke in with the Chicago Cubs in the early '70s. He was a hard thrower in those days for a team that invariably finished below .500. They reached .500 in 1977 as Reuschel won 20 games.
In 1981 he was traded to a perennial contender, the New York Yankees. As luck would have it, he developed shoulder problems late that season. He underwent rotator cuff surgery and sat out the 1982 season.
At that time, no pitcher had made it back from rotator surgery. It took a man of patience to work his way slowly back, through the lower minors and often faced with pain. The Cubs gave him a chance in 1984, but a 5-5 record and an ERA of 5.17 made his return a brief one.
Until the Pirates, desperate for any kind of pitching, brought him up in 1985, patience was about all Reuschel had. That season he made an amazing comeback. With a team that lost 104 games, he was 14-8 with a 2.27 ERA. Last year he faltered a bit, but was 9-16 for a team with the worst record (64-98).
In his first four starts this season he had three good outings, but no wins and a loss to show for it. Since he discovered he had to be almost perfect, he has started to win.
"I've really been concentrating lately on staying ahead of the hitters," said Reuschel, now a finesse pitcher instead of a power pitcher. "They've been first ball swinging. Batters do that when they know they're going to see a strike right away."
Reuschel pitched back-to-back shutouts on June 22 and 27, then pitched two strong games in which he failed to get a decision. He has walked only five batters in the last 41 innings and only eight in the last 63 innings.
Houston 7, Montreal 0--Hitting slumps can be contagious. The Astros have gone to Montreal and given theirs to the Expos.
Mike Scott pitched a four-hitter and singled in the only run he needed as the Astros made it two in a row over the Expos.
After winning eight in a row, the Expos have scored only two runs on 11 hits in losing the last two. On the other hand, the Astros, who had scored only nine runs in six games, have scored 11 runs in the last two games.
The Astros moved into second place in the West, 3 1/2 games behind Cincinnati.
Philadelphia 5, Cincinnati 3--A big reason the Reds haven't built a bigger lead is the failure of Tom Browning. After winning 34 games in two seasons, he is 5-8.
Juan Samuel led the assault on Browning at Philadelphia with three hits, including his 19th home run.
Shane Rawley (12-5) gained the victory, although he needed help in the seventh inning. Steve Bedrosian pitched two scoreless innings for his 27th save.
New York 4, Atlanta 3--Lee Mazzilli's pinch single drove in the winning run and capped a four-run sixth-inning rally at New York.
Zane Smith checked the Mets on one hit through five innings but gave up four singles and was removed in the sixth with just one out.
Ron Darling (5-7), who gave up the three Braves runs in six innings, got the win.
Chicago 6, San Diego 3--Andre Dawson and Keith Moreland reached home run milestones at San Diego, and Rick Sutcliffe improved his record to 14-4 in ending the Cubs' four-game losing streak.
Dawson hit the 250th home run of his career, a two-run home run, and Moreland, also with a two-run home run, hit the 100th of his career.
In winning his 100th game, Sutcliffe gave up 10 hits but struck out seven and walked none.