When he obtained veteran right-hander Doyle Alexander from Atlanta in mid-August, Manager Sparky Anderson of the Detroit Tigers was hoping to get four victories out of him. He figured if Alexander won five, the Tigers would win the American League East.
Alexander pitched a strong eight innings Saturday at Detroit as the Tigers beat Milwaukee, 5-2, and provided Alexander with his seventh win without a defeat for the Tigers.
The Tigers haven't won the division, yet, but they moved a little closer. With Toronto losing to the New York Yankees, the Tigers increased their lead to 1 1/2 games.
Darrell Evans, who is finding that 40 is a wonderful age, and Chet Lemon hit home runs to give Alexander (7-0) all the help he needed.
Alexander, who was 5-10 with an earned-run average of 4.13 when the Braves traded him for a minor league prospect, was on his way to his third shutout for the Tigers and had run his scoreless inning streak to 28 when he faltered in the ninth.
He disposed of the first Brewer in the ninth, but when he walked the next two, Anderson summoned reliever Mike Henneman. Henneman struck out Robin Yount, but Glenn Braggs doubled in two runs to end Alexander's streak.
"I really thought that if we got five wins out of Doyle, we would win it," Anderson said. "Now, we're going to need 9 or 10. He is just a great pitcher."
Alexander began his career with the Dodgers in 1971. In 6 of his 17 seasons he didn't win any more games than he has won since he made his debut with the Tigers Aug. 15.
"I don't pay any attention to statistics," Alexander said. "The bottom line is: Did you win or did you lose?
"We've got two games in the loss column on Toronto. All I care about is finishing ahead of them."
Alexander has brought out the best in the Detroit hitters. He has started eight games, and the Tigers have won them all. In the eight games, they have scored 53 runs.
Evans, who became the first player 40-or-older to hit 30 home runs in a season on Friday night, hit his 31st in the fifth inning after Lou Whitaker singled. Evans has 378 home runs and wants to reach 400 before he retires.
Anderson figures the Tigers, by winning 10 of their last 15 games, can win the division. "That would mean the Blue Jays would have to win 12 out of 14 to tie. We're in good shape," he said.
New York 4, Toronto 2--Undoubtedly, if Rickey Henderson had not missed 62 games because of injuries, the Yankees would be contenders in the East instead of merely making things tough on the contenders.
When Henderson is healthy, he keys the Yankee attack. For the 34th time in his career, Henderson hit a lead-off home run, then singled in the tiebreaking run in the seventh at New York.
In 17 games since recovering from a hamstring injury, Henderson has scored 17 runs, hit 4 homers, driven in 9 runs and stolen 10 bases.
In dropping the Blue Jays 1 1/2 games behind Detroit, the Yankees handed Mike Flanagan his first loss as a Blue Jay after two victories. Flanagan had given up just 2 runs in 21 innings. He gave up all four Yankee runs in 6 innings.
Bill Gullickson gave up a home run to Fred McGriff in the second inning to give Toronto a 2-1 lead, then settled down to win his 100th career game. Dave Righetti retired the last six batters to earn his 29th save.
Minnesota 3, Cleveland 1--The excitement of being in a division title race is bringing out the best in Twin reliever Jeff Reardon.
Beginning with a save Aug. 30, when the Twins moved into first place in the West, Reardon has played a key role in helping the Twins build a lead.
He has made six appearances in the last three weeks, pitching 11 scoreless innings (giving up just two hits) and has two victories and three saves.
He pitched two scoreless innings at Minneapolis to save Frank Viola's 16th victory, striking out three of the seven batters he faced.
"Pitching in a pennant race has added a few miles on my 90-mile- per-hour fastball," he said. "I'm popping the ball. I'm throwing as hard as I did before I hurt my shoulder."
Oakland 9, Kansas City 5--With Mark McGwire hitting his 46th home run and driving in three runs, the Athletics have emerged as the team chasing Minnesota in the West.
In regaining the major league home run leadership, McGwire helped Storm Davis gain his first victory and keep the Athletics 3 1/2 games behind the Twins. The Royals are 5 behind with 13 games remaining.
McGwire's two-run homer in the first was a 420-foot blast off Melido Perez (1-1), brother of Pascual Perez.
Chicago 10, Seattle 8--Ozzie Guillen hit a two-run home run in the eighth inning at Chicago to break an 8-8 tie. It was only the fifth homer of the shortstop's career.