Can a fellow who did not pitch in his first American League game this season until Aug. 15 win the league's Cy Young Award?
Doyle Alexander probably won't win the award, but the right-hander of the Detroit Tigers is pitching more effectively than anybody in baseball.
Since the Tigers acquired him from the Atlanta Braves, the former Dodger hasn't been perfect--but he hasn't been far from it.
Alexander gave up singles to the first two batters Wednesday night at Boston, then retired 27 of the next 28 as he pitched the Detroit Tigers to a 4-0 victory over the Red Sox.
The two-hitter improved Alexander's record to 8-0. It also kept the Tigers a half-game behind the Toronto Blue Jays in the American League East.
The teams begin a four-game showdown tonight at Toronto. Alexander is scheduled to try for his ninth in a row Sunday.
Tom Brookens doubled in two runs in the second for the only offense Alexander needed. In the sixth inning, Bill Madlock doubled in the final Detroit run. It was his 2,000th hit.
In his last six starts, beginning Aug. 30, five days before his 37th birthday, Alexander has been just short of phenomenal. In 49 innings he has given up just 3 runs. Two of those scored after Alexander departed with one out in the ninth of a 5-2 win over Milwaukee last Saturday. Alexander put the runners on, but Mike Henneman gave up the two-run double.
That ended Alexander's scoreless string at 28 innings. With just three days' rest, he has started another shutout string.
After posting a 5-10 record and an earned-run average of 4.13 this season in the National League, Alexander made his debut with the Tigers Aug. 15. He pitched his worst game, giving up four runs and seven hits in six innings. But the Tigers went on to win. He has won every start since.
That accounts for 9 of the 26 Tiger victories since his debut.
Alexander's career record in September is 20-3.
"I wish I knew what happens in September," Alexander said. "If I knew, I'd do it all year. I'm very fortunate that things have worked my way. Things have gone very well since I came over here.
"This (Fenway Park) is a little park and I just mixed up my pitches--fastball, slider, sinker--and relied on my defense."
After Alexander used only 89 pitches to subdue the best hitting team in the league, Boston Manager John McNamara said: "In and out, up and down, changing speeds, he was almost perfect."
Both teams were without a top player: Wade Boggs, the league's leading hitter, injured his knee sliding into second Tuesday night on his 200th hit of the season, and Tiger slugger Kirk Gibson rested because of muscle problems in his legs.
Toronto 6, Baltimore 1--George Bell and the Blue Jays are ready for the invasion of the Tigers. In this game at Baltimore, Bell hammered his 47th home run as the Blue Jays won their fourth in a row and 16th in their last 21 games.
Jim Clancy (15-10) held the hapless Orioles to five hits, including Cal Ripken's 25th home run, to win his fifth in a row.
Minnesota 4, Texas 2--The Twins moved closer to the title in the West. With Dan Gladden hitting a home run and triple to drive in three runs at Minneapolis, the Twins won their fifth in a row to take a five-game lead over Oakland with 10 games to play.
On a night when the man the Twins call Mr. September, Kirby Puckett, went hitless, Gladden came through. With the score tied, 2-2, as a result of Gladden's two-run homer in the sixth, Gladden tripled in the winning run.
Earlier in the season, the Twins were careful not to use bullpen ace Jeff Reardon in consecutive games because he has developed shoulder problems late in the season in recent years.
Reardon is experiencing no pain these days. He has pitched at least one scoreless inning in each of the last five games, getting a save in the last four. He now has 30. He has not given up a run in 14 innings.
Cleveland 8, Oakland 6--Joe Carter's run-scoring single broke an eighth-inning tie at Cleveland, gave him 100 runs batted in and dealt a severe blow to the Athletics' pennant hopes.
Ed Vande Berg, making his 61st appearance, won his first decision of the season when the Indians rallied for three runs in the eighth to wipe out a 6-5 deficit.
Milwaukee 8, New York 7--With both clubs eliminated from the race, this is a hot battle for third place.
The Yankees took a 7-6 lead in the top of the 10th at Milwaukee, but the Brewers put together four consecutive singles in the bottom of the inning to win and take over third. Mike Felder drove in the winning run.
Rob Deer struck out twice and set a Brewer record with 180 for the season.
Kansas City 9, Seattle 0--Mark Gubicza struck out a career-high 11 batters, and Bill Pecota and Larry Owen hit consecutive homers in the Royals' rout at Seattle.