It truly must be an odd year. That's because it's always in odd years that Bret Saberhagen pitches like a Cy Young Award candidate.
In years ending in even numbers, the right-hander from Cleveland High in Reseda has never had a winning season.
Saberhagen held the Orioles to one hit in seven innings Sunday at Baltimore to become the American League's first 20-game winner as Kansas City blanked the Eastern Division contenders, 7-0.
The victory enabled the Royals to move to within 2 1/2 games of Oakland in the West. The Orioles, meanwhile, fell to 2 1/2 games behind Toronto in the East.
George Brett gave Saberhagen all the support he needed. Brett had three hits and drove in four runs. In the last 10 games, Brett is 17 for 37. He has driven in 15 runs in the last 17 games.
In his last 48 innings, Saberhagen, who has lost six games, has given up only one earned run. He is 18-3 since May 4 and seems almost certain to earn his second Cy Young Award.
He won his first in 1985 when he had a 20-6 record. In 1987, he was 18-10. But the story has been different in even years. He was 10-11 as a rookie in 1984. In 1986, he was 7-12 when he had arm trouble. Last season he was 14-16.
"I'm glad he was the first to win 20," Kansas City Manager John Wathan said. "Because that should make him the front-runner for the Cy Young. People haven't talked about him this season, but with a little luck he could already have 23 or 24 wins.
"He is the main reason we are challenging the A's for the title in the West."
Manager Frank Robinson of the Orioles could find no reason to complain. "There is no way we could've won this one," he said. "Maybe he (Saberhagen) wasn't unhittable, but we didn't hit him."
Saberhagen said that after the Royals lost the first two games in Baltimore, the pressure was on him. "Winning 20 is nice, but it was more important for us to win and stay in the race," he said.
Boston 7, Oakland 6--Mark McGwire broke out of his hitting slump with two home runs at Boston, but he also made an error that helped the Red Sox complete the sweep of the three-game series.
With both the Angels and Royals winning Sunday, the race in the West has suddenly tightened.
In the fifth inning of a 3-3 tie, the Red Sox had the bases loaded with nobody out. Nick Esasky grounded to first baseman McGwire, who threw wild to second as two runs scored. Esasky hit his 27th home run and got his 100th RBI in the seventh for a 7-3 lead.
"We got what we deserved here," Manager Tony LaRussa said after the A's made seven errors in three games. "I'm upset more than frustrated."
Toronto 2, Cleveland 1--The ability to win in extra innings is keeping the Blue Jays on the road to the division title in the East.
The Blue Jays have won only one nine-inning game since Sept. 7, but they have won four extra-inning games against the Indians, and that's why they lead Baltimore by 2 1/2 games.
Fred McGriff looped a single to left field with one out in the 10th inning at Toronto to score Glenallen Hill from third base with the winning run.
The Indians set up a special defense for McGriff, a pull-hitting left-handed batter. They put five people in the infield and had no left fielder. So McGriff just served the ball into the open area in left to end it.
McGriff also won the first of the four extra-inning games against the Indians with a two-run single in the 16th inning Sept. 9.
The crowd of 49,051 enabled Toronto to set an American League attendance record of 3,078,413, breaking the Minnesota Twins' mark of 3,030,672 set last season. The Blue Jays still have six home dates left.
Texas 4, Milwaukee 2--Pinch-hitter Pete Incaviglia hit a three-run home run in the eighth inning at Milwaukee to drop the Brewers seven games out of first place.
Seattle 3, New York 0--Brian Holman (7-9) held the Yankees to six hits in eight innings at New York to ensure the Yankees of their second losing season since 1978.
Scott Bradley drove in two runs as the Yankees dropped to 68-82.
Detroit 9, Minnesota 2--Fred Lynn had four of the Tigers' 17 hits and scored three runs at Minneapolis and Steve Searcy earned his first major league victory.
Kirby Puckett of the Twins had only one hit and needs two more to reach 200. He leads the AL batting race with a .338 average to .337 for Oakland's Carney Lansford. Wade Boggs of Boston is a distant third at .327.