Expo a Go-Go
The only National League East team with a chance of catching the suddenly resurgent Pirates is the Expos. Montreal's speed and aggressive play are the keys to its success. "With the right count, the right score, the right pitcher, we'll send anyone," says Expo manager Felipe Alou, whose team led the National League with 143 steals through Sunday but trailed Pittsburgh by 3½ games. "[Veteran catcher Gary] Carter has been caught stealing four times this year. The opposing team must look at me and say, 'This man is crazy.' But it's all part of the threat. It puts fear in other teams even when we're not stealing."
Cardinal manager Joe Torre shakes his head in awe and says, "Their speed is intimidating." Leading the way this season for Montreal have been the major leagues' top two thieves, centerfielder Marquis Grissom (55 steals) and second baseman Delino DeShields (40), who is making a late bid for National League MVP. Through Sunday, De-Shields had hit .381 in the 44 games since being inserted into the leadoff spot on June 24, raising his average to .315, and he took over the league lead in runs scored, with 73.
"We don't pay attention to the number of times a runner gets caught," says Expo coach Tommy Harper. "With a hitter, it doesn't matter that he makes out seven times out of 10; it's how much production he gets in those three. Anyone who follows those [baserunning] statistics hasn't been a pitcher in the ninth with a runner on base."
The Pickoff Artist
As aggressive as the Expos are on the bases, Alou admits that they "don't even try to run" against Phillie lefthander Terry Mulholland. That's how good Mulholland is at holding runners close. At week's end he was leading the major leagues with 12 pickoffs. It's a wonder more pitchers don't work on their moves to save some runs.
In Mulholland's 21 starts this season, only six base runners have even attempted to steal off him and only one was successful. That was current Phillie Stan Javier, who was then with the Dodgers, and Mulholland says that steal should have been scored as defensive indifference because Philadelphia was five runs ahead at the time, and first baseman John Kruk wasn't holding Javier on.
"I practice my pickoff move in the outfield sometimes, throwing against a wall, to keep it sharp," says Mulholland, who has also developed a slide-step move to make his delivery to the plate quicker. "When I throw over to first base, I start the ball out so it runs back into the runner and makes it easier for Kruk to make the tag."
At week's end the next best pitcher in the majors (minimum 100 innings) at preventing stolen bases was Texas's Kevin Brown, who had allowed four steals in 14 attempts. The worst in the major leagues were the Mets' David Cone (31 steals in 36 tries) and the Yankees' Scott Kamieniecki (19 steals in 21 attempts).
Crash in the Fast Lane