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BASEBALL
Peter Gammons
September 29, 1986
ONE LAST RACE: BOGGS VS. MATTINGLY
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September 29, 1986

Baseball

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ONE LAST RACE: BOGGS VS. MATTINGLY

With the four pennant chases over so early, baseball can at least look to the American League batting race as Don Mattingly and Wade Boggs hover at .350. The Yankees finish the season with four games in Boston, and as Mattingly says, "I hope it comes down to those last four games. That would be neat." Mattingly could break the Yankees' all-time records for hits (he needs 13 more to tie Earle Combs's mark of 231, set in 1927) and doubles (he's 4 away from Lou Gehrig's 52, also set in '27). "He's the best hitter I've ever seen," said Baltimore pitcher Scott McGregor, who gave up a two-run home run to him on Sept. 16. "That's all there is to say about him." McGregor, by the way, grew up with George Brett....

Most of the also-ran teams are out looking to lay the groundwork for trades. Scouts from all over have descended on the Padres, who are likely to make changes. Teams like the Royals and White Sox are studying Kevin McReynolds. "He looks as if a baseball field's the last place he wants to be," says one scout. But the Royals have to find help for Brett (whose 17 intentional walks are only five fewer than for all the Blue Jays), especially with Steve Balboni's career in jeopardy because of impending back surgery. The White Sox are last in the AL in runs, slugging, homers, doubles, on-base percentage and batting average. When their respectable pitching staff allowed three runs or fewer in 21 of 24 games, they went 10-14....

The Indians may be only a starter and a reliever away from becoming the AL East's seventh different winner in seven years next season, and shortstop Julio Franco could bring them one or the other....

Toronto is measuring the market for one of its outfielders. The Jays need a No. 1 starter and help at catcher and third base....

There are pros, cons and modifications to almost every baseball theory and to the Charlie Lau- Walt Hriniak hitting theory, in particular. Granted, one of the reasons why not-so-powerful lefthanders like John Tudor, Charlie Leibrandt, Bob Knepper, Dave Dravecky and Bob Ojeda can get inside on righthanded batters is that so many hitters have adopted the practice of diving into pitches, thus jamming themselves. But look what Hriniak's adjustments have done for 36-year-old Bill Buckner at Boston. In his first 14 full seasons Buckner had more than 75 RBIs only once. In his two full seasons with Hriniak, Buckner has topped the 100-RBI mark both years. "I told him when he got here in May of 1984 he would get more out of his swing by taking his top hand off the bat and shifting his weight forward," says Hriniak. "I told him if he did that, he would hit more homers than he ever had in his life. Last year he tied his career high with 16, and now he has broken that."

COWLEY THROWS A FLAWED MASTERPIECE

Joe Cowley of the White Sox was a most unlikely candidate to break the majors' longest no-hit-game drought since the war years of 1942-43. (The last no-hitter was a perfect game by California's Mike Witt on the final day of the '84 season.) Before Cowley no-hit the Angels 7-1 Friday night, he had only one complete-game victory all year. He had spent most of April at Triple A Buffalo because of control problems. He had control trouble in the no-hitter, too, walking seven batters, including the first three Angels in the sixth. With one out and a 3-1 count on Reggie Jackson in that inning, Cowley was one pitch away from being yanked, but Jackson hit a sacrifice fly and the next batter popped up. "I can't believe it happened," said Cowley. Neither could the Angels. "I'm not even frustrated," said Wally Joyner, "because it wasn't impressive. He either walked you or you swung at a bad pitch." Cowley said he first thought of the no-hitter after the seventh: "I came into the dugout and sat down and looked at the board. I was thinking, I sure wish I could bring in Roger Clemens the next two innings."

...The Angels, who had three close no-hit calls earlier this year, have now been involved in 12 of the 33 AL no-hitters since 1962....

Rich Gossage was reinstated by the Padres after he apologized to Joan Kroc, Ballard Smith and McDonald's, and paid his fine. But one of the unpublicized concessions he made was an agreement to try to come up with a new pitch now that his fastball is no longer so fearsome....

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