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Entering this season, only five major league teams had ever won 90 games one season and lost 90 the next. This year four teams might do it: the A's, the Brewers, the Reds and the Twins. Cincinnati's collapse has righthander Jose Rijo so discouraged that he says he's considering retiring or becoming a free agent by not signing the four-year, $22.5 million contract he verbally agreed to in March.
Rijo has the best stuff in the National League, but he had only 13 wins through Sunday because the bullpen had blown five chances to secure wins for him in the ninth inning. Rijo said he cried when he got back to his hotel after a 7-6 loss to Atlanta last week, a game in which he had a 3-2 lead when he was removed after six innings. Before deciding on his future, Rijo wants to see what the Reds will do in the off-season to improve.
SECOND TO NONE
For the second straight season Indian second baseman Carlos Baerga has been one of the American League's most productive players. At week's end he was hitting .320 with 20 homers and 111 RBIs, and will very likely join Rogers Hornsby as the only second basemen in history to hit .300 with 20 homers and 100 RBIs in more than one season. Hornsby did that five times.
Baerga also has a shot to win the positional triple crown, a concept introduced last season by the Elias Sports Bureau. Should Baerga lead major league second basemen in hitting, homers and RBIs, he would be the first American League second baseman to do so since Bobby Doerr of the 1944 Red Sox. Through Sunday five major league second baseman were batting around .300—there haven't been five .300 hitters at second in a season since divisional play began in '69—led by the Giants' Robby Thompson and the Blue Jays' Roberto Alomar, each hitting .321.
How far have the Mets fallen? After finishing 54 games over .500 in 1986, they have a chance to finish 50 games under .500 this year. If they do so, they would go from 50 over to 50 under in the shortest time in National League history....
The Dodgers, who plan to cut their payroll before next season, don't expect to be active in the free-agent market this winter. After signing Darryl Strawberry, who will have missed more games because of injury than he has played in three seasons with L.A., can you blame them? ... Closer Lee Smith had 43 saves when the Cardinals traded him to the Yankees on Aug. 31. He is the only pitcher (since saves became an official statistic in 1969) to be dealt during a season in which he already had 30 or more saves. Now Smith hopes to achieve another first: pitch in a World Series. Only Lindy McDaniel (987 games), Gene Garber (931) and Phil Niekro (864) worked in more games than Smith had through Sunday (847) without pitching in a World Series....
When Mariner lefthander Randy Johnson struck out 15 Royals last Thursday, it was the fifth time this year he had struck out 14 or more batters in a game. The rest of the pitchers in the majors this season had a total of three 14-strikeout games through Sunday....