Three pitchers who went a long way toward getting the Brewers into last year's World Series have come up almost empty this season. Don Sutton, who won four for them late in '82, hasn't won since July 14, and Pete Vuckovich (18 wins in 1982) and Rollie Fingers (29 saves and five victories last year) haven't pitched at all because of arm injuries. Milwaukee, though, has stayed in contention in the AL East race thanks to 19 wins and 10 saves by four rookies: Tom Tellmann (nine wins, eight saves), Bob Gibson (two wins, two saves), Chuck Porter (six wins) and Tom Candiotti, who in his first two big league starts beat Boston 5-1 and California 7-0.
Candiotti, 26, sat out all of last season after Dr. Frank Jobe performed surgery similar to that undergone by California's Tommy John in 1974. In Candiotti's case it was the right arm that Dr. Jobe had to repair by implanting a tendon from his left arm and reconstructing the elbow. Like John, who's a lefthander, Candiotti relies on good control and a variety of offspeed pitches. Vuckovich's torn rotator cuff has mended, and last week he finally came off the disabled list; now he'll try to lend these four youngsters a hand down the stretch.
Further proof of pitching's importance: The Cardinals had a 4.18 ERA while dropping 12 of 14 games, then followed with seven wins in eight outings, during which their ERA was 2.22.... Bruce Kison, whose sciatic nerve condition weakens his right leg, has gone to the Angels' bullpen and earned three wins and two saves.... Reggie Jackson became the eighth Angel to miss action because of back trouble. Preceding him: Kison, Ron Jackson, Doug DeCinces, Bobby Grich, Bobby Clark, Bob Boone and Fred Lynn. At a Ranger game last week posters of Bucky Dent labeled BEST LITTLE SHORTSTOP IN TEXAS were given to all women and children. One woman bought her ticket, got a poster and promptly left.
Cleveland has bona fide candidates for the American League Rookie Pitcher and Rookie Player of the Year. Neal Heaton, 23, who started the season as a reliever, is 4-0 with a 1.73 ERA in his last six starts and overall is 9-4, with seven saves and a 3.50 ERA. Julio Franco, 22, is batting .279 with eight homers, and his 72 RBIs are the most by an Indian shortstop since Woodie Held had 58 in 1962.... Kansas City's Amos Otis, who banged out his 2,000th hit last week, wants a contract renewal, and the team must notify him by Sept. 15 whether it will pick up his option for '84. Should the Royals pass, Otis will be a free agent.... San Diego decided to let Gene Richards, who no longer is a regular, pursue free agency. Richards hit .288 and .286 during the past two years but has dropped to .275 this season; he also has erred too often in the outfield.... Since the Pine Tar Game, George Brett of the Royals has gone 32 for 133 (.241).
Known in Houston as Omar the Out Maker because of his failure to hit against lefthanders (.202 vs. .256 against righthanders), Omar Moreno may need a new nickname. Benched against lefties by the Astros and then traded to the Yankees for Jerry Mumphrey on Aug. 10, Moreno promptly went 0 for 11 in the pinstripes. But in his last 12 games he has batted .395 (17 for 43) and has gotten eight extra-base hits—including his first home run in more than a year—and six consecutive hits. Plus, he is hitting .357 (10 for 28) against AL lefties.
Tips from teammate Lou Piniella, the Yankees' de facto batting coach, helped Moreno's stroke, and the team's casual clubhouse helped his head. "Here I am more relaxed," Moreno says. "The communication is good, not like in Houston." When he began the season with 13 hits in 28 at bats, Moreno seemed ready to justify the five-year, $3.25 million contract he signed with the Astros last winter. But as his bat cooled, so did his relationship with Manager Bob Lillis. "They put too much pressure on me," Moreno says. "Even if I started the game with a hit, I felt like I had to get another hit to play nine innings." Moreno has become Omar the Hit Maker.
The Cubs hope that Charlie Fox, who replaced Lee Elia as manager last week, will be at least as successful as three other skippers who have been hired since Opening Day.
Pat Corrales had been out of work only 13 days when the Indians hired him to replace the fired Mike Ferraro; Corrales has Cleveland playing .516 ball, .116 better than Ferraro's record. The Mets were only .348 (16-30) when George Bamberger retired on June 3 but have been .451 (37-45) under Frank Howard. And Del Crandall has the Mariners playing at .393, compared to Rene Lachemann's .356 when he was dismissed on June 25.
As for Fox, who inherited a team with a 54-69 record, he got off to a good start with three victories in his first six games.
SURPRISES: Houston, which had a 35-110 alltime record in Pittsburgh, swept a doubleheader there for the first time since 1962.... The Angels had been shut out only three times in 211 games spanning two seasons but were blanked four times during a 10-game road trip, twice in a row by both the A's and the Brewers.... The Orioles were forced to use Infielder Lenn Sakata in the 10th inning as a catcher, his first such appearance in his seven seasons in the majors; John Lowenstein at second, which he hadn't played since 1975; and Gary Roenicke at third, virgin major league ground for him. The Blue Jays were sure they'd be able to swipe bases against Sakata with ease but never got a chance.
Barry Bonnell reached first base—and Tippy Martinez picked him off. Then Dave Collins reached first—and Martinez picked him off. And when Willie Upshaw got to first, Martinez promptly made it 3 for 3 in the same inning. Toronto did take a 4-3 lead but lost in the bottom of the 10th when Cal Ripken tied the score with a home run and Sakata hit another with two aboard.
Since Manager Tommy Lasorda dressed down the Dodgers following a 9-2 loss in Cincinnati on Aug. 10, L.A. has won 13 of 16 games, including 10 of its last 11. The staff ERA for those 11 games was 1.47. Since losing Bob Horner for the season with a broken wrist on Aug. 15, the Braves have lost seven of 12 and have been dealt four shutouts, twice as many as in their previous 118 games. As a result, Los Angeles closed a 6½-game deficit to a half game. The teams play each other six more times, with a three-game series starting Sept. 9 in Los Angeles.
POWER OF A TURNER
Braves owner Ted Turner enjoys the perquisites of owning both a major league baseball team and a TV station. Wednesday's Braves-Cards game from St. Louis wasn't scheduled to be on Turner's WTBS in Atlanta, but about 90 minutes before game time, Turner, who was in Atlanta, decided he wanted to see his team on the tube. So he issued a command, and faster than you can say Chief Noc-A-Homa, an appropriately titled movie—None But the Brave, with Frank Sinatra—was kicked off the SuperStation and replaced by the Braves-Cards game.
About an hour before game time, Braves announcers Ernie Johnson and Pete Van Wieren, who then had thought they would be doing the game only on radio, frantically made calls around St. Louis to locate fellow broadcasters Skip Car ay and John Sterling. They were unable to find Caray, who was out to dinner with his mother, but did find Sterling, who was at the hotel, and he got to the mike shortly before the first pitch.
BALL PARK FIGURES
In response to an SI poll, big league players named the following the best two-strike hitters:
1. Bill Buckner, Cubs
2. Pete Rose, Phillies
3. Bill Madlock, Pirates
4. Al Oliver, Expos
5. Keith Hernandez, Mets
1. Rod Carew, Angels
2. George Brett, Royals
3. Mike Hargrove, Indians
4. Robin Yount, Brewers
5. Cecil Cooper, Brewers
PLAYER OF THE WEEK
JEFF LEONARD: The San Francisco outfielder batted .500 with 11 hits in 22 at bats. He had three home runs and a triple and drove in 10 runs as the Giants won five of six games from the Phils and Mets.