McDowell tames Tigers for magical 20th victory

September 09, 1992|By Alan Solomon | Alan Solomon,Chicago Tribune

CHICAGO -- It's just one more than 19. But oh, what a difference it brings.

"Any pitcher who steps on the mound wants to be a 20-game winner," Chicago White Sox pitcher Jack McDowell said after winning his 20th last night. "That's what they judge everybody on.

"But a lot of times, that isn't the best measure of how people do."

Maybe it isn't. But heart doesn't come with a number.

McDowell's 20th was a 4-3 victory over the Detroit Tigers in the first of two games in Comiskey Park.

In Game 2, Tim Raines' eighth-inning homer broke a 3-3 tie as the White Sox completed the sweep, 4-3.

Together, they moved the White Sox within 6 1/2 games of first-place Oakland in the AL West.

'We've stepped back into a situation where we can still win it," said Raines. "It's not going to be easy."

Last night wasn't easy.

The opener was, in some ways, classic McDowell. He didn't go the distance -- lasting into the eighth -- but it was another in a series of games featuring neat escapes.

He fell behind 2-0 in the first on a double by Tony Phillips and Lou Whitaker's 17th homer. Before the inning was over, there would be another hit and a walk -- but no more runs.

"He didn't have the real good command, real good control early," said White Sox manager Gene Lamont. "But we've talked about it so many times -- when he doesn't have it, he still seems to get big outs."

The White Sox tied it off Frank Tanana (11-10) in their half of the inning. Steve Sax singled, Mike Huff walked, and Frank Thomas got both of them home with a double.

A triple by Travis Fryman and a Rob Deer ground ball put Detroit up 3-2 in the third.

"It seemed like every time I brought something over the plate a little bit or had it up, they were right on it," said McDowell.

The next inning the White Sox went ahead to stay.

Carlton Fisk walked, and Lance Johnson singled Fisk to second. After a bunt, a fly ball by Esteban Beltre scored Fisk, and Sax's single brought home Johnson.

That was all the scoring. There would be more drama.

"A one-run game with that lineup's not a lot of fun," said McDowell.

In the seventh, a wild double-play relay by Sax put Cecil Fielder on second base with two out. After Mickey Tettleton was walked intentionally, McDowell struck out Deer to end it.

"He just has an uncanny knack of doing it," said Lamont, "even when I don't think he has his best stuff."

In Game 2, the White Sox gave Mike Dunne, just in from Vancouver, a 3-0 lead.

Eric King walked Joey Cora and Raines to start the game, Cora took third on a Thomas fly ball and scored on a fly ball by George Bell.

In the third, Raines beat out an infield dribbler, and Thomas walked. Bell looked at a third strike, but Robin Ventura shot a single to left that scored Raines and, when the ball bounced past Phillips, Thomas.

Detroit scored single runs in the off Dunne in the fourth and fifth, and off Donn Pall in the sixth.

Two were driven home by Dave Bergman, who hadn't driven in a run with a hit since July 8.

So it was 3-3 in the eighth when Raines led off against Mark Leiter (7-5). The homer, his third of the year, was a no-doubt line shot.

"His RBI total may not be large," said Lamont, "but he's had a lot of big RBIs."

It was a big sweep. To McDowell, it was bigger than his own bite of glory.

"We're trying to climb back in the race, more importantly," he said. "Whatever comes after that is great."

Yet, the Cy Young Award is there to be won. It's evolving into a two-man race -- Jack McDowell, Dennis Eckersley.

"Any starter who wins 20 games in a season should have a shot," McDowell said. "It seems like that was a big criteria last year, when I ended up ninth [after winning 17]."

"If it happens," McDowell said, "it would be great. I'm just going to go out there and battle my next five starts and see how everything falls."

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