While the Milwaukee Brewers were solving one problem, California Angels outfielder Luis Polonia was cultivating one of his own. Polonia's erratic play in leftfield Monday night contributed to Milwaukee's 7-2 victory and helped the Brewers end their losing streak at seven games.
Polonia, who joined the Angels in April 1990 in a trade that sent Claudell Washington to the New York Yankees, lost a line drive by Greg Vaughn in the lights. It went for a triple, leading to two fourth-inning runs, a 5-0 deficit, and a shower of boos for Polonia.
On a fifth-inning triple by Paul Molitor, he dived for the ball after it landed. Between the triples was a single by Jim Gantner that took one bounce off Polonia's chest.
When he caught Gantner's line drive in the sixth inning, Polonia was given a standing ovation. He responded by waving his cap to the grandstand.
"I can deal with that," Polonia said of the crowd's displeasure. "I played in New York, and this is nothing. If the fans are giving me a lot of grief, I don't care. I know what I can do, and they know what I can do. They can think whatever they want. I'm going to put my numbers up no matter what."
But he added that his attitude toward Angels fans might change.
"There won't be any more Luis Polonia signing autographs by the fence out there," he said. "I'll just do my work, get in my car, and go home. If they want to be bad to me, I'm going to be bad to them, too."
Polonia's fielding woes helped Milwaukee capitalize on the seven innings of six-hit ball turned in by Brewers right-hander Chris Bosio (5-6), who surrendered only one run _ on a single by Jack Howell in the fourth inning, after Milwaukee had a 5-0 lead.
"It's always good to get the run support early so you can settle down and throw all your pitches," Bosio said after his first victory in five starts, dating back to May 15. "Any time you can get seven runs on the board, you're able to hit your spots and let the guys behind you play defense."
Erickson overlooked a long time in 1989
The hottest pitcher on the majors' hottest team wasn't exactly a hot commodity when baseball's geniuses got together two years ago for the draft.
The 26 teams combined to pick 110 players before Minnesota finally grabbed Scott Erickson, an 18-game winner at Arizona in 1989.
"We admit it. We got lucky," Twins general manager Andy MacPhail said. "Scott Erickson has been a general manager's dream."
The 23-year-old Erickson's rise from mysteriously unwanted collegian to big-league phenom has been almost as stunning as one of his dipping, darting, 92-mph fastballs.
On June 5, 1989, he was picked by the Twins. On June 30, 1989, he struck out 11 in his pro debut, for Visalia of the Class A California League. On June 25, 1990, he broke into the bigs with a 9-1 victory over Texas. On June 8, 1991, he beat Cleveland 2-1 to win his ninth straight decision.
"He had a good sinker that ran down and in to right-handed batters. Then he would throw his slider away," Cleveland's Brook Jacoby said. "When he's on, it's very hard to make solid contact."
Erickson's sinker is simply a fastball that refuses to go down the middle. It's his out pitch _ the way the change-up has been for former Twin Frank Viola, the 1988 AL Cy Young winner.
"I feel more confident with Scott out there than I did with Frankie," Twins first baseman Kent Hrbek said.
Erickson is 9-2 with a major-league-leading 1.53 ERA. The right-hander is ranked among baseball's leaders in wins, ERA, winning percentage, starts, complete games, innings pitched, strikeouts, shutouts and opponents' batting average.
His nine-game winning streak ties the Twins single-season record, shared by Viola and Stan Williams. Earlier this year, he tossed successive shutouts, missing another by two-thirds of an inning, and tied Viola's 1988 record of 30 consecutive scoreless innings.