Bruce Hurst was wan when he went on the disabled list in July, and his pitches were no longer as sharp. His biting curveball sometimes hung like a moon, and his fastball did not always slice at its severe downward angle.
Hurst said he had lost the desire to pitch. But three weeks on the DL because of fatigue related to a viral infection appear to have rejuvenated him. He was calm and smiling after a 6-2 victory over the California Angels Monday night at Fenway Park, the Sox' easiest victory in some time.The Detroit Tigers lost 7-0 to the Minnesota Twins, so the victory drew the Sox to three games of first place. Hurst (15-4) is 6-0 in seven starts since he was reactivated July 24, and he has the second-highest winning percentage in the league, .789, behind the Twins' Frank Viola.
His recent stretch has been compared to 1986, when he came off six weeks on the DL, went 6-2 in his last eight starts and came within a strike of winning the World Series MVP. "No way, that's a different Bruce Hurst than I saw in 1986," said former Sox outfielder Tony Armas, now with the Angels. "He's got a forkball now. When you've got a forkball to go with the fastball and curve, you're going to be tough."
Armas accounted for the only run off Hurst, a tremendous home run on a fastball in the fourth inning. "I hit it because he made a mistake," Armas said. Hurst struck him out on a forkball in the sixth inning, after which "I felt something roll over, something pop and move," Hurst said.
He was able to pitch the seventh inning, but the injury then forced him from the game. Hurst said he removed himself as a precaution. The sensation, which the team described as "sensitivity in his shoulder," probably is not serious, Hurst said.
That the injury occurred on a forkball was somewhat ironic, because catcher Rich Gedman said Hurst threw few of those pitches, relying more on his fastball and curveball.
"Some days when he pitches, you won't even see a fastball at all, but you always know it's there," Gedman said. The effect was evident from the second inning, when Hurst struck out George Hendrick looking on a fastball that appeared to suprise him.
Hurst had five strikeouts. He gave up four hits and walked one. He struck out Chili Davis on a similar pitch in the fourth, then struck out Hendrick again on a twisting forkball in the same inning. Devon White struck out in the fifth on a curveball that seemed to drop out of center field.
Hurst seemed to peak during the at-bat in which he injured himself. He set up Armas with a curveball that had Armas swinging awkwardly in front of the pitch. "I wanted to get something extra on my forkball," Hurst said of the next pitch. But the injury resulted.> Hurst said the injury felt no worse when he pitched in the seventh. "But it didn't feel any better either," he said. "So why take any chances."
Mike Smithson, the man of a thousand roles, pitched the last two innings. Mike Greenwell got his 99th RBI with a two-run triple in the seventh off right-handed rookie Terry Clark (5-2), turning a 3-1 lead into a 5-1 lead.
Greenwell hit a line drive to the left of right fielder Chili Davis. Davis was tracking the ball until it hit a rough spot in the grass, skipped, and rolled to the wall.
Red Sox outfielder Kevin Romine said before Monday's game that the outfield currently has more rough spots because the grass was cut last week. Davis called the outfield "the worst in the league."
But Clark was undone in the first. This season he pulled himself from a nine-year minor league career largely because of his control, but he walked two of the first three batters he faced and both walks resulted in runs.
After Greenwell loaded the bases with a single, Clark bounced a two-strike pitch to Ellis Burks, allowing one run to score. Burks then hit a ground ball that struck third base, slowing the ball's progress into left field.
Dwight Evans and Greenwell scored, Greenwell sliding after he ran through third-base coach Rac Slider's stop sign. Todd Benzinger, who drove in a run with a double in the eighth, also ignored Slider and was thrown out in the eighth trying to score on a single by Larry Parrish, who had three hits.