It's wild, rare and ignored


Boston Red Sox infielder John Valentin became the 10th player in major-league history to perform an unassisted triple play on Friday night against the Seattle Mariners. But his accomplishment got relatively little notice outside of Boston. If Roger Clemens had pitched a no-hitter, it would have been on the front page of every sports section in the country, even though there are more than 200 no-hit games in the baseball record book. Is that fair? Sure it is. Pitching a no-hitter requires tremendous skill and a lot of luck, while an unassisted triple play is largely a matter of being in the right place at the right time.

The last hope for a late-season comeback for the last-place Toronto Blue Jays may have disappeared when the club announced last week that stopper Duane Ward had undergone shoulder surgery and would not return this year. Ward's absence is only one of the reasons the Blue Jays have the third-worst record in the league. But now, even a blockbuster pitching deal will not put them back on a par with last year's world championship club.

AL Central

The Kansas City Royals have given former Orioles pitcher Bob Milacki a chance to re-establish himself at the major-league level, but he has succeeded only in re-establishing his reputation as one of the game's classic hard- luck stories. He fell victim to five unearned runs to drop to 0-4 on Saturday and may not be long for the rotation. Orioles fans might remember Milacki as the guy who always seemed to be on the mound when the club scored three runs or fewer in 1989. He had a couple of games like that when he entered the Royals rotation but has been hit hard in his past three appearances.

AL West

The situation is getting volatile in Seattle, where the Mariners continue to play well below expectations, and friction has developed between manager Lou Piniella and the front office. The M's went 2-5 last week, including a damaging three-game sweep at Camden Yards. . . . Poor Harold Reynolds. The former Orioles and Mariners second baseman thought he had found a home in Anaheim, where he was the starting second baseman for the California Angels until they decided to turn the position over to promising Damion Easley. Reynolds is so frustrated that he has considered retirement and is preparing to ask the club to release him. Don't be surprised if he ends up back with the Mariners. . . . The A's aren't the only members of baseball's weakest division who played well last week. The West turned in a rare plus-.500 week, going a combined 15-13 despite the Mariners.

NL East

When are the Philadelphia Phillies going to give Fernando Valenzuela a break? He has pitched well in each of the three starts he has made since they signed him out of the Mexican League two weeks ago, but he has yet to get a victory. Valenzuela, who gave up three runs or fewer in each of those starts, is 0-2 with a 2.60 ERA. . . . David Segui returned from the disabled list last week, but he didn't find a full-time job waiting for him. The Mets are looking at Rico Brogna at first, so Segui played two games in left field last week. He's a little frustrated, and why not? He has 39 RBIs in less than a half and appeared on his way to a career run-production performance.

NL Central

The St. Louis Cardinals looked as if they might be ready to make a move on the rest of the NL Central a couple of weeks ago, but they did just the opposite. They've lost six of their past eight games and just lost outfielder Brian Jordan in an outfield collision that broke four ribs. . . . The Pittsburgh Pirates entered the weekend leading the major leagues with 96 double plays. But don't get too excited about their sparkling defense. Generally, the teams with the most double plays are also the teams who allow the most base runners. . . . Doesn't the law of averages have to catch up with Chicago Cubs pitcher Mike Morgan (1-9) eventually? He gave up five runs on 11 hits over six innings in the Cubs' 6-5 victory over the Astros Friday, but another former Oriole, Jose Bautista, got the victory in relief.

NL West

San Diego Padres ace Andy Benes has some growing up to do on the mound, if his performance over the past week or so is any indication. He pitched a one-hitter against the Mets last Sunday, then came back to give up nine hits and a walk in two innings in Friday's 14-0 loss to the Montreal Expos. That inconsistency has nothing to do with the quality of the team around him, but he still would have much better than a 6-10 record if he were playing in Baltimore. . . . The Colorado Rockies had a terrific opportunity to creep up on the division-leading Los Angeles Dodgers over the weekend, but couldn't handle their expansion mates from Florida. Look for the San Francisco Giants to get the drop on them in the next couple of weeks.

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