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Radke's impressive streak puts him in elite group

By The Associated Press 8/13/97

MINNEAPOLIS - Sandy Koufax never did it. Neither did Jim Palmer, Tom Seaver, Steve Carlton and Nolan Ryan.

In this half-century, only Bob Gibson and Pat Dobson had won 12 straight starts until Brad Radke went on his astonishing roll the past two months. It ended Saturday night with a 4-1 loss to the New York Yankees, but it will go down as one of the greatest pitching runs.

''Amazing,'' said New York's Luis Sojo, whose eighth-inning double off Radke broke a 1-1 tie.

Radke truly was amazing during his streak, plowing through the AL despite playing for a Minnesota Twins team that has the sixth-worst record in the majors.

He beat Cleveland and the White Sox twice each; Baltimore, Anaheim, Pittsburgh, Houston, Milwaukee, Toronto, Oakland and Kansas City once each. He had three complete games, one shutout and allowed two runs or fewer 12 times.

''It was a lot of fun,'' Radke said. ''It went by pretty quick.''

While Radke went 12-0 over those 68 days, the rest of the Twins staff was 15-31.

Compare that to the teams on which Gibson and Dobson played.

The St. Louis Cardinals lost the World Series in seven games in 1968, the year Gibson won 12 straight starts. So did the Baltimore Orioles in 1971, when Dobson put together his streak.

Lefty Grove set the major league record by winning 21 consecutive starts in 1931 for the Philadelphia Athletics, who also lost the World Series in seven games.

The closest the Twins will get to the World Series this year will be Sunday's 10-year anniversary celebration of their 1987 title.

''It was really fun watching Brad pitch during this time,'' manager Tom Kelly said. ''It was fun for everybody watching him go through it. Unfortunately, you know these things are going to come to an end some day. But he went down fighting.''

If the Twins had given him any help Saturday night, the streak still might be intact.

Radke (16-6) had retired 12 in a row until walking Derek Jeter with one out in the eighth.

It was Radke's only walk of the game - he had seven strikeouts - but it proved costly. Jeter stole second, went to third when Terry Steinbach's high throw went into center field and scored when Sojo whacked a misplaced 1-2 fastball over the center-field fence on one hop.

Although Radke threw a season-high 128 pitches, he gave up only two runs on six hits.

''He's a smart pitcher,'' said Yankees starter David Wells. ''He just changes his selection of pitches. He moves the ball in and out and keeps hitters on the front foot. That's tough to do sometimes. He knows what he's doing, and it's good to see guys like that. He pays attention to the game.''

Saturday's game drew 42,151, the second-largest crowd of the season at the Metrodome. The attendance was boosted by 12,654 walkup sales, the Twins' largest walkup since 17,434 paid on gameday April 24, 1988.

They didn't get to see Radke match Ellis Kinder's 13-start win streak in 1949, break Scott Erickson's team-record of 12 consecutive wins or match Roger Clemens for the most wins in the majors this season.

But they did see one of the game's brightest young pitching stars at his best.

''He throws the first pitch for a strike,'' Sojo said. ''Changeup, curveball. He gets you thinking. He's got good command of his pitches.''

Throughout the streak, Radke got nearly as much praise for his even demeanor as he did for his outstanding control. He was always ready with a shrug and a smile when asked to explain his success. He reacted the same way after Saturday's loss, although he had to force the smile across his boyish face.

Was he disappointed?

''Not really,'' he said. ''Just disappointed in the pitch that I made to Sojo.''

And then he put the streak behind him and looked toward his next assignment, Thursday at Boston.

''I just need to start over,'' he said.

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