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On This Date in Sports August 28, 1989: Cy Young Battle

In collaboration with the Sportsecyclopedia.com

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For the first time, the previous season’s Cy Young winners meet in a regular-season game, as Orel Hershiser of the Los Angeles Dodgers squares off against Frank Viola recently acquired by the New York Mets at Dodger Stadium. The game would be a class pitchers’ duel as Viola, who had dropped three of his first four decisions with Mets throws a three-hit shutout as the Mets win 1-0.

Frank Viola was born April 19, 1960, in East Meadow on New York’s Long Island. After playing baseball at nearby St. John’s University in Queens, Viola was drafted by the Minnesota Twins in the second round of the 1981 draft. Just one year later, he made his debut with the Twins. After struggling in his first two seasons, Viola began to turn it around in 1984 as he won 18 games. In 1987, Frank Viola won 17 games, and led the Twins to a World Championship, winning the World Series MVP. In 1988, Viola had his finest season, going 24-7 with a 2.64 ERA to make his first All-Star Team on to the way to taking the American League Cy Young.

Orel Hershiser had a more circuitous route to Major League stardom. Born September 16, 1958, in Buffalo, New York he and his family moved several times while growing up leading to Cherry Hill, New Jersey where he played high school ball but got limited attention from scouts. Hershiser received only a partial scholarship from Bowling Green but pitched well enough to get selected by the Los Angeles Dodgers in the 17th round of the 1979 Draft. After making his debut in 1983, Orel Hershiser finished third in Rookie of the Year balloting in 1984 and third in Cy Young voting in 1985. In 1988, Orel Hershiser set the world on fire, ending the season with a record 58 and two-third innings scoreless innings streak to win the Cy Young at 23-9. The Dodgers would go onto win the World Series, with Hershiser winning NLCS and World Series MVP.

Coming off his Cy Young season, Frank Viola was having a disappointing season in 1989 as talks for a contract extension with the Twins stalled. Meanwhile, Orel Hershiser was suffering all season from low run support. At the trade deadline on July 31st, Viola was traded to his hometown New York Mets, for pitchers Rick Aguilera, Tim Drummond, Jack Savage, Kevin Tapini and David West. Viola worked out a three-year extension with the Mets and won his debut on August 2nd. However, struggled in his next four starts, and entered the game 1-3 in his Mets career. Hershiser meanwhile was coming off a game he started that was scoreless until the 22nd inning, as he had a record of 14-9.

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The Monday Night battle of Cy Young winners at Dodger Stadium was as good as advertised. Hershiser had to escape early trouble as Juan Samuel and Howard Johnson each had one-out singles. While Viola set down the Dodgers in order. Jeff Hamilton got the first hit for Los Angeles in the second but went no further as Frank Viola struck out the side. In the third inning, the Mets scored the first run of the game as Gregg Jeffries scored on an RBI single off the bat of HoJo. Mike Scioscia led off the third with a single and was bunted over to second base by Hershiser but went no further as Viola retired Jesse Gonzalez and Willie Randolph.

After the third inning, both pitchers truly found their groove, as Hamilton’s leadoff single in the fifth inning was the last hit given up by Frank Viola. Orel Hershiser would pitch in and out of trouble most of the game, keeping the Dodgers in the game down 1-0. Hershiser was lifted for a pinch hitter in the eighth, as Viola was finding on the right notes for the Mets, retiring the final 15 batters he faced. Ray Searage set the down the Mets in order in the ninth, but it would not matter as Frank Viola pitched a complete-game three-hitter to earn the win as Mickey Hatcher ended the game with a fly out to Darryl Strawberry in right.

Orel Hershiser would finish the 1989 season with a 15-15 record, despite a solid 2.31 ERA. Viola meanwhile went 5-5 with the Mets and 13-17 over, with a disappointing ERA of 3.66. Frank Viola would bounce back in 1990, winning 20 games and returning to the All-Star Game as he finished third in Cy Young voting. Hershiser meanwhile suffered a shoulder injury that would force him to miss