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GWYNN, PUCKETT WIN BATTING TITLES IN CLOSE FINISHES

SHARE GWYNN, PUCKETT WIN BATTING TITLES IN CLOSE FINISHES

Kirby Puckett became the first right-handed batter ever to lead the majors leagues in hits in consecutive years.

The Minnesota Twins outfielder went 2-for-5 Sunday and beat out Oakland's Carney Lansford to win his first American League batting title, .339 to .336. "Last year, I thought I really had a shot when I hit .356, but I ended up losing by 10 points," said Puckett, who this year ended Wade Boggs' streak of four consecutive AL titles. "I feel good about doing it this year. A lot of people don't have any batting championships and now I can say `I got mine.' "Puckett finished with a major league-leading 215 hits. He is only the eighth player to lead in hits in consecutive years, and the first right-hander.

"A lot of people said I was having a bad year because I didn't hit as many home runs," said Puckett, whose home runs dropped from 24 to nine. "But every year you are not going to be able to do the same things. This is a tough game and even the best players can't repeat their performances every season."

Lansford was the last right-hander to win the AL batting title, doing it in the strike-shortened 1981 season. The last right-hander to win it in a full season was California's Alex Johnson in 1970.

"He probably deserves it more than I do," Lansford said of Puckett. "He puts those numbers up, 200 hits, every year. He plays on turf, and even if you get tons more hits on the turf, physically, I couldn't play every day on the turf like he does."

In the National League, San Diego's Tony Gwynn overtook Will Clark and became the first player since Stan Musial to win three consecutive NL batting titles.

Gwynn went 3-for-4 and finished with a .336 average as the San Diego Padres beat NL West champion San Francisco 3-0. Clark, trying to become the first Giant to win a batting title since Willie Mays in 1954, went 1-for-4 and finished at .333.

"I ended up winning it but that doesn't take anything away from Will's year," Gwynn said. "And he's going where I want to go: the playoffs. I'd gladly trade this to go where he's going."

Musial won consecutive titles from 1950-52.

"I lost to the best," Clark said. "There's no ill feelings at all. He got 'em to fall and I didn't. That's the bottom line. You've got to tip your cap to him."

Boggs, who did not play Sunday and finished third in the AL batting race at .330, led the majors in doubles for a second straight season, hitting 51. The Boston third baseman also became the first player ever to get 200 hits and 100 walks in four consecutive seasons.

Kevin Mitchell of San Francisco won his first home run crown, finishing with 47. Fred McGriff of Toronto won the AL title with 36, one more than Cleveland's Joe Carter.

In addition to the home run title, Mitchell also won his first RBI crown, leading the majors with 125. Ruben Sierra of Texas won the AL RBI title with 119.

Rickey Henderson of Oakland led the AL in steals for the ninth time in 10 seasons, finishing with 77. The Cardinals' Vince Coleman stole 65 bases and become the first NL player to win five consecutive crowns since Maury Wills.

Bret Saberhagen of Kansas City led the majors in victories with a 23-6 record and earned-run average at 2.16. Houston's Mike Scott led the NL with a 20-10 record and Scott Garrelts of San Francisco led the NL in ERA at 2.28.

Nolan Ryan of Texas, at age 42, led the majors in strikeouts with 301.

Jose DeLeon of St. Louis was the NL strikeout leader with 201, the lowest total for an NL champion in a non-strike season since Philadelphia's Jack Sanford's 188 in 1957.

Tim Belcher of the Dodgers led the majors in shutouts with eight and California's Bert Blyleven led the AL with five. Saberhagen led the majors in complete games with 12 and Belcher and San Diego's Bruce Hurst shared the NL lead with 10.

Mark Davis of San Diego led the NL in saves with 44, one short of the league record and two short of Dave Righetti's major league mark. Jeff Russell of Texas led the AL with 38.