California won seven straight games and its pitching staff had the lowest earned run average in the league, but even first-place teams have occasional worries. For the Angels it was Andy Messersmith, the promising right-hander who was bothered by ailments all through 1970. Last week he hurt his pitching shoulder in a fielding play against the White Sox and started Manager Lefty Phillips thinking, "Here we go again." After a thorough examination, however Messersmith was allowed to start Saturday against the Twins and went the route in a 4-3 victory. MINNESOTA'S worry—besides its six consecutive losses, lack of power at the plate and inadequate relief pitching—was moody Second Baseman Rod Carew. The three-time All-Star and 1969 AL batting champ announced he was going to retire from baseball despite his $40,000 salary and tender age (25). To get Rod away from the pressure, Rigney rested him one day, which backfired when Carew pulled a leg muscle running in the outfield before the game—not part of his regular routine. MILWAUKEE, an expansion team, "has the best four right-handed starters in the American League," said White Sox Manager Chuck Tanner. He was talking about Skip Lockwood, Marty Pattin and two rookies, Bill Parsons and Jim Slaton. Lockwood beat the Sox on a four-hitter and pronounced himself a far smarter pitcher than in 1970. "You can read all the books and get all the instructions and advice you want, but you still have to be ready up here," and he pointed to his head. Cookie Rojas was trying to hold KANSAS CITY together with a .340 batting average and some spectacular plays at second base, but the heart of the batting order—Amos Otis, Lou Piniella and Bob Oliver—wasn't doing its share. OAKLAND won five in a row after Manager Dick Williams laid down the law in the team bus. Reggie Jackson got the winning hit two nights in a row and the Athletics temporarily climbed to the top of the division before losing Saturday. CHICAGO stopped the A's and in the process finally snipped its own string of losses at seven.
CAL 8-4 OAK 9-5 MIL 6-5 KC 6-7 MINN 4-8 CHI 4-9
Detroit Pitcher Joe Coleman, recovering from a fractured skull, was waking up with a headache each morning, but he was no worse off than Manager Billy Martin. Waiting for Coleman, Les Cain and John Miller to get over various ailments, Martin had to use 29 pitchers in six games and won only twice. After one loss, Martin chewed out his players and then angrily hurled two sandwiches to the floor. BALTIMORE cooled off the hot Indians and was ahead of its pennant paces of the last two seasons. The Tribe was suitably impressed. "The Orioles have a dream team," said Pitcher Sam McDowell, who lost 3-0. Oriole Manager Earl Weaver talked happily of a 161-1 season, but then the Yanks beat the Birds 5-3 in 10 innings. Oh, well, 160-2 ain't bad. CLEVELAND, despite failings against Baltimore, had some happy moments. Curveballer Camilo Pascual, picked up as a free agent late in spring training, pitched well as a long reliever, and rookie Harold (Gomer) Hodge, the country-boy pinch hitter, had at least two fan clubs already, Gomer's Gang and Hodge's Lodge. He was successful as a pinch hitter in his first four tries and got a standing ovation when he struck out going for a fifth. Felipe Alou, traded from Oakland to NEW YORK, spent four days driving his family to his home in Atlanta, unpacking and catching a plane north, but he was worth waiting for. He homered in his debut against Detroit Wednesday and led the 10th-inning rally that beat Baltimore Saturday. BOSTON reliever Ken Tatum, a principal in the trade that sent Tony Conigliaro to the Angels, appeared in seven of the Red Sox' first nine games (record: 0-2). Ray Culp seemed to be winging toward his best season, and perhaps his first 20-win year, until he gave up seven earned runs in six innings to Detroit. WASHINGTON had $110,000 Centerfielder Curt Flood on the bench for three games. Back in the lineup Saturday in a 5-3 victory over Cleveland, Flood went 1 for 4 and batted in a run.
BALT 8-2 BOST 5-5 WASH 6-6 NY 5-6 CLEV 4-5 DET 4-7
Johnny Bench not only has a velvet swing, he has a velvet bat and CINCINNATI is wild about it. The handle is specially treated with a velvetlike substance (the process is called flocking), and when Bench used it for the first time since spring training he knocked in seven runs as the Reds swept a three-game series from Atlanta. If that keeps up, every player in the majors will be flocking to flocking. SAN FRANCISCO fans were enjoying sitting in Candlestick Park's newly painted seats because a) Willie Mays was slugging even better than Willie Mays does every spring and b) the new AstroTurf has ended those dust storms that used to swirl into the stands. Not only that, but the Giants were getting fine pitching from Juan Marichal (3-0, 0.67 ERA) and Gaylord Perry (3-0). Marichal had a no-hitter going for eight innings against the Cubs but gave up two hits in the ninth. Thirty times in one game Perry threw his "new forkball"—which opponents suggested was merely his old spitter under a new pseudonym. ATLANTA'S 6'6" reliever, Cecil Upshaw, who severed the nerves and an artery on the ring finger of his pitching hand early in 1970 and missed the entire season, earned his fourth victory against no defeats after an excellent spring and removed any doubts about his ability to come back. LOS ANGELES was struggling, most notably Pitcher Bill Singer, who was 0 and 4 with the season less than two weeks old. But at least Richie Allen was behaving like a model citizen and hitting a homer now and then, and things promised to get cheerier as the Dodgers' concessions chief got in production with his promised Wes Parker wristwatch. Of the 39 runs HOUSTON scored through Thursday, 28 were scratched out one at a time, and it seemed the Astros were trying to set a record for runners stranded. The Astro hitters came alive in Dodger Stadium, though, knocking in 18 runs in three games over the weekend. SAN DIEGO fans wanted to change a home ground rule after a loss to the Cubs. A Dave Campbell drive hit the orange line at the top of the left-center-field wall and caromed back. He had to settle for a double instead of a homer, and the Padres lost the tying run.
SF 11-2 ATL 7-4 HOUS 8-6 LA 5-8 CIN 3-7 SD 3-8
No Sooner had CHICAGO Co-captain Ron Santo been advised that he was not suffering from an ulcer than Catcher Randy Hundley, popping up as a pinch-hitter against Los Angeles, collapsed a few steps from the plate. He had reinjured his right knee (originally hurt in spring training) and had to be put on the 15-day disabled list. With Pitchers Bill Hands (1-2) and Ken Holtzman (0-3) faltering, 14-year veteran Milt Pappas stepped in and beat the Dodgers 3-2 in his second straight complete game. ST. LOUIS, not supposed to be a hitting team, had both Lou Brock and Catcher Ted Simmons over .400 through Sunday, and Pitcher Bob Gibson joined the fun. He held San Diego to two hits after the first two innings and batted in three runs with a homer and a single. The stadium in PHILADELPHIA is new, but the Phils' posture is old. They quickly took over last place. One of the few bright aspects was the surprisingly good hitting of Shortstop Larry Bowa and Second Baseman Denny Doyle. Bowa was concentrating on hitting the ball down, exploiting the hard AstroTurf and his own speed. Doyle, who hit only .208 last year, smacked a two-run triple against Montreal, and his two-run single beat Pittsburgh 6-5. While Willie Stargell carried most of PITTSBURGH'S hitting load, Roberto Clemente was off to a rocky start. He left more than a dozen runners on base in the first two weeks of the season and had only two RBIs. Even though the Expos had won only one of four road games, MONTREAL welcomed them home in grand style. About 100,000 enthusiastic fans turned out to see the players parade through the city. Then, after a few tons of snow were removed from Jarry Park (at a cost of $20,000), 22,000 fans sat in the stadium in miserable 40° weather to see their heroes beat New York 4-1. NEW YORK'S Tom Seaver struck out 14 Pirates, walked none and allowed only three hits in an impressive 1-0 victory. The Pirates' Rich Hebner said, "It's the best fastball I've seen in three years in the big leagues."
MONT 5-3 PITT 7-5 ST.L 7-5 NY 5-4 CHI 4-9 PHIL 3-7