The Minnesota Twins had a weekful of firsts and wished they hadn't. The divisional leaders lost their first series of the season, two out of three to the White Sox. They lost two straight for the first time. Pitcher Jim Kaat suffered his first defeat after four straight wins. And so the Twins had their first losing week of 1972.
By bedeviling California 8-0, Chicago won its 15th victory in 17 home games. Wilbur Wood not only won three games in eight days but put some wood on the ball, too. He "just stuck my bat out" for his third and fourth singles, one less than all last year.
"It was a circus. It should have been played in a tent," said the A's Sal Bando after Kansas City beat Oakland 16-1. Meanwhile the Rangers couldn't hit the state of Texas with a howitzer, but their pitching was as good as their batting was bad. Before ending a road trip with a win and taking the next two at home, the Rangers had averaged six hits a game while losing eight of 11. But three pitchers—Paul Lindblad, Jim Shellenback and Pete Broberg—had ERAs under 2.00, three more were under 3.00, and the team had gone 36 errorless innings.
California had pitching problems: 20-game winner Andy Messersmith was sidelined with tendinitis in his middle finger, Clyde Wright's shoulder stiffened up again and Nolan Ryan's pulled groin muscle stayed pulled. As for relievers, Lloyd Allen joined Paul Doyle on the wounded list with a pulled hamstring muscle. Manager Del Rice threatened to activate batting practice pitcher Ted Bowsfield, director of stadium operations.
MINN 17-9 CHI 17-10 OAK 16-10 TEX 13-15 KC 12-17 CAL 11-18
As Cleveland's Indians won three straight 2-1 games from the Yankees and Tigers, Detroit, with a little hurt from its friends, nearly lost control of second place. The Orioles, losers of four in a row, came to town and were greeted by a headline, WELCOME SKIDDING ORIOLES. Jim Palmer, the most enraged Bird, thereupon won his first game ever in Tiger Stadium, 3-2. Doyle Alexander, who replaced Mike Cuellar in the first inning the next night, gave the Tigers only three hits and ultimately it took a Mickey Lolich four-hitter to produce a Detroit win.
Never, under Earl Weaver, have the Orioles dipped below .500. Each time that ignominy has threatened, Palmer has bailed the Birds out. Last week before the Detroit series he beat the Brewers 6-0 and gave up only two hits.
Manager Eddie Kasko ran three bed checks during Boston's road trip. The first night two players were AWOL, the second night six, the third night eight. Something was missing on the field, too. Boston was 5-5 for the trip and Kasko was talking about benching Marty Pattin and Danny Cater.
Milwaukee had the heady experience of winning two in a row and almost hopped out of last place. You remember Frank Robinson? Well, his replacement one game last week was not Merv Rettenmund but somebody named Terry Crowley. Against Milwaukee Crowley got three hits, including a three-run homer, and the Brewers couldn't see any difference.
CLEV 17-9 DET 15-12 BALT 14-13 NY 10-15 BOST 9-15 MIL 8-16
In the spring of 1968 Yankee magnate Michael Burke magnanimously advised Bobby Valentine, an outstanding high school athlete, to pass up baseball for a while and play college football. So did Walter O'Malley of the Dodgers. O'Malley suggested Penn, his alma mater. Valentine chose USC. But just as he was about to sign up with the Trojans, they invited him to a party attended by two Dodger scouts. Result: Valentine plays infield instead of backfield and is hitting consistently for a team that, considering its record and 4-2 week, hardly needs the help.
Houston, enjoying its fastest start ever, won five in a row before falling to the Dodgers 2-1. The Astros got three complete games in one week, and Larry Dierker pitched his second shutout in 12 days, beating Atlanta 9-0.
Before Steve Arlin stopped them at San Diego, Cincinnati's Reds won nine straight, sometimes by stealth. While being intentionally walked by the Giants, Pete Rose joked with Catcher Dave Rader about the folly of walking a .250 hitter, then poked the fourth ball past Third Baseman Jim Ray Hart. It was the first time Rose had ever hit an intentional ball, but it won the game.
Atlanta was intimidated in three straight disasters at Houston, losing 8-2, 6-5 and 9-0, then dropped one to San Francisco, ending a seven-game Giant losing streak. At one point the Giants were 9-23—exactly the reverse of the situation about this time last year.
LA 20-12 HOUS 18-12 CIN 17-14 SD 14-17 ATL 11-19 SF 10-24
Mays Days were a distress signal for the rest of the National League. After Willie put on a Met uniform on May 12, New York won every game. Admittedly, Mays had a little help from the ever-green Met pitching staff, which has sprouted remarkable new limbs. Jon Matlack won another two, including a 3-1 five-hitter, bringing his record to 5-0. John Milner, Jim Fregosi and Rusty Staub hit four more homers.
Pittsburgh also awed the competition with a steely combination of power and pitching. The Pirates outscored opponents 34 runs to four, winning five straight games—the last three shutouts by Steve Blass, Bob Moose and Dock Ellis-Bruce Kison.
Philadelphia slugger Greg Luzinski was so sore at Pitcher Burt Hooton he slammed a homer into the Liberty Bell replica—438 feet from home plate and 55 feet high—in Veterans Stadium. "He didn't have to make that remark about us not being as tough as the University of Texas," said Luzinski. "We were keyed up tonight. I owed him that one." Revenge fell a trifle short as the Phillies managed only two other hits and lost to the Cub knuckle-curver. Meanwhile, Rick Monday was collecting three consecutive home runs in the Chicago win. The Phillies lost again next night 3-2, then ran into the Met buzzsaw. Chicago, after taking two of three from Philly, lost two of three to last-place St. Louis. But the Cubs, who had been 0-5 against lefthanders and 0-6 in games decided by one run, did at least prove they could beat both jinxes.
"That's not a lineup card Expo Manager Gene Mauch makes out prior to every game," a Montreal sportswriter opined, "it's a menu." Could be. The Mets and Pirates ate up everything Mauch had to offer. The Canadians scored fewer than two runs per game during a six-game losing streak. "You'd think by now I'd be able to figure out why we fall apart every year on the 15th of May," Mauch said.
The Cardinals finally pulled out of an eight-game losing streak, their longest since 1957. There was a reason. "My mother told me to stay in the game at least until 8:30, until one of her friends got off work so she could see me," said Pitcher Scipio Spinks. Spinks went all the way for a 4-3 win over the Cubs.
NY 24-7 PITT 16-12 PHIL 15-15 CHI 14-15 MONT 13-17 ST. L 12-20