Kansas City set a club record by winning seven straight games and thereby streaked past the old K.C. franchise, Oakland, into first place. The rampaging Royals had taken 14 of their last 17 games. In six of the victories the bullpen—Gene Garber, Doug Bird and Joe Hoerner—picked up either a victory or a save, and Manager Jack McKeon claimed, "This club has a new hero every day." So it did. Rick Reichardt drove in the winning runs Tuesday. Wednesday it was Hal McRae with a two-run triple and a home run. Garber sparkled in relief Thursday, and so on. Second Baseman Cookie Rojas, weary but refusing to take a day off, said, "We can do it, we can win it. If we get another starting pitcher we'll do it." And he said that early in the week.
The A's didn't seem overly worried, but perhaps Owner Charlie Finley was, for he took out his bankroll and bought Jesus Alou, Vic Davalillo and Mike Andrews for help in the run for another pennant. All three Alou brothers—Felipe, Matty and Jesus—started in the Bay Area with San Francisco, and all three have played across the Bay at one time or another (Felipe and Matty are now with the Yankees; will Jesus follow?). "I hope I stay in Oakland forever," said Reggie Jackson. "I'll get to meet all the famous players in baseball as they pass through our clubhouse." Big Jim Bibby, 6'5", 230 pounds, gave Texas a much-needed lift by throwing a no-hitter against the A's, keeping the batters trembling with his conveniently wild fastball. "Damn, he was quick," said A's Manager Dick Williams. "The 3-2 pitch I missed in the ninth might have been the fastest pitch I've ever seen," said Jackson. The Rangers' second big boost came when Jeff Burroughs hit his third grand-slam home run in 10 days. If he keeps that up he might get into the Oakland clubhouse someday.
Minnesota followed a five-game winning streak by riding the roller coaster downward, losing six out of seven to its top rivals in the division, Chicago, Oakland and K.C. But there were some happy notes. Bobby Darwin, using a heavier bat, hit his first homer since July 7. "I was overswinging," he said. "I thought a little extra weight might help." And Second Baseman Rod Carew continued to lead the league in hitting. The Angels (2-5) were only slightly better. One of their wins came when Nolan Ryan beat Texas 3-2 with an eight-hitter. It was his first win since he no-hit Detroit in mid-July. "As long as we get pitching like that we've got a chance," said Manager Bobby Winkles. They did get pitching like that from Bill Singer against Oakland—he went 11 innings despite a bad cold—but still lost 2-1 when Bert Campaneris blooped a heartbreaking broken-bat double into shallow center field with two out. "That's as tough a loss as there is," moaned Winkles.
Chicago (3-4) reactivated slugger Dick Allen, the American League MVP last season. Allen had been sidelined since June 28, when he suffered a hairline fracture in his left leg. He hit well, but his leg still bothered him. Speaking of numerous White Sox injuries, Manager Chuck Tanner said, "The job this team has done this season is greater than last year when we fought Oakland right down to the wire."
KC 64-48 OAK 62-48 MINN 54-53 CHI 53-56 CAL 51-56 TEX 41-66
Baltimore despite injury problems, eased past New York into first place, but Manager Earl Weaver wasn't about to order the champagne just yet. For one thing, a Yankee slump had more to do with it than a triumphant Oriole week (4-4). Still, first place was nothing to sniff at. "The biggest thing is that we're hitting 30 points higher," said Weaver. "Our defense is the same—the best. Our bullpen is doing just as good as they have since 1969, except that they are getting more chances to work." Jim Palmer credited the Cleveland twilight with a 5-1, three-hit win. "I think any fastball pitcher has to have an advantage at six o'clock," he said. "And the Indians play a lot of six o'clock games. Their own schedule has to be tough on them." Of course, it would help if Cleveland had better fastballers of its own.
Once soaring but now just sore, New York had a miserable 2-6 week. Manager Ralph Houk shoved a sportswriter out of his office, Sparky Lyle lost his fifth straight game to his old Boston teammates, Thurman Munson and Gene Michael got into a brawl with Boston's Carlton Fisk, and Centerfielder Bobby Murcer was hit on the right forearm by a Mickey Lolich pitch. Murcer missed Saturday's 3-2 victory over Detroit (Horace Clarke won it with a homer in the 14th), not because of the sore forearm or a sore ankle sustained earlier, but because of a sore throat and dizziness. Oh, yes, sore fans, Steve Kline, who had the Yanks' best won-lost record last year (16-9), was put on the 2l-day disabled list because of a sore right elbow.
Detroit (6-2) had sliced its deficit from six games to just half a game before the extra-inning loss to New York. A big reason for the surge was Outfielder Jim Northrup, who since the All-Star break has hit 14 for 27 with eight RBIs, but he starts only against right-handed pitching. After he went 11 for 24 in five games, Manager Billy Martin benched him for the first two games against the Yankees. "Northrup can't hit lefthanders," said Martin. "I can hit lefthanders," said Northrup. Mickey Lolich won twice to improve his record to 11-10. "A record like mine is all right for a pitcher earning $30,000," he said, "but people expect more from one making $100,000." Boston (4-5) sought help from Pawtucket, bringing up Pitcher Dick Pole, who then got poleaxed Friday in Baltimore. The rock and sock four-game series against the Yanks in Fenway Park drew 125,839 fans in lousy weather and what with the Fisk-Munson-Michael brawl and the intense play, the people got their money's worth. For instance, Bobby Murcer hit Red Sox Shortstop Luis Aparicio with a tough takeout slide. Aparicio lost his hat, glove and half his leg but held on to the ball.
The Brewers were beginning to think they would have to write off Pitcher Bill Parsons for 1973. He won 13 games each of the last two seasons, but in spring training new pitching coach Bob Shaw (since resigned) made some changes in his delivery. The young righty started walking everybody in sight and hasn't been the same since. He was O.K. for three innings against Cleveland, then the Indians knocked him out. "I hope I get another chance," said Parsons. The Indians were hitting and fielding better, but they were still 20½ steps to the rear.
BALT 58-47 NY 61-51 DET 58-50 BOS 57-51 MIL 52-55 CLEV 40-70
The Dodger-Giant feud, transplanted to California from vines that grew in New York City, reached ridiculous new dimensions when Los Angeles Coach Tom Lasorda and San Francisco Manager Charlie Fox got in a fistfight 90 minutes before Saturday's game started. It was during Giant batting practice; the two exchanged words behind the batting cage and then traded punches before being separated. "Lasorda was riding our players. I told him to cut it out or there would be trouble," said Fox. The Dodgers (4-3) lost a little ground to Cincy but still had a three-game lead at week's end. Andy Messersmith shut out the Giants 3-0 on Friday and gave credit to his improved breaking ball, but he got his uniform a little dirty when Relief Pitcher Elias Sosa fired one in tight in the ninth inning. "People aren't the best of friends on these two clubs," said Messersmith, who hit the dirt on the pitch. Other than Fox' fisticuffs, and the introduction of white shoes, it was a lackluster week for the Giants (2-4). Chris Speier's damaged shoulder obliged him to throw sidearm, and two bad Speier throws against San Diego lost the game 6-5.
Atlanta and Cincinnati played a four-game series that set the art of pitching back a century. The Braves won 14-6, lost 9-5, 13-11 and 17-2. "This is the best offensive club in baseball," said Second Baseman Davey Johnson. "We hit more home runs than anybody. It's contagious." Henry Aaron hit No. 701 of his career Tuesday night, leaving him 13 short of Ruth's record. The Southern Christian Leadership Conference gave Hammerin' Hank a 16-pound, silver-plated sledgehammer at a luncheon in his honor. He will not be allowed to use it at the plate.
C. Arnholt Smith, majority owner of the Padres (certain to finish last for the fifth time in their five years of existence), was hit by Internal Revenue with a whopping demand for $22.9 million in back income taxes and interest. The action came when a Japanese group was contemplating making an offer to buy the team and keep it in San Diego. The IRS filed liens in nine Southern California counties against Smith's personal assets, which should not include the money-losing, game-losing Padres. On a happier note, Third Baseman Dave Roberts, who had only two hits in his first 33 at bats this season, was up to .270. He hit six homers in the last three weeks.
Houston (4-4) got a fine performance from Don Wilson, who beat Cincinnati 1-0 in 10 innings and allowed only four singles, but Outfielder Cesar Cedeno continued on an on-again, off-again basis. His tender ankle forced him to miss a game. "For five weeks now I have played with that ankle taped," he said. "I just can't get it well." All that Cincy firepower unleashed in Atlanta (45 runs and 52 hits) helped move the Reds closer to first place than they have been in more than two months. But Pitcher Jim McGlothlin, who gave up six runs in the 14-6 loss, said, "I'm embarrassed that the players on this club have to associate with me."
LA 68-42 CIN 68-46 SF 61-48 HOUS 57-56 ATL 51-64 SD 37-72
St. Louis beat the Mets 4-3 Saturday, but the Cardinals' pennant hopes were dealt a blow when Pitcher Bob Gibson, who twice has broken his right leg, twisted his right knee trying to get back to first base to avoid being doubled up on a line drive. The team surgeon said it was a probable cartilage tear; if the tear was not large, Gibson might pitch again this season. The Cards hung on to the lead despite an epidemic of respiratory flu and despite not being able to beat left-handed pitching (they are 18-21 versus lefties and 41-29 versus righties). The Cuban bullpen tandem of Diego Segui and Orlando Pena pitched very well; Segui saved Saturday's game and tied the club record for saves in one season (15).
The crumbling Cubs left 30 men on base in the last three games of the week and had lost seven of 12 and 17 of their last 23. Canadian Ferguson Jenkins was defeated 6-1 at Montreal as government cameras ground away, getting footage for a documentary on him. But there was pitching progress elsewhere. Rick Reuschel beat Gibson and the Cardinals on Monday 3-1, then came back to end a Cub losing streak by shutting out Montreal on Friday 3-0, the finest game of his career and his 12th win of the season. Philadelphia attendance went over the million mark, and the biggest crowd ever to attend a twi-night doubleheader there, 48,294, gave Yankee castoff Bill Robinson a standing ovation after he hit two home runs. Steve Carlton lost to the Pirates on Friday 3-1, but earlier in the week he looked like the Carlton of last year, beating Pittsburgh 1-0. "This is the guy I've been waiting for," said Manager Danny Ozark. He and 23 other major league managers. Wayne Twitchell got his second straight shutout, beating the Cubs 2-0 and improving his record to 10-3.
Baseball may have seen the last of Center-fielder Willie Mays. Mays intends to finish out his career at that refuge for the disabled, first base. "That's the only position I can play right now," Willie said. His arm is gone. Willie's team, the last-place Mets (4-5), are not quite gone yet. They took three out of four from the Pirates, with Tom Seaver throwing a four-hitter and Cleon Jones becoming the first Met to accumulate 1,000 hits. And, say hey. First Baseman Mays helped beat the Cards with a three-run homer Friday.
The sad story at Pittsburgh—one of the sad stories—is Pitcher Steve Blass, who has lost the ability to get the ball over the plate. His ERA is 10.40, almost a batting average. Balor Moore of Montreal, who used to have trouble seeing the catcher's glove, wore glasses for the first time and beat St. Louis 2-0 with a four-hitter. Quite a spectacle.
ST.L 59-50 CHI 56-54 PITT 53-55 MONT 52-56 PHIL 52-59 NY 48-58