"Sometimes my corns shoot pains through my feet so bad I have to wince," said Charlie Spikes, one of five former Yankees who helped the Indians build a 4-1 week that got them out of the cellar. Hurting but hammering, Spikes ran his hitting streak to 19 games before being stopped. Former Yankee John Ellis hit .350 and three pitchers obtained from New York also chipped in. Fred Beene hurled scoreless relief to protect Fritz Peterson's first win of the season, over Minnesota, while Steve Kline also halted the Twins. Other contributors were Gaylord Perry, twice a winner; hard-hitting Oscar Gamble (.400) and George Hendrick (10 RBIs).
As the Indians ascended so did their recent trading partners, the Yankees—to first place. Ron Blomberg went 8 for 14 with four doubles, three homers and eight RBIs. Doc Medich won twice and Sparky Lyle picked up three saves, twice pitching to just one batter to seal 4-3 wins over the A's. Lyle also saved a 5-4 game after Joe Hoerner of the Royals hit two batters with consecutive pitches to force in the winning run.
Detroit leapfrogged from fifth place to second as Reliever John Hiller preserved wins for Joe Coleman and Bill Slayback. Willie Horton provided much of the offense, driving in seven runs and scoring seven.
Milwaukee, Baltimore and Boston were all 1-4. The Brewers lost by margins small (6-5 to the Twins) and large (10-3 to the White Sox), coming out on top only when Jim Slaton withstood 11 hits to down Texas 11-3.
In two losses to Chicago and two to the Angels the Orioles batted only .178 and had only four extra-base hits. The lowlight of their nonproductivity was a 31-inning scoreless streak.
The principal Red Sox woes: 1) Second Baseman Doug Griffin was hit by a Nolan Ryan pitch, suffered a concussion and was placed on the disabled list; 2) subbing for him, Rick Burleson tied an AL record by making three errors in his first big-league game. Those increased the Sox error total to 30 in 24 games; 3) Manager Darrell Johnson was mugged in his Boston hotel room.
NY 15-11 DET 12-11 BALT 11-11 MIL 10-10 CLEV 11-12 BOS 10-14
"It got embarrassing over the winter when I had to tell people I played for the Rangers," said Dave Nelson. "The first thing they did was laugh." Nelson may laugh last; the Rangers' 3-2 week kept them atop the West. Most notable among the Texas merrymakers were Ferguson Jenkins, whose two wins gave him a 6-1 record; Cesar Tovar, who batted .444 and hit a three-run homer against the Brewers; and Jim Spencer, who batted .333 and drove in the winning run in Jenkins' 1-0 victory over Boston.
California won five of six, with Denny Doyle hitting .440, Tom McCraw .556 and Bill Singer winning twice. It was a memorable week for McCraw, who matched his entire 1973 homer output: three.
Chicago Manager Chuck Tanner took advantage of an off day to go home to New Castle, Pa., there to contemplate his team's 7-11 record. He reported no miracle but upon his return the Sox won four straight. Tanner shuddered when Ron Santo flubbed a bunt attempt against the Orioles. The quake was premature. Santo hit a two-run homer two swings later to beat Baltimore 2-1.
"We tied all the strings together," said Tony Oliva after the Twins beat the Tigers 10-0 to conclude a 2-3 week. Bert Blyleven pitched the shutout and Rod Carew, with three hits in that game, batted .500 and took the league lead with .408.
Noting his team's 8-9 record, Pitcher Al Fitzmorris predicted that the Royals would take 19 of their next 23 games. K.C. disobligingly lost five in a row. Then came Saturday and a 5-1 drubbing of the Yankees, the Royals' fifth consecutive Saturday triumph.
There was so much grumbling among the A's it seemed they would surely bust out of their slump. Among the disgruntlements was a Charlie Finley economy measure that the players felt wasn't worth a lick: Finley decreed that henceforth the A's would pay their own postage when answering fan mail. When Vida Blue slumped last season, Reggie Jackson said his fastball was "on vacation." Blue, his fastball still away, lost to Cleveland 8-2, leaving him with an 0-4 record and a 5.18 ERA. The A's won just once in five tries.
TEX 14-9 CAL 14-11 CHI 11-11 OAK 11-12 MINN 10-12 KC 9-14
After their runaway start the Dodgers slowed a bit, playing mere .500 ball as two outstanding pitchers, Tommy John and Don Sutton, were drubbed by the Mets and Phillies, respectively but respectfully. Making up the most ground on L.A. were the Astros, who took three games from the Cubs and two from the Cardinals while losing only once, but Houston had a bad scare. Shortstop Roger Metzger collided with Don Wilson while running laps in the outfield and swallowed his tongue. Teammates Doug Rader and John Edwards pried it out, saving him from grave consequences.
While Sparky Anderson kept insisting his Reds are the finest team he has ever managed, they kept losing. Last week Cincinnati was 1-3, stranding 13 runners during a particularly dispiriting 3-2 loss to the Cubs.
In Atlanta it was suggested that the ball park be renamed Henry Aaron Stadium, but local law precludes bestowing such honors on the living, even if they're immortal. As for the Braves, fans were calling them names after they lost four of five games.
Miseries accumulated for the Giants, the most miserable coming when John D'Acquisto walked five men in one inning. However, they did win a game, scoring nine times in one inning while beating the Phillies 13-8.
"If I didn't know better, I would think I was in some other city," said Expo Manager Gene Mauch of the newly enthusiastic fans in San Diego. What they were cheering was a winning week for the Padres, who wound up a 7-1 home stand by downing Montreal 5-1 on Dave Freisleben's second straight four-hitter.
LA 18-8 HOUS 17-10 CIN 11-11 SF 12-13 ATL 12-14 SD 11-15
Philadelphia thrived on the unexpected. For the first time in 678 at bats Shortstop Larry Bowa hit a ball out of a ball park—Candlestick Park, let history note—thereby beating the Giants 6-5. Eddie Watt, unprepossessing possessor of a 7.00 ERA, was somewhat reluctantly called upon to try to save a 2-1 game against the Dodgers. Watt loaded the bases in the ninth. Then with two out and a 2-2 count on Jim Wynn, he hung a slider. "It was saying, 'Kiss me,' " Phillie Manager Danny Ozark said of the pitch. But Wynn was so surprised by it that he swung and got a miss and the Phillies won again. Third Baseman Mike Schmidt's .474 batting average didn't hurt, either, in a 3-2 week.
After flubbing a chance to tie or win one game, John Milner of the Mets came back the next day with a two-run double in the ninth for an 8-7 defeat of the Dodgers. Jon Matlack was generously supported by a pair of home runs in each of his two triumphs. Tom Seaver should have been so fortunate. He struck out 16 Dodgers in 12 innings before being removed from a game the Mets eventually lost 2-1.
Dock Ellis of the Pirates began a game by hitting the first three men he faced and throwing six balls in a row before being lifted. The Pirates went on to outhit the Reds 12-6—base, not torso, hits, that is—yet lost 5-3. Nevertheless, the Pirates had their best week so far (3-1) and got complete-game wins from Jerry Reuss and Jim Rooker.
An assortment of odd injuries has plagued the Cardinals. Sonny Siebert hurt his foot when he stepped on a rake. Tim McCarver got a bruised thumb from shaking hands with teammate Bake McBride. Pete Richert hurt his shoulder when he fell off the team bus. Now for the good news: Bob Gibson won his first game.
Although hitting poorly, Montreal clung to first place. The Expos ended a six-game losing streak by dropping three on the West Coast, then returned to friendly Jarry Park. With the temperature in the 40s and winds of 30 mph, they blew past the Giants 4-2.
The Cubs, too, were delighted to get home. They eased the pains of a 2-9 road trip by defeating the Reds 6-5 on a ninth-inning home run by Rick Monday and 3-2 on an 11th-inning homer by Billy Williams.
MONT 10-8 ST. L 13-12 PHIL 12-12 CHI 9-12 NY 9-14 PITT 8-13