In its 17-3 victory over Detroit, Milwaukee's Henry Aaron drove in two runs and broke Babe Ruth's career RBI record of 2,209. "No more plateaus," Aaron said. "I've never set any goals. I just do my best, and the records fall." Next night the Brewers, 5-1 for the week, took over the division lead when Billy Champion beat New York 4-2 for his fourth win.
Cleveland's Leron Lee joined another set of immortals—trivia's own Duffy Lewis, who once hit for Babe Ruth, and Carroll Hardy, who batted for Ted Williams—when he pinch-hit for Frank Robinson. Manager Robinson removed himself with the Indians trailing Boston 7-6 in the ninth, two men on and two out, so that the left-handed Lee could face right-handed Pitcher Diego Segui. Lee fanned on three pitches. Nonetheless, Robinson said, "Nobody's that much better than us" when the Indians, 4-3, got welcome wins from Don Hood and Fritz Peterson.
The Yankees split eight games, two of the victories being Catfish Hunter's first wins of the season. After studying video tapes of his earlier starts Hunter held the Brewers hitless for 7‚Öî innings, beating them 10-1 on three hits. Then he shut out Baltimore 5-0 on five hits.
Boston, 2-2, drew just 6,016 for the 7-6 Cleveland thriller and another 9,309 to watch an 8-1 loss to Gaylord Perry. The faithful few begged for power and booed slumping (.220) Carl Yastrzemski. Defending Yaz, Manager Darrell Johnson said, "He's struggling, but I know he's going to start hitting sooner or later."
Baltimore was defenseless. As the Orioles dropped six straight, the bullpen lost control four times in the late innings. One night Centerfielder Paul Blair announced a mock lineup in the team bus. "Who do you have in your bullpen?'' someone asked. "No one," said Blair. "All starters must finish."
MIL 12-7 DET 10-8 BOS 9-9 CLEV 9-9 NY 10-12 BALT 7-12
"Another club can be beating you for six innings," said Texas Manager Billy Martin, "but for some reason the good ball clubs get tough and win them in the last three." In a 4-1 week his Rangers won twice in the late innings, but not entirely because they were tough. They scored the deciding run in the ninth to beat Chicago 2-1 without getting the ball out of the infield. Jim Sundberg, hit by a pitch, reached third on an error and scored when Lenny Randle hit a roller that Bill Melton couldn't get out of his glove. The next night, trailing California 3-0 in the ninth, Texas rallied, if that's the word for it, to win 4-3. Jeff Burroughs led off by striking out, but reached first when Bill Singer's wild pitch got by Catcher Ellie Rodriguez. A double, two walks, a sacrifice fly and single later, the winning run scored on Reliever Frank Tanana's wild pitch.
The A's, who took over first place in a 2-2 week, demonstrated how late-inning baseball is really played. Beating Chicago 4-3 in 12 innings, they stole four bases in the last five innings. "They're a great club," said White Sox Manager Chuck Tanner. "They keep coming." Said A's Centerfielder Bill North, who drove in the winning run with a single, "We beat you with the long ball, on defense, with speed, every way." Chicago, 2-5, had no way. Pitching-poor, they were forced to use Rich Gossage, who was supposed to start the next day, for five innings of relief, and to keep starting Stan Bahnsen despite his 12.00 earned run average.
Kansas City lost five of seven and slipped from first to fourth. The Royals, who have dropped nine of their last 12, gave up 60 runs and committed 15 errors. They did get seven stolen bases in two nights from Amos Otis, who thus tied an obscure league record set by Eddie Collins in 1912. "California came in here talking about their rabbits," said Otis. "They can keep their rabbits. We got some roadrunners." The race went to the rabbits, though, who took two of three, moving up a notch to second. The Angels managed a 4-3 week when Dick Lange, recalled from Salt Lake City, preserved Nolan Ryan's fifth win, 4-2 over Texas, with three strong innings of relief.
Minnesota paid tribute to baseball's brilliant spring scheduling by resting for three rain-outs and two off-days. Then they powdered the Royals 4-1 and 14-5 to win their only games. In the latter, Eric Soderholm became the first Twin to homer at home.
OAK 13-9 CAL 13-10 TEX 11-10 KC 12-11 MINN 8-10 CHI 8-15
The Cubs won three of five to maintain baseball's best record, traded winless Burt Hooton to Los Angeles for Pitchers Geoff Zahn and Eddie Solomon and got this boost from Reliever Darold Knowles: "I see no reason why we can't finish near the top." Knowles hasn't exactly hurt. He and the rest of the bullpen have a combined ERA of l.33; Manager Jim Marshall, otherwise known as Captain Hook, has used them in 10 of the past 11 games.
New York, 2-2, stayed in second because of its amazin' starters. Tom Seaver beat the Cubs 9-1 and Jerry Koosman shut out Montreal 3-0 and drove in a run. Then the Mets drew Montreal's astoundin' Woodie Fryman, who one-hit them 3-0 for his third consecutive shutout. Fryman's record is 3-0, his ERA 0.53. Otherwise, the Expos were forgettable, losing four and pressuring Manager Gene Mauch to defend his kid lineup.
Pondering a five-game Philadelphia losing streak, Shortstop Larry Bowa said, "It's not the manager's fault or the coaches', it's us, the eight guys on the field. We're letting the pitchers down." Whereupon the Phillies racked up five wins with timely play from everyone. Dave Cash hit .591, Steve Carlton got his first win, Tug McGraw his first win and save and rookie Pitcher Tom Underwood just marveled. "From what I've seen," he said after beating the Pirates 6-2, "the only plays those guys in the infield don't make are the ones that can't be made."
As co-favored St. Louis and Pittsburgh dropped to fourth and fifth Pirate Pitchers Dock Lllis and Jerry Reuss threw shutouts for their first wins, but then the club dropped three to the Phillies. Cards Lynn McGlothen and Ken Forsch had complete-game victories, but Bob Gibson (0-3), whose ERA is 5.91, lost again. Before McGlothen stopped Pittsburgh 3-0 with 10 strikeouts, St. Louis had been outscored 40-16.
CHI 14-6 NY 10-9 PHIL 11-10 PITT 9-10 ST.L 8-11 MONT 6-12
As San Diego (Page 26) came down to earth, Los Angeles rose, and though the injury-beset Dodgers played a patchwork lineup, they took five straight. Most inspired of the subs was Lee Lacy, who hit .450 over 14 games playing second base while Davey Lopes filled in for Outfielders Bill Buckner and Jimmy Wynn. "I don't know what I'm going to do when all our people are ready," said Manager Walt Alston. "But I do know one thing—I'm not taking Lee Lacy out of the lineup. Not the way he's hitting." Speculation was that Lacy would stay at second and Lopes would move to short or center.
Looking for a lineup to challenge the Dodgers, Cincinnati, 3-2, moved Pete Rose from left field to third base, a position he last occupied in 1966. In his first start Rose had three assists, one putout and no errors before returning to left in the seventh inning. Other developments of significance: Gary Nolan, sore-armed and sidelined for two seasons, beat Atlanta 6-1 on five hits, and Tony Perez, with six RBIs in five games, broke out of a slump to pass Johnny Bench and take the league lead (20).
Atlanta lost four of the five games it played at Los Angeles and Cincinnati and the Braves rashly told their 5'7" slugger, Larvell (Sugar Bear) Blanks, to choke up on the bat. Instead he took a mighty cut, and hit a ninth-inning homer to beat the Reds 6-5. "There were two outs and none on," he said, "so I just took my swings."
In a .500 week the Astros won three of four from San Diego, getting their biggest blows from Bob Watson, surely the most adaptable slugger around. Watson has been hitting at a .382 clip while alternating between first base and left field and between 36-ounce and 42-ounce bats. "The heavier bat gives me density, but the lighter bat gives me control," he said. He has homered four times—three times with the lighter bat—and on Sunday he scored baseball's one millionth run.
The Giants lost a series to Los Angeles, and Manager Wes Westrum urged the club to "think about baseball." Discontent persisted. Pitcher Mike Caldwell was removed from a Houston game leading 4-1, and Reliever Randy Moffitt gave up three runs before the Giants pulled it out 5-4. Moffitt said he was ashamed to take the win. Said Caldwell, "They tell me to pitch 'em soft in the last inning and then they pull me." Said Westrum, "I was trying to save the game for him."
LA 16-9 CIN 13-12 ATL 13-13 SD 12-12 SF 11-11 HOUS 9-17