"Every game, we play just good enough to get beat," said Met Manager Joe Frazier, who also lamented the inability of his team to "hit, field or rim the bases like major-leaguers." Frazier said all that just after the Mets had lost a 5-1, 3-2 doubleheader to the Expos, extending their losing streak to six games and sinking deeper into the basement. The next day the Mets fired Frazier and replaced him with First Baseman Joe Torre, who received a contract through the 1979 season. Instantly, the bumbling Mets began to hit, field and run the bases like big-leaguers. They started the Torre regime by sweeping three games from Montreal. Craig Swan, who had not won in almost a month for Frazier, held off the Expos 6-2 with help from Bob Apodaca, who picked up his first save. Next came a 6-4 victory for Tom Seaver, who had not won a game for Frazier in more than four weeks and who had been asking the Mets to trade him. Other key contributors were Catcher John Stearns, who hit a grand-slam homer, and Relief Pitcher Skip Lockwood, who saved one game with 2‚Öì innings of hitless pitching and preserved another when he came in with the bases loaded in the seventh inning, threw a pitch and got Ellis Valentine to hit into a double play. In that contest the Mets (4-5) stole four bases, making it six in seven tries during Torre's first three games; in 45 games under Frazier they had been successful in only 24 of 44 attempts. They also pulled off their first successful suicide squeeze of the season. "This is the way baseball is meant to be played," said Lenny Randle, whom Torre installed as the regular third baseman. "We're playing a moving game, a thinking game, and it's become a winning game." Following a 1-0 loss to Philadelphia in a game in which they reverted to form and messed up several bunt situations, the Mets, with Nino Espinosa and the hard-working Lockwood combining on a seven-hitter, knocked off the Phillies 2-0.
Jim Lonborg, pitching for the second time after missing seven weeks because of a sore arm, allowed just two hits in seven innings before Ron Reed came in to protect his 1-0 win over the Mets. Although Greg Luzinski and Mike Schmidt were nursing leg injuries, Philadelphia (5-2) took two of three from the Pirates. Steve Carlton (7-2) won the first 6-4 and Reed tossed three scoreless innings in relief to win the second 6-5. Dave Johnson, who passed up a $150,000 salary in Japan to sign with the Phillies for about half that amount, drove in the deciding run.
Chicago (4-3) won three of four from the Pirates and moved into first place. In a 3-2 defeat of the Pirates, the Cubs scored two runs in the eighth against Rich Gossage, who had not given up a run in his previous eight relief appearances. The win went to lefthander Willie Hernandez, 21, who came in from the bullpen to retire five straight Pirates. Bruce Sutter, 24, notched his 14th save in that game and his 15th when the Cubs later beat the Bucs 4-3. Hernandez chalked up his second triumph when the Cubs overcame the Cardinals 4-3 on a 13th-inning single by Steve Ontiveros. In their three losses the Cubs were shut out by a total score of 25-0.
Back-to-back shutouts gave Pittsburgh its only wins in seven tries. John Candelaria (7-1 and a 1.71 ERA) stopped the Phillies 3-0 on two hits; then Jim Rooker blanked the Cubs 5-0. Despite the upsurge in offense this season (page 22), there were 10 shutouts in the league last week, including five on Friday.
Like the Pirates, the Cardinals (3-4) won with two consecutive shutouts, Pete Falcone and John Denny (7-0) muffling the Cubs 14-0 and 6-0. Ken Reitz, the league's Player of the Month for May when he batted .366 and had 23 RBIs, hit .414 and had ten more RBIs last week. His three homers gave him seven for the season, matching his career high. Reitz insists that he has been a better hitter in recent weeks because he was hit on the right forearm by a pitched ball early in May. Because of his sore arm, Reitz switched from a 35-ounce bat to a 32½-ounce model, which he explained "has a lot more whip" and enables him to "wait longer for the ball." His average has gone from .211 to .290.
Montreal's Larry Parrish, who hit 11 home runs last season, had no explanation for his surge of power, which included three homers in a 14-4 drubbing of St. Louis and another in a 2-0 win over the Cardinals. Steve Rogers hurled that shutout, allowing only one hit, a third-inning single by Mike Tyson. Rogers (7-4 and a 1.92 ERA) also trimmed the Mets 5-1 on four hits. In seven other games Montreal (5-4) starters lasted only 38 innings and gave up 47 hits and 31 earned runs.
CHI 30-17 PITT 28-18 ST.L 28-21 PHIL 26-21 MONT 20-28 NY 19-30
"We Pray about everything and worry about nothing," said Alvin Dark, who replaced John McNamara as manager of the Padres. Exemplifying his wing-and-a-prayer approach, Dark left his job as a Cub coach and flew to San Francisco to take on his new assignment, arriving 90 minutes before the start of a doubleheader. He promptly shuffled the lineup slightly, transposing the Nos. 3 and 5 hitters, Mike Ivie moving up and George Hendrick dropping down. Dark tied a major league record by using 41 players that day, 21 in the second game. Most of his moves paid off. Six of nine pinch hitters came through with hits; Ivie tied a National League mark with five doubles and got seven hits in 10 at bats; and Hendrick homered in both games as the Padres won 12-8 and 9-8. Rollie Fingers, who pitched for Dark in Oakland, saved both decisions, as well as a 4-2 win over the Giants the next day. That gave Fingers saves in five straight games and a total of 13. He later notched his fourth victory as San Diego (6-2) won 1-0 in Los Angeles on an 11th-inning home run by Dave Winfield, his 11th.
That setback took place in the first losing week of the season for Los Angeles. The Dodgers, who started the week with the highest batting average in the majors (.294), hit only .216 as they dropped five of seven. Ron Cey slugged his 14th homer to retain the league lead, and Reggie Smith hit his 13th as Rick Rhoden held off the Padres 9-4 for his eighth win. In their first 22 home dates the Dodgers have averaged 37,950 customers, putting them ahead of 1962, when they set the all-time season attendance record by drawing 2,755,184 fans.
Cincinnati (6-2) gained 3½ games on L.A. and reclaimed second place. Fred Norman won twice, Johnny Bench slugging a grand-slam homer as Norman beat the Dodgers 8-1, and hitting a two-run shot as Norman blanked the Astros 4-0 on two hits. The former was the first complete game by a Red pitcher in 24 games.
The Reds might not be in such desperate need of pitching if President Bob Howsam had not made one of his rare bad trades a couple of years ago, sending Joaquin Andujar to Houston (4-4) for two pitchers who are no longer playing. Andujar (6-3) stifled the Dodgers 5-3 and the Reds 8-1 last week. He has a 4-0 record and a 2.25 ERA against the Reds since being traded. Second Baseman Art Howe slugged a two-run homer in that 8-1 game. And he had three doubles in a 6-4 victory over Cincinnati, with the last of his two-baggers driving in two runs in the 11th inning and putting Houston ahead for keeps. Bob Watson sent the game into extra innings with a three-run homer in the ninth.
San Francisco (2-7) was mighty on offense and feeble on defense. Willie McCovey and Gary Thomasson each hit three homers and Jack Clark and Darrell Evans two. In all, Clark batted .458 and drove in nine runs. But the Giants committed 15 errors, raising their total for the season to 62 in 51 games. The only complete game by a San Francisco pitcher-was Ed Halicki's 2-0, 11-strikeout conquest of the San Diego Padres.
The Braves (4-4) won four from the Giants and pulled to within two games of fifth place. In the process, they walloped seven homers, including Jeff Burroughs' 13th, a grand slam, in a 7-1 victory. In a 2-1 win over San Francisco, Jamie Easterly and Rick Camp teamed up to toss a six-hitter, and Jerry Royster knocked in both runs with a single in the eighth inning.
LA 35-16 CIN 24-25 SD 25-30 HOUS 22-29 SF 21-30 ATL 20-33
A few weeks ago Cleveland President Ted Bonda said that "only a miracle" would enable Manager Frank Robinson to keep his job. Since then, the Indians have tried to produce the miracle. Last week they won five of eight games and have won 10 of 13 following Bonda's "miracle" message. Robinson's main source of on-field support was Dennis Eckersley. After pitching five innings against the Angels in Cleveland on Memorial Day, Eckersley was well aware that he had not allowed the Angels a hit. From then on, Eckersley said, "I made sure to do exactly the same thing every inning so as not to change my luck. I'd come in, sit down about the middle of the bench, put on my jacket, take off my cap. take a drink, spit out a mouthful of water, go back to the middle of the bench, sit down and put my cap back on. Along about the seventh, I started to get some chills. Maybe it was because of the way the fans were cheering." With one out to go to lock up his no-hitter, Eckersley felt that the Angel batter, Gil Flores, was stalling. So he yelled at Flores. "One more out, and you are it." Flores was it, Eckersley fanning him on four pitches. The Indians rewarded Eckersley with a $3,500 bonus and gave $1,500 to his catcher, Ray Fosse.
Eckersley's no-hitter extended his string of hitless innings to 16‚Öî. Four nights later, pitching against the Mariners in Seattle, he had a chance to break Cy Young's 73-year-old record of 23 consecutive hitless innings. Eckersley had begun his streak against the Mariners on May 25, silencing their bats for the final 7‚Öî innings during a 2-1, 12-inning victory. This time he pitched 5‚Öî hitless innings—putting him within two outs of Young's mark—before Ruppert Jones homered over the center-field fence. That was the only hit off Eckersley, who was replaced by Jim Kern in the seventh inning of Cleveland's 7-1 victory. The two wins for Eckersley, 22, boosted his record to 6-3 and lowered his ERA to 2.87.
Also helping to keep Robinson gainfully employed were Second Baseman Duane Kuiper and Centerfielder Rick Manning. Kuiper beat Oakland 5-4 with a ninth-inning single, tripled and scored the only run, via a suicide squeeze, as Eckersley no-hitted California and Frank Tanana 1-0. He also drove home three runs in a 6-4 win over Detroit. Manning hit .353 and knocked in six runs, four in a 7-5 defeat of Seattle.
After being shelled for five runs and 10 hits in six innings by the Indians in his second start, Mark Fidrych of Detroit (3-4) said, "Some small thing I've got to find. I'm going to find it. My slider's not working. I'm getting behind hitters. When we win, everybody in here smiles. When we lose, it's dead. It stinks when it's dead." A day later the Tiger clubhouse was alive, thanks to 20-year-old rookie Dave Rozema, who, with relief help from Steve Foucault, cooled off the Indians 4-2 for his fifth win. "Rozema has the makings of a 30-game winner," Frank Robinson said. John Hiller pulled off a unique double by winning as both a starter and reliever. With Foucault's aid, Hiller beat Oakland 5-2, and then back in his usual fireman's role he tossed 3‚Öî innings of one-hit relief as Detroit downed California 9-6. Rookie Outfielder Tim Corcoran's three-run homer off Nolan Ryan in the eighth inning settled that contest.
Baltimore has finished in first place five times in the last eight seasons, and the Orioles were in first place all last week—in spite of themselves. Mike Flanagan might well have beaten Minnesota, if it had not been for Left-fielder Pat Kelly and Manager Earl Weaver, both of whom felt they had done the right thing—only to discover they had not. Kelly thought he had caught a long drive by Roy Smalley, but when he looked in his glove the ball was not there. It was on the other side of the fence, where it landed after plopping out of Kelly's glove. Still, the Birds trailed only 2-0 in the eighth. But then Weaver did some deep thinking. With Twins on second and third and two out, Weaver ordered Flanagan, a left-handed pitcher, to walk Dan Ford. After Flanagan threw two wide pitches, Weaver realized his mistake: he thought Ford was Larry Hisle, the league's RBI leader and the next Twin up after Ford. Weaver told Flanagan not to finish the intentional pass to Ford, but the Oriole hurler walked him unintentionally. Hisle then singled home the eventual winning run, and the Orioles lost 3-2.
Weaver committed another gaffe in Chicago, bringing in left-handed Pitcher Scott McGregor to face Jim Essian, a righty hitter, with the bases jammed. "I thought first base was open," Weaver later explained. "I was going to have Scottie walk Essian and pitch to the lefty [Ralph Garr]." Essian, taking advantage of Weaver's boo-boo, hit a three-run double that gave the White Sox a 7-0 lead, and Chicago held on to win 7-4. Weaver later apologized to his players. The Orioles (4-5) did salvage four narrow victories, including Jim Palmer's seventh win, a 3-1 decision over Minnesota. Lee May, who had hit just two homers all season, socked two in a 9-7 defeat of the Twins. By week's end May had walloped four more and driven in 16 runs. May homered in a 7-6 squeaker over Kansas City, a game that ended with Baltimore executing an unusual triple play. With the bases loaded and none out in the ninth, John Wathan hit a sacrifice fly to Kelly. Dave Nelson advanced from second to third after the catch, but Fred Patek was caught trying to go from first to second. Shortstop Mark Belanger tagged Patek for the second out, spied Nelson streaking for home and chased him down for the third out. A three-run homer by Catcher Rick Dempsey, his first of the year, enabled the Orioles to beat the Royals 5-4 the next day.
Catfish Hunter of New York (4-4) lost again, but this time it was only a pregame cow-milking contest against Minnesota Second Baseman Bob Randall. Ed Figueroa (7-3) won twice, Sparky Lyle picked up his 10th save and Graig Nettles slugged three homers to raise his total to 12.
It took superb individual efforts to keep Boston (4-4) in third place. Reggie Cleveland came out of the bullpen to start against the Yankees and stopped them 5-1 on 97 pitches. Bill Lee needed only 78 pitches to beat Minnesota 5-2. Fred Lynn, limping on a bad ankle, drove home two runs in that game and deprived Dan Ford of a home run by leaping up and reaching over the center-field wall to glove the ball.
Milwaukee (3-3) stopped Texas 3-2 in 10 innings on Sixto Lezcano's 10th homer. Toronto (2-4) lengthened its home run-less streak to 10 games, but managed to beat Oakland 4-2 on a bases-loaded single in the eighth inning by Otto Velez. Catcher Alan Ashby gunned down seven of nine would-be base stealers and now has thrown out 31 of 55.
BALT 28-21 NY 28-23 BOS 26-23 MIL 26-26 CLEV 22-24 DET 20-27 TOR 19-30
A 14-13 Royal win over the Orioles in Kansas City had all of the following: a wild pitch, a passed ball, a sacrifice, two errors, two triples, three sacrifice flies, four doubles, five homers, six stolen bases and 32 hits. Kansas City (4-3) led 10-4 after two innings, but Baltimore tied the score 11-11 in the seventh and 13-13 in the ninth. Al Cowens opened the 10th for the Royals with a single, went to third on a double by Hal McRae and scored the winning run on a sacrifice fly by Joe Zdeb (pronounced Zdeb). John May-berry, who had been in a 21-month slump and had started the week batting only .218, belted five home runs and had seven hits in his last 20 at bats. He attributed his resurgence to a new stance, one that Manager Whitey Herzog suggested. "It's more open," Mayberry said. "I'm closer to the plate, and it allows me a more free-swinging style."
There was an abundance of free swinging throughout the division as teams scored six or more runs 33 times in 52 games. Chicago (5-3) did it five times, beating New York 9-4 and 9-5, Baltimore 7-4 and Milwaukee 8-3. Oddly, half of the White Sox' eight homers came in an 8-6 loss to the Yankees. In that defeat, Richie Zisk became the 18th player to hit a ball out of Comiskey Park, blasting his 15th home run, tops in the majors.
Minnesota's Rod Carew was mired in one of his infrequent slumps—1 for 17—when he came up with two out and the bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth against New York. One swing later Carew ended the game and his decline, singling across two runs for a 4-3 win. He had seven more hits in the next two contests. Even more encouraging to the Twins (4-4) were a pair of victories by Dave Goltz and another by Pete Red-fern, neither of whom had been pitching well. Goltz beat Baltimore 3-2 and Boston 6-2, while Redfern downed the Orioles 8-3.
Oakland, California and Texas were all at .500 and tied for third place. Dock Ellis, who had a 22.50 ERA after his first four starts for the A's (5-3), felt he had to change something. So he shaved his head. Then he went out and trimmed the Tigers 6-3. Mike Norris, recently recalled from San Jose, tossed a four-hitter to beat Seattle 1-0. Marty Perez, a .202 hitter before the game, tripled, doubled and singled twice in a 6-3 win over the Mariners. Jerry Remy of the Angels (2-3) had five hits in a game against the Indians, his last driving home a run in the 10th for a 7-6 triumph. Two of Bobby Bonds' three homers helped the Angels to victories, one coming as Nolan Ryan stopped Toronto 3-2 and the other in the 7-6 win over Cleveland. Toby Harrah hit the first Ranger home run in nine games in a 3-1 defeat of the Red Sox. He also doubled in the 11th inning to drive in the winning run as Texas (3-5) beat Milwaukee 5-4.
By defeating Detroit 3-1 and 6-4, Seattle (4-4) concluded its first-ever three-game sweep. The Mariners stretched their winning streak to five by shellacking Ranger aces Bert Blyleven and Gaylord Perry 7-4 and 9-3 in a doubleheader. Those wins concluded an 8-3 road trip for the Mariners, who returned home and lost four in a row.
MINN 31-19 CHI 28-20 TEX 23-23 CAL 24-24 OAK 25-25 KC 23-25 SEA 21-34
PLAYER OF THE WEEK
DENNIS ECKERSLEY: The Cleveland right-hander pitched a no-hitter against California, winning 1-0 as he struck out 12 and walked one. Four days later he went 5‚Öî innings before allowing a hit as he beat Seattle 7-1.