When the season began, American League batters were itching to get at Oakland's five-man starting rotation, which had a combined 10-24 record in the majors last year. But those five—Rick Langford (8-19 in 1977), Matt Keough (1-3), Pete Broberg (1-2 with the Cubs) and a pair of rookies from the Giant organization, Johnny Johnson and Alan Wirth—are 5-2 so far. Together with a superlative bullpen, they have teamed up for a 1.44 staff ERA and have left those itchy batters scratching their heads. Broberg beat Minnesota 7-2, Keough disposed of Seattle 5-3 and Wirth was a 3-0 victor over the Mariners. They all got airtight relief from former Giant Elias Sosa. Another ex-San Franciscan, Gary Alexander, slugged his third and fourth homers for the A's (4-1). And Tony Armas drove in the decisive run in the 11th to knock off Minnesota 6-5.
Staying percentage points in front of the A's were the Royals (4-1). Dennis Leonard held off Cleveland 2-1, Paul Splittorff defeated Toronto 5-0 and Baltimore 5-3, and Reliever AI Hrabosky saved two games. Splittorff's wins were his 10th and 11th in a row since early last season.
Near-perfect relief work by Dave LaRoche and Paul Hartzell highlighted California's 5-1 week. LaRoche gave up just one hit in 5⅖ innings, saved one game and won another, while Hartzell yielded two hits in 6⅖ innings and had three saves. Frank Tanana, relying on an off-speed curve and changeup because he is still not fully recovered from last season's sore arm, ran his record to 4-0 with two wins. Don Baylor hit his third, fourth and fifth home runs, Ron Jackson batted .500 and Lyman Bostock finally contributed to the offense.
The $450,000-a-year outfielder explained his early-season slump by saying that when he was at the plate he had been "hallucinating" and that he felt himself "standing outside my body." He added, "If I don't do well the rest of April, I'm not going to take any pay for the month." That said (the offer was declined by owner Gene Autry), Bostock broke out of his .051 doldrums with three hits in an 11-2 rout of the Mariners.
Five hits and five RBIs by Bob Stinson helped Seattle (3-4) break an eight-game losing streak by sweeping a doubleheader from Minnesota 8-5 and 7-2. Tom House put in a gritty performance to earn the second victory, a 13-hitter in which he went all the way despite suffering a dislocated finger when struck by a batted ball in the first inning.
Home runs by Bill Nahorodny, Chet Lemon and Eric Soderholm enabled Chicago (1-3) to rout Toronto 11-2.
Minnesota, which stranded 59 runners, and Texas were winless. Dave Goltz, who had 20 victories for the Twins last year, lost for the third time and maintained his record of never having won in April during five-plus big league seasons. The April blues also infected Ranger fastballer Len Barker, who uncorked a truly wild pitch with the bases loaded in Boston. The heave landed halfway up the screen behind home plate.
KC 9-2 OAK 10-3 CAL 10-4 CHI 5-6 MINN 6-11 SEA 5-13 TEX 2-8
Tight relief work and a succession of rallies boosted Detroit (3-0) into the East lead. Jim Crawford's 3⅖ innings of hitless relieving helped the Tigers beat Toronto 4-3, and John Hiller came out of the bullpen to earn a 7-6 victory over Texas. He yielded only one hit in 4‚Äö√Ñ√∂‚àö√±‚àö¬® innings. Detroit had trailed the Rangers 3-0, but won when Tim Corcoran singled home Steve Dillard in the 10th. Chicago had Detroit down 6-0, only to lose 10-9 when Lou Whitaker capped a four-run last of the ninth with a run-scoring single. There was only one downbeat note for the Tigers: Mark Fidrych, missing a start, needed a cortisone shot in his aching shoulder.
Like Detroit and Boston (page 24), Milwaukee (2-5) hit far and often. But even though they had 10 home runs, the Brewers tumbled to third place as their pitchers gave up seven homers and 41 runs. Gorman Thomas, Cecil Cooper and Larry Hisle tied Baylor for the league lead in four-baggers with five apiece. And Dick Davis was the majors' hottest rookie hitter at .429.
A two-hitter by Rick Waits gave Cleveland (2-2) a 6-0 victory over Texas. The Indians' other win was a 13-4 drubbing of the Red Sox, in which Andre Thornton hit for the cycle.
Don Stanhouse saved two games for Baltimore (3-3): a 7-5 decision over Milwaukee and a 2-1 win for Jim Palmer over Kansas City. Lee May hit three homers and had eight RBIs for the week and scored the go-ahead run in that 2-1 victory over the Royals when Dennis Leonard threw two wild pitches.
By turning a bunt into a triple play, Jim Clancy of the Blue Jays (2-4) helped lock up his first triumph, a 4-2 win over Chicago.
"There's a projection of emotion and sensitivity by the crowd in that situation," said Reggie Jackson of New York (3-3) after his bottom-of-the-ninth homer beat Baltimore 4-3. In such instances, Jackson said, "I swell up with confidence and relaxness." Roy White was less voluble after his single in the 12th polished off the Brewers 4-3. Reliever Rich Gossage was talking to himself after his errors on two consecutive bunts gave Toronto a 4-3 win, and Gossage an 0-3 record.
DET 8-2 BOS 9-4 MIL 7-7 NY 6-7 CLEV 4-6 BALT 5-8 TOR 4-9
Reliever Skip Lockwood of New York (4-2) said the Mets "might end up serendipitous. It's like falling in a mud puddle and finding a fish in your pocket." The Mets fell twice, they did not hit a homer, and Steve Henderson went 0 for 21, but when they got up they were in first place. There was nothing fishy about their rise. Lockwood saved two games, Pat Zachry mowed down St. Louis 2-0 on two hits and Bobby Valentine and Ron Hodges had game-winning hits.
Serendipity was not the lot of Ross Grimsley of Montreal (4-1), who endured numerous annoyances before facing Philadelphia. "Today I had a lot on my mind," Grimsley said. "I've been moving. My wife just got into town. Somebody broke into my van and stole my TV, and my insurance was canceled when I came to Canada." Because he drives a van, Grimsley cannot park indoors where the other Expos do at Olympic Stadium. So he paid to pull into a lot outside the stadium. Then he had to wander around the walls of the park because "there are 40,000 doors that lead nowhere." Putting those hassles aside, Grimsley beat the Phillies 5-3 to conclude a double-header sweep. Earlier, Grimsley had beaten New York 4-1 on a four-hitter.
Third-place Chicago (3-2) defeated New York 5-0 on the four-hit pitching of Dennis Lamp and a three-run homer by former Met Dave Kingman. Five hits were all the Pirates got off Rick Reuschel as he won 5-1.
After being weathered out several times, Philadelphia (1-2) was rusty, committing six errors and stranding 28 runners. The victory came when Pitcher Jim Lonborg drove in two runs and trimmed the Pirates 6-2. Pittsburgh (also 1-2), which was hitting .196 after 10 games, pounded out 14 hits in its 11th outing, an 8-7 win over the Cardinals. Duffy Dyer, batting for the first time this season, settled that game with a two-out, two-run double in the bottom of the ninth.
It was not until their final game of the week and 13th of the season that the Cardinals (0-4) got a homer from an outfielder. But even Jerry Morales' blast could not prevent another loss.
NY 9-6 MONT 7-5 CHI 7-6 PHIL 5-5 ST.L 5-8 PITT 4-7
While the Reds and Dodgers hammered home runs and struggled for first place, the Braves (2-5) just plain struggled, never hitting a ball over the fence. Atlanta, whose longest hits were six doubles, scored only seven runs, was shut out three times, batted .197 and hit into 10 double plays. Only a pair of remarkable pitching performances kept the Braves from a nonwinning week. Preston Hanna and Adrian Devine beat the Giants 1-0 on one hit. The next day Atlanta exploded for two runs as Dick Ruthven shut out San Francisco on two singles.
San Diego (3-3) swept three games from the Braves, with Rollie Fingers preserving 2-0 victories for Randy Jones and Bob Owchinko. Between those whitewashings, Gaylord Perry zapped Atlanta 9-3. Playing in the National League for the first time since 1971, Perry is taking his first swings in six years. And mighty cuts they were against the Braves: Perry had a single, two doubles and two RBIs. In that game he raised his strikeout total to 2,860 and moved into third place on the alltime list behind Bob Gibson and Walter Johnson.
Another venerable player, Willie McCovey of San Francisco (3-3), walloped a three-run homer in an 8-4 win over San Diego and hit his first triple—a two-run drive—since 1974 to help Vida Blue defeat Atlanta 5-1. Before his starting assignments, Bob Knepper tries to calm himself by reading. After perusing Basic Auto Mechanics, Knepper threw a wrench into the Big Red Machine's scoring. He beat Cincy 3-0, allowing three singles and getting 10 strikeouts.
Houston (4-2) executed its second triple play of the season, snuffing out a Los Angeles threat in the ninth to wrap up an 8-6 victory. Bob Watson started the tri-killing by fielding a liner hit by Ron Cey with men on first and second. Joe Niekro drove in two runs and tossed a four-hitter to beat San Diego 5-1, and Enos Cabell finished off the Reds 4-3 with a game-winning single in the 13th.
CIN 10-5 LA 9-5 SF 7-6 HOUS 7-8 SD 5-7 ATL 3-10
PLAYER OF THE WEEK
ELIAS SOSA: The 27-year-old right-handed relief pitcher from the Dominican Republic appeared in all five of Oakland's games, allowing two hits in 62⅖ innings, saving two wins over Seattle and beating Minnesota 6-5.