In a week of exceptional pitching (altogether there were 17 games in which American League teams were held to five hits or fewer) no one was more impressive than Nolan Ryan of California (2-3), who hurled the sixth one-hitter of his career as he defeated Cleveland 5-0. The only hit off Ryan was a sixth-inning single by Duane Kuiper. For Ryan, who struck out 12, the win was his second straight shutout, and it reduced his ERA to 1.62. Merv Rettenmund's pinch grand slam beat the Indians 7-3 for the Angels' other victory.
Two low-hit games were tossed by the remarkable first-place A's (4-1): John Johnson trimmed Detroit 5-1 on four hits, and Pete Broberg and Bob Lacey gave up five hits in an 11-3 romp over Toronto. Although he was only five for 18, Gary Alexander continued to make his hits count by connecting for three game-winning homers. Alexander, who has had seven game-deciding hits, got one of his home runs in an 11-3 rout of the Blue Jays, and settled 2-1 triumphs over Cleveland and Toronto with his other clouts.
Another 2-1 victory was chalked up by another Alexander—Pitcher Doyle of Texas (3-1)—who beat Baltimore on a three-hitter. Ferguson Jenkins' four-hit pitching seemed to be for naught until the Rangers scored twice in the bottom of the ninth to overtake the Red Sox 2-1. That uprising included a single by Bert Campaneris, an RBI double by Richie Zisk and an RBI pinch single by John Lowenstein. Zisk also drove in both runs in Alexander's squeaker and doubled his career total of stolen bases—he had two in 740 previous games—by stealing second and third as the Rangers beat the Yankees 9-5.
Seattle (3-2) had its first winning week of the season, with two of its triumphs coming against Toronto. Paul Mitchell yielded seven Blue Jay singles as he prevailed 6-0, and Steve Braun drove in four runs to back up Rick Honeycutt's four-hitter in a 9-1 romp. Reliever Enrique Romo worked out of a bases-full jam in the eighth against the Tigers, allowed only one hit in 3⅖ innings and became a 4-3 winner when Julio Cruz singled in the 11th inning.
"I was so nervous I felt the ground was rushing up at me," said Rich Gale after his pitching debut for Kansas City (1-5). Gale, a 6'7" redhead brought up from Omaha to replace injured Steve Busby, was a 3-0 victor over Milwaukee. Steve Mingori worked the final two innings after Gale, who already had three plantar warts and a bad back, developed a blister on his pitching hand.
"For the first time, I'm looking at baseball as a job," said Rod Carew of the struggling Twins (1-4). Adding to his miseries was an 11-9 defeat in Boston during which the Twins gave up seven walks and were guilty of two errors, a balk and a wild pitch. Nevertheless, Carew had some on-the-job fun against Baltimore. His fourth hit of the day, a three-run triple, highlighted a seven-run ninth and an 8-7 victory.
Chicago (1-4) clunked into the cellar, as Wilbur Wood earned the White Sox' only win, a 5-3 victory over Milwaukee in which Lamar Johnson hit a two-run, eighth-inning homer.
OAK 19-6 CAL 16-9 KC 14-10 TEX 11-11 SEA 10-20 MINN 9-19 CHI 7-15
With Mark Fidrych on the 21-day disabled list with tendinitis and another pitcher, Jack Morris, hurting, the Tigers (3-2) were desperate for starters. Into the breach stepped Milt Wilcox and Bob Sykes, who came through with a pair of four-hit wins. Wilcox beat the Angels 10-2, and Sykes, brought up from the minors to fill in for Fidrych, baffled the A's 6-0.
Despite having 10 injured or ailing players, Boston (5-2) moved to within two games of first-place Detroit. Jim Rice took over the major league lead in RBIs by raising his total to 30, and Dwight Evans beat Chicago 6-4 with a two-run homer in the 10th. On the mound, the Red Sox were given a lift by Dennis Eckersley, who held Minnesota to four hits while winning 8-1, and rookie Jim Wright, who defeated the White Sox 3-0.
Cleveland received the division's worst medical report: Wayne Garland underwent surgery on his pitching arm and cannot throw until next spring. Two homers and seven RBIs by Willie Horton enabled the Indians (2-3) to sink the Mariners 4-1 and 10-5.
Keeping the Brewers (3-2) and Orioles (3-3) going were tight pitching and late rallies. Milwaukee got consecutive shutouts from Jerry Augustine, who beat Chicago 4-0 on three hits, and Mike Caldwell, whose four-hitter upended Kansas City 9-0. The Brewers shocked the Royals 4-3 when Sal Bando hit a three-run homer in the bottom of the ninth and Gorman Thomas drew a bases-loaded walk. For Baltimore, it took a four-hitter by Dennis Martinez to cool off Boston 3-1, and a similar effort by Mike Flanagan to trim Minnesota 2-1.
Not all the nifty pitching was done by starters. After being dazzled by New York (5-1) Relievers Rich Gossage, Sparky Lyle and Rawly Eastwick, Kansas City Manager Whitey Herzog said, "That might be the greatest bullpen in history." In the first five games of the week, the Yankee threesome gave up just one run in 14‚Äö√Ñ√∂‚àö√±‚àö¬® innings and combined for two wins and four saves.
The Blue Jays (1-4) remained grounded. Dave Lemanczyk, Toronto's biggest winner last season, was 0-6 with an 8.10 ERA. Although he pitched a two-hitter, Tom Underwood lost to Oakland 2-1. And after pounding out 16 hits to drub the Angels 9-3, the batters did not produce an earned run during the final 25 innings of the week.
DET 16-6 BOS 16-10 NY 14-10 MIL 12-12 CLEV 10-13 BALT 10-14 TOR 8-17
Who says that managers don't win games? With a tip from Ken Boyer here and an order from him there, the Cardinals (3-3) came to life. Although he had been on the job for only a few days, Boyer spotted two things: the presence of a hitch in Garry Templeton's swing and the absence of Pete Vuckovich's good-luck shirt. Because Templeton was hitting .196, the Padres intentionally walked Lou Brock to get to him in the seventh inning of a scoreless game. Templeton, his hitch eliminated, singled in Mike Tyson from second with the game's only run. That made a winner of John Denny, who tossed a two-hitter. Vuckovich, who had not been pitching well, was ordered by Boyer to again don his paint-stained and tattered old Army shirt, which he used to wear to and from games. That's all it took. Vuckovich gave up just one hit in 4‚Äö√Ñ√∂‚àö√±‚àö¬® innings of relief and earned his first save, wrapping up a 4-0, four-hit victory over Los Angeles for John (Stick It In) Urrea. Seven of the league's 11 low-hit games were by Eastern Division pitchers, and St. Louis led the way with three. The Cards' third exemplary performance was by Bob Forsch, who baffled San Francisco 9-0 on five hits.
Steve Carlton of Philadelphia (4-1) was involved in two five-hitters, combining with Gene Garber to beat Cincinnati 12-1 and going the route to subdue New York 7-2. Umpire John Kibler failed to record a pitch on his ball-strike indicator, depriving Met Lenny Randle of a walk on a 3-2 delivery from Phillie Reliever Tug McGraw. Delighted by the oversight, McGraw whipped in a fastball, which Randle drilled for a triple. That ended a string in which McGraw had retired 35 consecutive Mets during the past two seasons. Undismayed, McGraw began a new streak by retiring the next three batters and stranding Randle at third. Also helping the Phillies to hold on to first place was a pinch grand slam by Dave Johnson during an 11-4 laugher over the Padres.
Lefthanders won only eight games last season for Montreal (3-1), but with Rudy May baffling the Astros 2-1 and Ross Grimsley stopping Houston 10-3, Expo lefties have already matched that total. Five RBIs by Gary Carter eased the way for Grimsley's fifth victory without a loss. Home runs by Larry Parrish and Ellis Valentine, plus the six-hit, 10-strikeout pitching of Steve Rogers led to a 4-3 win in Cincinnati.
Manny Trillo and Bruce Sutter were the key men in both wins for Chicago (2-3). A two-run triple in the eighth by Trillo upended Atlanta 7-5, and his RBI double in the 10th finished off Los Angeles 3-2. By pitching four innings of one-hit relief, Sutter earned both wins.
Three-run outbursts buoyed Pittsburgh (2-4). Scoring three times in both the seventh and eighth innings, the Pirates slipped past the Padres 7-4. The Bucs made a three-run first stand up for a 3-2 defeat of the Dodgers.
It was not the fault of Lee Mazzilli that the only team in the majors with a batting average under .220 was the Mets (2-4), who are hitting .208. Last week Mazzilli hit .444 and drove in seven runs. Two of his RBIs came during a 6-4 win over the Reds, a game in which Reliever Skip Lockwood got his fifth save.
PHIL 13-8 MONT 13-9 CHI 12-12 PITT 11-12 ST.L 11-14 NY 11-16
Some improbable heroes got the Braves (4-2) untracked. Catcher Biff Pocoroba, who had asked to be traded during the off-season, delivered game-winning hits two nights in a row against the Mets. Trailing New York 5-1, Atlanta got only its second come-from-behind win of the season on Pocoroba's eighth-inning double. That 6-5 triumph was followed by a 5-4 victory in which Pocoroba singled across the clinching run in the bottom of the ninth. The Braves promptly signed Pocoroba to a seven-year contract. Reliever Dave Campbell, who had an 0-7 record the past two years, won for the first time this season when Jerry Royster's single in the 10th beat Houston 2-1. And Pitcher Tommy Boggs, who "couldn't even hit a ball out in batting practice," hit one over the fence for his first big league homer as he beat the Astros 5-2 in his first win in the majors.
Such deeds moved Atlanta into a tie for fifth with Houston (0-4). Earlier in the season the Astros had hit well but lost because of shoddy pitching. Last week the pitchers improved, but the offense produced only seven runs.
San Francisco (4-1) did not have a potent attack, either, but won a pair of 2-1 games and beat St. Louis 4-0 behind Jim Barr. Despite three rain delays, Barr was touched for only five hits as he ran his lifetime record against the Cardinals to 10-3 and lowered his ERA against them to 1.86. "I was singing in the rain," Barr exulted.
Also making the best of inclement weather were the Dodgers (3-3). With the rain pelting down in Chicago, Davey Lopes borrowed an umbrella from a fan. Lopes then went to the on-deck circle, where he held the bumbershoot in one hand while swinging his bat with the other. It was so cold that day that the Dodgers built a small fire in the runway behind their dugout to warm their hands. They were resourceful on the field, too, winning 4-1 as Rick Rhoden improved his record to 4-0. Also keeping front-running Los Angeles on top were Lopes, who stole seven bases; Reggie Smith, who had seven RBIs; and Rick Monday, who batted .455 and slammed his ninth homer.
"It's embarrassing and extremely frustrating," admitted Tom Seaver of Cincinnati (2-3) after a miserable outing against Philadelphia in which he gave up seven hits, seven runs and six walks in two-plus innings. That left him 0-3, with a 6.52 ERA. "My mother called after the game," Seaver added. "She had seen it on national television. I'm 33 and I can still hear her yelling to me when I pitched Little League: 'Slow down. Slow down, Tom. You're rushing.' " Trying to slow down, Seaver later worked six shutout innings against Montreal before Reliever Pedro Borbon took over in the seventh and saved the 6-2 win.
More sophisticated technical advice helped another former Cy Young Award winner, Randy Jones of San Diego (3-3), right himself. Jones, who had walked 12 batters in 28 innings and had a 4.50 ERA, heeded a tip from Pitching Coach Chuck Estrada to pitch off the third-base side of the rubber. "It helped my control, took a lot of strain off my arm and made it easier to get the ball outside to lefthanded hitters," Jones said after issuing only two bases on balls while beating the Cardinals 2-1 with last-inning relief from Rollie Fingers.
LA 16-9 CIN 15-10 SF 13-11 SD 10-14 ATL 10-15 HOUS 10-15
PLAYER OF THE WEEK
JIM RICE: The slugging Boston outfielder-designated hitter slammed three home runs, including a pair of two-run blasts that beat Baltimore 9-6, batted .483, scored seven times and batted home 14 runs with his 14 hits.