How do the Pittsburgh Pirates love the state of California? Let them count the ways. They would love California to fall into the Pacific Ocean; they would love California to secede from the Union, not to mention the National League. The Pirates (0-6) were in a fight for the lead in their division when they hit the West Coast. Seven straight losses later they were four games under .500 and seven games behind Philadelphia. The Giants took two of three from the Pirates, the Padres beat them three straight and the Dodgers finished them off with 7-3 and 2-1 defeats.
The St. Louis Cardinals (2-3) have proved they can lose anywhere, but Manager Ken Boyer also was not exactly a proponent of California. "I can't understand it," Boyer said. "The players keep saying they can't wait to go to the West Coast to play and get away from that St. Louis heat." Even in California the Cards needed a two-hitter from rookie Silvio Martinez, in a 2-1 victory over the Giants, and a 2-0 shutout against the Dodgers from Pete Vuckovich, to salvage a 4-13 record in that state this season.
The Phils (2-5) lost three at home to Atlanta, batting 19 for 100 during the series. One of those losses was a 4-0 shutout on just four hits to the Braves' Tom Boggs (2-5). Steve Carlton won his 200th game in a 13-2 victory over Houston, then lost 2-1 to Cincinnati.
Chicago (3-4) finally got Dave Kingman off the injured list, only to lose Bill Buckner in an 8-2 loss to LA. Buckner had just hit his third straight single and raised his average to .329 when he went down with a pulled hamstring. Montreal (1-6) blew a 5-0 lead in the bottom of the ninth against Houston, losing 6-5. From there it was all uphill for the Expos. The Mets (2-4) took two of three from the Reds in front of uncharacteristically large crowds that had come to Shea Stadium to see Pete Rose extend his hitting streak.
PHIL 54-44 CHI 51-49 PITT 47-51 MONT 48-57 NY 45-60 ST.L 40-63
San Francisco went 3-3 and watched its once 3½-game lead shrink to a tie with the Dodgers. Still, it wasn't a total loss for the Giants, who didn't score a run in two games last Friday night with the Cubs but still won one of them. The Giants held off Chicago for the two innings remaining in a game which they led 9-8 when it was suspended eight days before. Then the Cubs' Dennis Lamp beat them 1-0, with the Giants leaving 11 men on base. San Francisco's pitching remained solid, but the club's hitting began to falter. Even Rightfielder Jack Clark suffered a bit at the plate, his consecutive-game hitting streak ending at 26.
The Dodgers (5-1) continued their hot streak, winning for the 33rd time in 48 games since June 10 with a 2-1 triumph over Pittsburgh. Don Sutton won his 11th in that game, Burt Hooton also won his 11th in an 8-2 defeat of the Cubs that completed a three-game sweep, and Tommy John raised his record to 12-7 with a 7-3 victory over the Pirates. John helped himself with a three-run double off a 29-ounce bat he borrowed from Pinch Hitter Manny Mota's 12-year-old son Andres. Now John is going to have to buy the kid a new bat; he broke it the next time up.
The Reds (4-3) lost three in a row, 9-2, 12-3 and 12-2, before recovering with a pair of wins against Philadelphia. Johnny Bench became the 41st player in major league history to hit 300 homers when he clouted his 13th of the season against the Mets. "They always said they wanted me to be a 300 hitter," said Bench. "Now I am."
Life suddenly became lovely at the bottom of the standings, where the three most woebegone teams in the West had a 16-3 record. The Houston Astros (5-1) came home from a seven-game losing skid on the road and put together a five-game winning streak in the Astrodome. Houston is 32-22 in its own ball yard, 14-34 elsewhere. J. R. Richard, who leads the league in strikeouts with 194, fired his third two-hitter of the season in an 8-3 victory over the Mets. It was a vintage Richard performance: smoke and wildfire. The strapping 6'8" righthander uncorked three wild pitches in one inning, the second time he had done so this year and the second time he had tied the National League record for most wild pitches in one inning. He also walked five batters and struck out nine.
The Braves (6-1) beat the Phils three straight and took two of three from Montreal. As dismal as the season has been in Atlanta, Braves fans were encouraged to learn that the team's 46th win last Wednesday came exactly a month ahead of last season's 46th, which occurred on Aug. 26. Atlanta's No. 1 draft choice, Third Baseman Bob Horner, hit two home runs and a double in a 6-4 defeat of the Expos, then added another pair of homers in a 9-6 win over Montreal the next day.
The San Diego Padres (5-1) covered themselves in something approximating glory by winning five in a row and raising their record to 52-52, the first time in the club's 10-year history the team has been at .500 this late in the season. Rightfielder Oscar Gamble, who has hit .448 since June 21 and raised his average from a low of .211 on May 21 to .298 last week, has given up trying for home runs, despite the fact that he smote 31 while playing for the White Sox last season. He has hit only six this season, largely, Gamble says, because he has been unable to raise his sights above the 17-foot-high outfield wall in San Diego Stadium. By switching to a thicker bat, Gamble has been spraying the ball to all fields. "It isn't as much fun as hitting home runs," he says, "but we're winning, and I have to take what the pitchers give me."
Gaylord Perry recorded his 257th win when the Padres beat Pittsburgh 6-5 and Bob Shirley got his first win in four weeks in a relief effort, also against the Pirates.
SF 61-42 LA 61-42 CIN 60-43 SD 52-52 ATL 48-54 HOUS 46-56
The New York Yankees (5-3) had a manager when they left Chicago early last week. By the time they got to Kansas City they had no manager. Then they had a manager again, albeit a different one. By week's end they had two managers, one peering out of their dugout and the other circling like a martin over Yankee Stadium (page 12). From time to time, the Yankees also played baseball.
Boston (2-6) gave a lot, got a little. The Red Sox, in the midst of a 1-9 slide, lost their invaluable veteran, Carl Yastrzemski, who was hospitalized with a back injury. The Sox also scored only one run in 32 innings. However, they did get back Shortstop Rick Burleson, who had been on the disabled list since July 14 with an injured ankle. But most important, Boston managed to stay 5½ games ahead of second-place Milwaukee (2-5).
The Brewers were having problems of their own, committing 15 errors (six in one game) and losing twice to both the White Sox and Toronto. In the six-error game against California, an 11-9 loss, Brewer Pitchers Bill Travers, Randy Stein and Bill Castro walked six batters and hit four. The only bright spots were Pitcher Mike Caldwell, who won his 13th, and Gorman Thomas, whose four homers brought his season total to 23, tying him with teammate Larry Hisle and California's Don Baylor for second in the American League behind Boston's Jim Rice.
Baltimore (5-2) gained ground as Second Baseman Rich Dauer went 14 for 33. Nearly as hot was Third Baseman Doug DeCinces, who was hitting .336 for the month of July. DeCinces swatted two home runs—one of them a grand slam—Tuesday to lead Baltimore to a 7-6 win over Texas. The next day he had two more in a 9-6 loss to Detroit. Jim Palmer, who has been sprouting a good-luck mustache, won his 13th game, beating California 5-4.
Detroit (6-2) found a new pitcher named Kip Young, who won twice, and learned that Mark Fidrych, but of the lineup with shoulder problems, may return to active duty soon. Cleveland (3-4) tried, but failed, to mount a serious challenge to Toronto's (3-5) lock on the division cellar.
BOS 64-37 MIL 58-42 BALT 57-45 NY 56-45 DET 54-48 CLEV 48-53 TOR 38-65
As a relief pitcher, Doug Bird of Kansas City (5-2) had been ineffective most of the season. He had a disappointing 3-4 record when KC Manager Whitey Herzog gave him his fourth start of the year against Seattle. Bird responded by holding the Mariners hitless for six innings, before giving way to Steve Mingori, who allowed only one hit en route to his fifth save in the 12-3 win. Rookie Pitcher Rich Gale pitched the Royals to their 13th win in 14 games with a 4-0 victory over Boston, the first time the Red Sox were shut out in Fenway Park since Aug. 24 of last year. The Royals suffered a blow, however, when they learned that Third Baseman George Brett would be lost for at least 15 days because of a bone chip in his right hand.
Things were popping again in Chicago's Comiskey Park, where Bill Veeck runs the White Sox (3-4) his own way. After the Sox had snapped out of a nine-game losing streak with a pair of victories over Milwaukee, Veeck announced the club would open its season—yes, again—on Friday night against Texas. Veeck hired three bands (mariachi, German, Dixieland) and had a pretty girl drop the first ball from what was billed as the world's largest hot-air balloon. As he doubtless had hoped, Veeck managed to divert attention from the fact that the Sox were once again losing and were 16 games under .500.
Texas slugger Bobby Bonds, who was playing for Chicago back on the first opening day of the season, wanted no part of this one. Since he was peddled to the Rangers (3-4), Bonds has been booed and pelted with garbage in the Comiskey Park outfield. He refused to join in the pregame introductory ceremonies, saying, "If there's a fine, I'll pay it. But I'm not going out there."
California (4-4) split two games each with Detroit, Cleveland, Milwaukee and Baltimore. Pitchers Nolan Ryan and Chris Knapp were mentioned as trade bait for Reggie Jackson of the Yankees. Ryan (5-9) has been wild and ineffective all season, and Knapp, who "retired" on July 16, was reinstated at his own request on Monday.
Charlie Finley had a talk with his Oakland (4-3) players, and instead of grumbling they thanked him. Third Baseman Taylor Duncan credited Finley with advising him how to hit Chicago knuckleballer Wilbur Wood. After Reserve Infielder Rob Picciolo, a .212 hitter, got two hits in a 6-5 decision over Cleveland, he said Finley gave him advice about how to control his bat more effectively.
Seattle (3-4) swept a three-game series from Toronto, then woke up and lost twice to Kansas City and twice to Detroit. Manager Gene Mauch of Minnesota (4-4) got a three-year extension of his contract from owner Calvin Griffith, and the Twins continued to look as if it would take at least that long to field a contender.
KC 57-43 CAL 55-49 OAK 53-51 TEX 49-52 MINN 44-55 CHI 42-58 SEA 36-68
PLAYER OF THE WEEK
BOB HORNER: The Braves' rookie third baseman had 12 hits, seven RBIs and four homers and scored nine runs in 27 at bats. Since his first major league game on June 16, he has batted .285, with nine home runs and 26 RBIs.