"We've just got to start appreciating the little things about this team," Atlanta owner Ted Turner said rather pleadingly. Turner was right. After all, the big news about the Braves (1-5) was hardly worthy of appreciation: losses in their first seven games (two short of the league record for a season's start), with 16 errors, only one homer and a batting average of .199 during that span. Rick Matula put an end to the misery when he beat the Reds, who had won their first eight outings, getting 18 ground-ball outs as he won 3-0.
Among the reasons why Cincinnati rooters had plenty to cheer about were three five-hitters against Atlanta. Rookie lefthander Charlie Leibrandt allowed only singles while winning 5-0. Frank Pastore, backed by two-run homers by Dan Driessen and Ray Knight, was a 4-1 victor. And Bill Bonham and Tom Hume combined for a 6-1 triumph.
With Steve Yeager nursing an inflamed left elbow and Joe Ferguson on the disabled list with a back injury, the Dodgers (2-5) put 156-pound Derrel Thomas behind the plate. "I caught three games in the Little League when I was 10," Thomas said after catching for the first time in his nine seasons in the majors in a 9-5 loss at San Diego during which the Padres stole six bases. Two nights later against Houston, Thomas caught again, and the Astros stole seven bases in eight tries. Still, the Dodgers won 6-4 as Ron Cey, who during one stretch had seven straight hits, knocked in four runs. Houston (5-1) didn't steal a base against Thomas the next day, but got 11 hits and made good use of three wild pitches, two passed balls and one L.A. error to win 7-4.
San Diego (3-4) also took advantage of the Dodgers, winning 2-1 by getting two runs in the eighth without a hit. The Padres made the most out of three walks, a wild pitch and a sacrifice fly.
Vida Blue of San Francisco (3-4) was a double winner against San Diego, triumphing 3-1 and then, with venerable Willie McCovey driving in three runs, 7-3.
CIN 9-1 HOUS 7-2 SD 6-4 LA 3-7 SF 3-7 ATL 1-8
The last thing the Pirates (3-2) need is more offense. That, however, was precisely what they got from two pitchers. En route to a 3-0 triumph in St. Louis, Jim Rooker hit a two-run homer. Then Jim Bibby drove in three runs as the Bucs outslugged the Cardinals 12-10.
The Cardinals (3-3) weren't intimidated by the Pirates. George Hendrick homered and had six RBIs to finish off the Bucs 12-9 and made John Fulgham a 2-1 victor in Pittsburgh by singling across the decisive run in the eighth. Hendrick batted .440 for the week and had nine RBIs. As for Fulgham, who had been clobbered the previous week by the Bucs, he said the difference was that "I had control of my mind this time" and that Coach Claude Osteen "got me to drive with my front shoulder instead of just slinging the ball."
One pitcher the Cardinals would like to have back is Steve Carlton of the Phillies (2-3), who beat St. Louis 8-3 to raise his record against the Cards to 24-8 since he was traded away in 1972. Philly's Dickie Noles struck out eight and didn't give up a run in 6⅖ innings in three relief appearances. Noles picked up a save during a 13-4 drubbing of the Expos as the Phillies scored eight times in the last two innings.
For late uprisings, though, no one matched Chicago (2-2), which defeated New York 12-9 after trailing 9-1 in the sixth. Dave Kingman, who already had hit a two-run homer, concluded the rally with the fifth Cub dinger of the day, a grand slam in the eighth.
Except for a 5-0 win over Chicago in which Pete Falcone gave up just five singles and a 3-2 triumph over Montreal in which Neil Allen got his third save, the week was bad news for New York (2-3). The Montreal victory was attended by only 2,052 fans, the sparsest gathering ever to watch the Mets at Shea.
Montreal starting pitchers lasted a total of only 24 innings, long enough to be racked up for 16 earned runs and 33 hits. But the Expos stole 10 bases, benefited from some long-ball hitting and got strong pitching from their bullpen, which in one 19-inning stretch gave up only a single run. Montreal beat the Phillies 5-4 when Ellis Valentine homered in the 10th and 7-5 as Gary Carter had four RBIs. The big gun, though, was Warren Cromartie, who hit .579 and unloaded two homers during a 7-3 triumph in New York.
PITT 5-3 CHI 4-3 PHIL 4-3 ST. L 4-5 MONT 3-4 NY 3-5
"I've always said games are won and lost in the clubhouse," Texas Outfielder Al Oliver said. "Last year everybody just sat around and waited for a miracle. We're a lot looser this year. Guys are cracking at me and I enjoy it." Ranger bats did some cracking, too. Mickey Rivers had 10 hits and Rusty Staub had seven, while Jim Sundberg and Buddy Bell each drove in seven runs. First-place Texas (5-2) rallied for three wins, the most dramatic an 8-7 comebacker against Cleveland. The Indians, who led 7-0 in the fifth, were beaten when Richie Zisk slammed a two-out, three-run homer in the ninth. The Rangers got five-hit shutouts by Jon Matlack, who beat the Indians 3-0, and Gaylord Perry, who defeated the Red Sox 8-0.
With Bruce Bochte hitting .447 and Dan Meyer .410, and with its staff pitching four complete-game wins, Seattle (5-3) clung to second place. Floyd Bannister went the distance twice, beating Toronto 5-1 and Minnesota 3-1, and had 14 strikeouts.
Although the A's (5-1) have not been able to line up a radio station to broadcast their games, erstwhile announcer Red Rush has kept coming to the park. What Rush was unable to report was that Wayne Gross had eight RBIs and two homers, that Oakland executed three successful suicide squeeze plays and that the A's pitchers suddenly looked like a bunch of Walter Johnsons as they held opponents to a .190 batting average. Matt Keough, 2-17 last season, was 2-0 after beating Seattle 6-1 on six hits. Also 2-0 was Mike Norris, who had been 5-8 in 1979. After defeating the Twins 4-1 with a three-hit, 11-strikeout performance, Norris four-hit the Angels, gaining a 3-1 victory in which Jeff Jones picked up the final two outs.
With a 4-0 lead after the fifth and Jim Palmer on the mound, the Orioles had good reason to feel confident against the White Sox (4-2). Palmer, however, was shelled. Then, in the 12th inning, Marv Foley tagged Tippy Martinez for a homer that gave Chicago a 5-4 win. That was the first home run yielded by Martinez in 66 games and 123 innings since May 1978. Picking up the victory was Ed Farmer, who earlier had earned two saves.
California pitchers, who last season set a club record with a dismal 4.34 earned run average, currently have a 2.54 ERA. Helping the Angels (3-3) effect this turnaround were Dave Frost, who held the Twins to four hits in a 2-1, 10-inning California victory, and Frank Tanana, a 3-1 winner over Minnesota. Frost won when Don Baylor foiled Minnesota Manager Gene Mauch's strategy of yanking his centerfielder and inserting a fifth infielder with two runners on and one out in the 10th. After Baylor ended the game with a sacrifice fly, Mauch said his maneuver had failed because "we didn't have infielders 22 feet tall." The Twins (2-6) had other shortcomings, not the least of which was their .210 average for the week.
Willie Mays Aikens may not be hitting with the power the Royals (2-4) expected of him when they traded for him last December, but at least he did end an 0-for-13 slump with a two-run single in a 3-2 defeat of Detroit.
TEX 7-2 SEA 7-4 CHI 6-3 OAK 6-3 CAL 4-4 KC 4-5 MINN 4-7
Tony Perez of Boston (4-2) denied it, but his teammates maintained that in the dugout he admitted that as he had barreled toward home plate he had yelled "corta," Spanish for "cut," at Detroit Pitcher Aurelio Lopez. Whatever the reason, Lopez, who should have been behind the plate to back up the play, remained in the infield and cut off a throw from the outfield on Carl Yastrzemski's double. Thus, Perez scored the run that made the Red Sox 10-9 winners. Perez, who ran through Third Base Coach Eddie Yost's stop sign on the cutoff play, had four hits that day, one his first Fenway Park homer since his historic blast for Cincinnati in the seventh game of the 1975 World Series. Another hero of that Series, Carlton Fisk, homered in the 11th the next day to knock off Detroit 5-4. With such timely hitting, it mattered little that the phone to the Boston bullpen was out of order or that the cart that brings in relievers had been left at the team's spring training camp.
Unlike Perez, Charlie Moore of Milwaukee (2-3) wasn't an alert base runner during a 3-1 loss to Boston. With runners on first and second, Moore faked a bunt and swung away, his grounder resulting in a forceout at second base. After racing to first, though, Moore, in a mental lapse, drifted to the Brewer dugout. At the urging of his teammates, he dashed back toward the field and slid into the bag. He beat the throw, but was ruled out for "abandoning his effort to run the bases."
Rick Bosetti's ninth-inning home run and the pitching of Paul Mirabella gave Toronto (2-2) a 1-0 win over Milwaukee. Even though he didn't get to spring training, Danny Ainge, a guard on Brigham Young's basketball team, had two singles and a double in his first game after reporting to the Blue Jays.
The Yankees (3-4) pounded out 25 hits while sweeping a 9-4, 8-2 doubleheader in Texas. As usual, Tommy John kept his infielders busy during a two-hit, 6-0 whitewash in Chicago, getting 20 outs on grounders.
Ten homers, three by Ken Singleton, powered Baltimore (4-2). One of Singleton's drives helped Mike Flanagan beat KC 2-1.
A crowd of 61,753 at the home opener in Cleveland (1-4) felt there was hope for the future after rookie Outfielder Joe Charboneau singled, doubled and slugged a lengthy line-drive homer in an 8-1 drubbing of Toronto.
Detroit Manager Sparky Anderson, who has become a pipe smoker, burned a hole in his pants when he dropped a match. The only time his Tigers (1-5) were on fire, though, was when Steve Kemp hit a double and two homers to hand the Royals an 8-6 loss.
MIL 4-3 BALT 5-4 BOS 4-4 TOR 3-4 NY 3-6 CLEV 2-5 DET 2-7
PLAYER OF THE WEEK
J.R. RICHARD: Houston's 6'8", 235-pound righthander ran his record to 2-0 and defeated Los Angeles for the 13th time in a row dating back to June 1976 by firing a one-hitter and striking out 12 batters in a 2-0 win.