Two of the biggest surprises of the season have been Relievers Dave Smith and Frank La-Corte of the first-place Astros (4-2). Smith, only 32-36 during four years in the minors, earned his fourth save by sealing a 6-5 victory over New York with three scoreless innings. He also has a 2.08 ERA. LaCorte, who has a reputation for having a rifle arm and scattergun control, began the year with a 5-26 record, the fourth worst in major league history for anyone with 30 or more decisions. (The record belongs to Joe Harris, who was 4-29 for the 1905-07 Red Sox.) By last Friday, though, LaCorte's record for 1980 was 7-1 and his ERA was 1.50, the best for any pitcher in either league with eight or more decisions. In his first three appearances last week, he didn't issue a walk in six innings. His seventh triumph came when the Astros shocked the Expos 9-8 with seven runs in the top of the ninth. But against Montreal Saturday, LaCorte had troubles: he gave up six walks in 2⅖ innings, the last forcing in the run that made him a 2-1 loser in the 12th.
Steve Howe got his ninth save and pared his ERA to 1.76 as Los Angeles (2-5) defeated Pittsburgh 4-2. After a 3-10 road trip that left them 20-32 in away games, the Dodgers returned to L.A. and beat the Cubs 7-6 on Dusty Baker's ninth-inning single. Los Angeles is 32-13 at home.
Ken Griffey's ninth-inning homer made Tom Hume of the Reds (5-1) a 4-3 winner over the Mets. Hume also saved his 15th, 16th and 17th games, the final one a 5-1 triumph in New York for Bill Bonham, who came off the disabled list for his first outing since May 3. Only one Cincinnati hurler didn't need relief help—Mario Soto, whose 3-2 victory over Philadelphia was his first complete game in almost three years.
Larry Herndon of the Giants (3-3) broke up a lengthy double-shutout with a two-run homer in the 15th that downed the Cubs 2-0. Jack Clark had four RBIs and Mike Ivie three during a 14-6 romp in Chicago. The two then combined to defeat Pittsburgh 4-3, Ivie driving in two runs and Clark delivering a tie-breaking triple in the 10th. Catcher Dennis Littlejohn also drew loud cheers from Candlestick Park rooters during that win. All season, opponents have stolen bases almost at will against San Francisco. Littlejohn, though, threw out three Pirates in succession—Mike Easier, Lee Lacy and Omar Moreno. After that feat, Littlejohn said modestly. "I had the wind at my back."
Although Bob Horner of the Braves (4-3) missed 35 games early in the season, he is second in the league in home runs with 21. Four round-trippers gave Horner 14 for the month, one short of the big league mark for July. Horner's 21st made it 16 in 25 games, during which time he also had 33 RBIs and a .934 slugging percentage. Gary Matthews finished off Montreal 6-5 with a single in the ninth, and Tommy Boggs blanked Philadelphia 3-0.
San Diego's starting pitchers continued to struggle, three losses leaving them 8-27 since May 17. Both wins for the Padres (2-4) were picked up by relievers, who have been 15-14 since that date. Rollie Fingers downed Pittsburgh 3-2 for his eighth victory, and Dennis Kinney won for the fourth time when Paul Dade walked with the bases full in the 11th to beat St. Louis 4-3.
HOUS 54-42 LA 52-45 CIN 51-46 SF 48-49 ATL 45-51 SD 40-57
Black clouds seemed to cast a pall all over the Eastern teams. None of them—not even the first-place Pirates (4-3)—could find a whole lot of sunshine. Bert Blyleven struck out 11 Padres while winning 7-1. And Lee Lacy batted .591 and had five hits as the Dodgers were overtaken 8-7 on Willie Stargell Day. But the Bucs were shaken when Dave Parker asked to be traded. After nearly being hit by a radio battery thrown by a spectator in the ninth inning of the opener of a doubleheader, Parker left the field and refused to play the nightcap. "I've reached the point of no return," said a fearful Parker, who also has had a gas valve from a pellet gun and a sock full of nuts and bolts thrown at him in Pittsburgh.
Gary Carter's two homers and six RBIs enabled Scott Sanderson of Montreal (2-4) to defeat Atlanta 8-6 for his 10th win. But Expo relievers yielded 14 runs and 24 hits in 16⅖ innings and lost four games.
Philadelphia (2-5) knocked off Atlanta 5-4 as Mike Schmidt connected for his 25th and 26th home runs and then walked with the bases jammed in the 12th. What worried the Phillies was that Greg Luzinski, who has been out for two weeks with a bum knee, may need surgery. And what irked Luzinski was what he termed Manager Dallas Green's "Gestapo" behavior. "He has a sign in the clubhouse that says, 'We, not I.' But when we lose, he seems to be excluded from the 'We,' " says Luzinski. Green, ever the tasteful wit, countered by wearing a swastika armband in the clubhouse.
New York (2-4) was heartened when Pat Zachry proved his comeback from arm trouble was complete by cooling off Cincinnati 2-0. Then the Mets were disheartened when John Stearns, who drove in both runs in that game, fractured his right index finger.
Lynn McGlothen cheered the Cubs (3-3) by stopping the Padres 6-0 and the Dodgers 5-3. But Bruce Sutter, who earned his 21st save in the victory over L.A., was depressed when Manager Preston Gomez was canned in favor of Coach Joe Amalfitano. Sutter's appraisal: "Three months ago Preston knew all there was to know about baseball, but now he doesn't?"
Even the Cardinals (5-1), who got three saves from John Littlefield and who had the East's best record, had reason to lament. Garry Templeton, who tripled in one run in the eighth and scored to give Bob Forsch a 2-1 triumph over San Francisco on a day when the temperature reached 146° on the Busch Stadium turf, was lost for several weeks after breaking his left thumb. At the time, Templeton had just taken over the league lead in batting with a .326 average. And then there was Reliever John Urrea, who eats four bananas daily for potassium to ameliorate his hypertension. Urrea was a 3-2 winner over the Dodgers as he hurled 4⅖ shutout innings. Four days later, though, Urrea faced only two batters in the 11th inning in San Diego and walked both to force in the run that made St. Louis a 4-3 loser.
PITT 54-42 MONT 51-42 PHIL 49-45 NY 46-49 ST.L 44-52 CHI 39-53
Go, Joe Charboneau, a song composed by a group of Cleveland tunesmiths, is played on local radio stations whenever the Indians (5-2) win. Last week it was played often. Charboneau had three hits as Len Barker beat Seattle 4-0 for his 10th victory. The rookie outfielder then hit two homers, one a grand slam during a seven-run 11th, and had six RBIs in the Indians' 12-6 defeat of the Mariners. After Bo Diaz' single finished off a two-out,, three-run rally in the ninth to stun California 9-8, Charboneau homered as the Angels lost 10-2. Super Joe finished his 14-RBI, .478 week by driving in four runs during a 14-4 rout of California.
Al Woods of the Blue Jays (5-3) also swung a lively bat, hitting .455 and walloping three homers. One of Woods' blasts carried Dave Stieb to a 1-0 triumph in Oakland. Stieb's second straight shutout, and fourth for the year, gave him a club-record 22 consecutive scoreless innings.
Baltimore (4-3) had a spectacular hitter, too. Dan Graham, a former Twin, led the Orioles to three victories in a row over his onetime teammates with two home runs and 13 RBIs. For the week, Graham batted .474. Although he "didn't have a curve all night" and had to throw "75% fastballs," Steve Stone ran his winning streak to 14 and his record to 16-3 by beating Milwaukee 4-1. Stone had ample help from his teammates, including three homers, one by Catcher Rick Dempsey, who also threw out three would-be base stealers, picked a man off third and tagged out a runner in a rundown. Tim Stoddard got his 13th save in that game, his seventh on behalf of Stone, who earlier coasted past Minnesota 12-5.
Three days after sustaining his worst shelling ever—eight hits and seven runs in 1⅖ innings against the Royals—Ron Guidry of the Yankees (3-4) was back on the mound. That was two days ahead of schedule for Guidry, who was anxious to see if he had solved the mystery of why his slider had gone "flat" and why he had been 5-6 with a 4.94 ERA over his last 11 starts. Pitching Coach Stan Williams felt Guidry's pitching shoulder and left hip "opened too soon," that his arm could not, therefore, "keep up with his body" and that his right foot was landing incorrectly. Heeding Williams' advice, Guidry closed up his delivery, stayed on top of the ball, stepped straight ahead and beat Milwaukee 4-0 on four hits. New York got another four-hit performance against the Brewers when Tommy John won 3-0 for his sixth shutout among his 15 victories. Graig Nettles' 267th home run surpassed Brooks Robinson's league record for third-basemen.
Four doubles and two homers helped Tony Perez of the Red Sox (3-4) drive in eight runs and regain the league RBI lead with 76. Dennis Eckersley, meanwhile, regained his sharpness, beating Minnesota 5-1.
Dan Schatzeder of the Tigers (4-2), who had been put in the bullpen after a series of early-season bombings, also began to shape up. Back in the rotation, Schatzeder evened his record at 6-6 by defeating Seattle 5-2 on seven hits and Oakland 7-0 on five hits.
Paul Mitchell of the Brewers (4-3) turned in the week's best relief job, taking over for starter Bill Travers after a long rain delay in New York and allowing only one run in eight innings as he won 4-1. Gorman Thomas' 20th and 21st homers and Don Money's 14th enabled Reggie Cleveland to beat Baltimore 5-0 on four hits for his 100th career victory. In the eighth inning of that game, Thomas told Cleveland, "I think you're going to throw a no-hitter tonight." There was only one thing wrong with that forecast: the Orioles had gotten a hit three innings earlier.
NY 61-34 DET 50-40 MIL 53-43 BALT 52-43 BOS 49-46 CLEV 46-47 TOR 42-52
Slumping Kevin Bell of the White Sox was looking for help, so he contacted a hypnotist who "mostly works on self-confidence and thinking positively." Apparently he got help. Bell's two-run double finished off Kansas City's Steve Busby and helped Chicago win 6-1. Oddly, it was a grand slam by Bell that knocked the injury-plagued Busby out of his last start more than 11 months earlier. Two rookies enabled the White Sox (2-5) to beat the Rangers 4-3, Harold Baines homering in the ninth and Lamarr Hoyt going the distance in his first big-league start.
John Wathan of the Royals also got help from an unexpected source. K.C. Broadcaster Fred White told Wathan the reason for his recent slump might be that he wasn't rocking back and forth at the plate as he had been when he was hitting well. So Wathan rocked—and rolled to a .433 average. Others who peppered the ball for the Royals (5-2) were Clint Hurdle (.455) and Willie Wilson (.429). Kansas City leads New York 7-4 in their season series, and George Brett, who has played in eight of those games, has driven in 20 runs in them, four in 14-3 and 6-1 victories last week by Rich Gale. Umpire John Shulock thumbed Darrell Porter for using strong language. The next day, as the two stood near home plate during the national anthem, Shulock had a hard time keeping from letting out a loud laugh. Porter had no such trouble; he had taped his mouth shut.
Second-place Texas (4-2) had new cause for optimism as two troubled pitchers won. Jon Matlack, who had off-season arm surgery, beat Boston 5-3. And Jim Kern, who had lost 11 times in relief, fired 5⅖ innings of hitless ball to defeat Chicago 6-4.
Rick Langford of the A's (4-3) hurled his 12th and 13th straight complete games. After blowing a 5-0 lead in the ninth against Cleveland and winning 6-5 in the 14th, Langford squared his record at 9-9 by beating Detroit 5-3. Mike Norris' 13th win was a 5-1 four-hitter against Toronto.
Three standout pitching performances gave the Twins (3-5) a lift. Reliever Doug Corbett didn't allow a run in four innings as he beat Boston 5-4. John Verhoeven tossed 8⅖ innings of two-run relief and was an 8-7 winner over Baltimore in 11 innings, and Geoff Zahn beat the Red Sox 6-0.
Glenn Abbott of the Mariners (2-5) took care of the Indians 7-0. Jason Thompson of the Angels (1-6) had three straight 3-for-4 games against his former Tiger teammates, but only once did it lead to a victory.
KC 59-38 TEX 47-48 OAK 47-51 MINN 44-53 CHI 43-53 SEA 39-57 CAL 34-61
PLAYER OF THE WEEK
DWIGHT EVANS: The Boston rightfielder, who had been in a long slump, had three homers, six doubles and 10 RBIs and hit .542 to raise his average 32 points. In his last 17 games Evans has hit .417 and driven in 19 runs.