"If any one of the three teams hits a hot streak, it could be curtains for the other two," said Jerry Reuss' fellow Dodger pitcher, Burt Hooton. The teams are Cincinnati, Los Angeles and Houston, all of which have been do-si-doing in and out of first place. "And," said Hooton, "San Francisco is knocking at the door." In fact, the Giants (5-2) were the ones who hit a hot streak last week—four straight wins, including two pitched by Vida Blue, who hadn't had a victory since June 13. Looking like the Blue of yore, he beat first-place Houston and then allowed Atlanta just one run while striking out six. "He was throwing breaking balls at 90 mph," marveled Giant Centerfielder Bill North. Jackie Clark continued on his tear, getting his major league-leading 18th game-winning RBI and hitting his third career grand slam.
"Going into the year, we felt our pitching would be outstanding," said Cincinnati's Johnny Bench. "Now we're getting pitching from guys you never heard of." Like Joe Price, who retired the first 12 San Diego batters and held the Padres to three hits for his first complete major league game—before 50 friends and relatives from nearby Lakeside, Calif. "They helped me relax," said the rookie lefty. The Reds (4-2) have beaten the Padres (1-5) 12 times this year. Then it was on to L.A. for the Reds. The Dodgers (2-4) had just lost three straight to Atlanta and been shut out for only the third time in 1980. But Reuss rolled and Dusty Baker sparkled in the field and at the plate, getting two homers for a 3-1 win. The next day another rookie came to the rescue for the Reds, Second Baseman Ron Oester, who hit a bloop double in the top of the ninth to score the winning run.
Manager Bill Virdon of the Astros (2-4) lamented, "We haven't been able to put anything together for six weeks." But then came a strong three-hitter by Nolan Ryan against San Diego, and the Astros won their next game as well. Victory came at 1:26 a.m. in the 20th inning, thanks to a three-base error by the Padres' Jerry Mumphrey. Having consumed six hours and 17 minutes, the game was the longest in either club's history.
They have various names—bench warmers, the splinter set, subs, scrubs. In Atlanta (5-2), Jerry Royster, sometime second baseman, brushed off the splinters and hit a two-run single that beat the Giants 3-1. "I know my role," said Royster. "If I play tomorrow, I'd be totally surprised." He did and was. It was Manager Bobby Cox who found himself benched—for three games, by League President Chub Feeney, for spitting in an umpire's face. The Braves won all three games that Cox missed, but lost once more when he returned.
HOUS 62-53 CIN 63-54 LA 62-54 SF 58-59 ATL 54-62 SD 50-67
"You've got to stop being so bleeping cool. Get that through your bleeping heads," yelled Manager Dallas Green between games of a doubleheader in Pittsburgh. His Phils (5-3) had just lost 7-1 to the world champions. Amused writers pressed their ears to the door of the clubhouse to hear the scathing attack. But the Phils didn't go out and win one for the bleeper. They scored just one run in the second game—a Bake McBride homer—lost 4-1 and left town. "Just because we didn't win doesn't mean it didn't sink in," said Pete Rose of the bawling out. The next day the Phillies' game in Chicago was called in the 10th because of darkness, and when it resumed the following day, there had been plenty of time to digest Green's message. Mike Schmidt, whose bat had been cool, regained his stroke, hitting three homers and driving in seven as the Phils won two of three. And then it was off to New York, where the Mets (3-4) had been waiting for revenge. Earlier in the year, Manager Green, never a reticent sort, had remarked that all you needed to beat the Mets was two runs. But these were the new Mets, who had just won two from those same Pirates. Came the test, though, and the Mets let fly balls drop, threw to the wrong bases and failed to cover the right ones. They scored a grand total of one run in the first two games and lost the third 11-6. They also watched Rose become the fifth player in major league history to get 3,500 hits.
By the weekend the Pirates (5-2) and Expos (2-4) were tied for first place and the teams were in Pittsburgh for a mini-showdown. Montreal Manager Dick Williams tried to fire up his team, which has lost nine of its 11 games with the Pirates, by saying Manager Chuck Tanner had snubbed them in picking players for the All-Star Game. "We play scared against them," confessed Shortstop Chris Speier. "I guess it's the pressure." Too true. The Expos failed to score after loading the bases in the first inning of the first game and got just three runs in two defeats to fall into second place by two.
For the week, Expo starters had an ERA of 6.28 and the relievers 5.85. "I was trying for the cycle," said Expo utility man Tommy Hutton after a game in St. Louis. Unfortunately, he was pitching that night. "I gave up a homer, a double, a single; I walked a guy, I struck out a guy, a guy flied out and a guy grounded out," said Hutton. "What more could you do in one inning of pitching?"
In that game the Cardinals (3-4) handed the Expos their worst shutout loss ever, 16-0. Even Bob Sykes, who gave up just four hits while pitching this, his second straight shutout, had a hit and drove in two runs. All week Cardinal pitchers were unusually menacing at the plate. Bob Forsch beat out a bunt and triggered a rally to beat the Expos 7-5. Pete Vuckovich got a single and a double and drove in two runs in a 10-9, 10-inning victory over the Cubs. Chicago (3-4) took the next two games from St. Louis, Bruce Sutter picking up his 25th and 26th saves. Both clubs rejoiced in the return of key players from the disabled list: Shortstop Garry Templeton to the Cards and slugger Dave Kingman to the Cubs. Templeton greeted Cub Pitcher Mike Krukow with a smashing liner off his forehead. Krukow was taken to the hospital for X-rays. In keeping with baseball tradition, they found nothing.
PITT 66-50 MONT 64-52 PHIL 60-53 NY 56-60 ST.L 51-63 CHI 48-67
While the Orioles (3-4) and the Yankees (4-3) were battling (page 10), the rest of the teams in the division kind of fancied themselves in the fight, too. "It's taken 23 days to vault the Tribe into its first pennant race since 1974," announced The Cleveland Press. "We're all watching what's going on," said Indian Catcher Ron Hassey. "We're gaining in confidence all the time." And why not? Since July 21, when they were 16 games out and five games under .500, the Indians (4-3) had won 14 of their 16 games at home and suddenly were four games over .500. But after sweeping Texas, they fell twice to Milwaukee and were still 9½ games out.
The Brewers (5-3) had just about given up hope. What else could they do after losing a doubleheader to Toronto (2-5). But then a spark was rekindled when they won four straight, with complete games from Bill Travers, Moose Haas and Mike Caldwell, who gave up but two runs in two victories. Said Travers, "It shows nobody is quitting yet. This might turn everything around. You never know."
No, you don't. Just a week ago, Boston First Baseman Tony Perez was tired, in a slump and thinking of asking Manager Don Zimmer for a few days off. He had played in all but two of the Red Sox' 108 games. But then the Yankees started losing and Perez started hitting—13 for 25. "Maybe I'm getting my second wind now," he said after helping the Sox win four of six. Each of the four was saved by Bob Stanley, who had saved three the previous week.
The Never Say Die Award went to Mark Fidrych of the Tigers (2-5), who made his fourth comeback in four years, while 50,749 fans chanted and cheered his every pitch—120 to be exact, 80 of which were strikes. He lost, but it didn't matter. The Bird was back, billing and cooing to the ball once again. Even Manager Sparky Anderson was impressed. "I'll be honest, I never knew he could throw like that," said Sparky. "I see now why he throws off that electricity. He's earned a spot in the rotation."
NY 71-44 BALT 66-48 MIL 63-54 DET 59-53 BOS 60-54 CLEV 58-54 TOR 48-67
"This is the best place to be in all of baseball," said Pitcher Rich Gale of Kansas City (5-1) after winning his ninth consecutive game. So it seemed. The Royals evidently can do no wrong. They have the best record, the most hits and runs and are hitting nearly .300 as a team. They even have six inside-the-park home runs—a sure sign of luck—the latest by his Royal highness, George Brett, who extended his hitting streak to 28 games while raising his average to .394. And when that old master Weaver of baseball strategy, Earl of the Orioles, made an unorthodox move against K.C., it backfired. With men on first and second, the Oriole skipper had Brett intentionally walked, loading the bases. "They used to do the same thing with Ted Williams," Earl explained. But Tim Stoddard walked the next batter, forcing in the winning run for Baltimore's first loss in 10 games. "At least Brett didn't beat us," said Weaver.
For their part, the Mariners (1-6) could do no right. Traditionally, a team—any team—wins for a new manager, any manager. Not the Mariners. After Maury Wills took over, they lost nine of 11, dropping three straight to California and two to Oakland last week. They are last in the league in attendance. Even their promotions fail. They planned to welcome Oakland Manager Billy Martin with a marshmallow drop from the top of the Kingdome, but League President Lee MacPhail vetoed the idea. So they dropped a rubber chicken.
The A's (5-2) continued to amaze. They led the league in ERA with 3.41. The pitching staff has 68 complete games, only four short of the postexpansion league record, and eight of those have been extra-inning games. Mike Norris, Matt Keough and Rick Langford have all gone 14 innings and won. Last week Langford pitched a club-record 17th consecutive complete game—an 11-3 win over Seattle. On Sunday, starter Steve McCatty got his chance to go 14 against Seattle. He gave up only two runs on six hits, but the second run was a homer by Dan Meyer that beat him 2-1.
The Rangers (3-3) spent much of last week griping, as usual. After they lost three straight to the Indians, Manager Pat Corrales told them, "Quit pointing fingers, and start looking in the mirror. You got your tails kicked here, so let's go to Detroit and do better." They did, beating the Tigers 6-2 and 12-5.
Frank Tanana of California (4-1) had to do his own kicking. After a poor start following a '79 season in which his pitching arm was injured, Tanana "kicked myself to get going." He has now won four straight, pitching 7‚Äö√Ñ√∂‚àö√±‚àö¬® scoreless innings on Friday to beat Minnesota 5-4. With Tanana healthy and Jason Thompson continuing his hot hitting (he's batted .333 since coming to California from Detroit in May), the Angels have won four straight and nine out of 10. Their only loss last week was to Minnesota.
The Twins (2-3) had dropped nine straight and their bats had gone sour. "From awesome to gentle," said Manager Gene Mauch. They had scored two runs or fewer in eight of Jerry Koosman's nine losses, but three homers gave him his 10th win, over California. After winning again the next night, over Oakland, the Twins had a relapse and lost their next three.
Aside from a 4-1 defeat of the Yankees, White Sox (1-4) fans had little to cheer about except the prospect that the team might be sold to Merrill Lynch (see SCORECARD).
KC 74-42 OAK 62-56 TEX 55-59 MINN 49-66 CAL 48-65 CHI 48-65 SEA 41-75
PLAYER OF THE WEEK
TONY PEREZ: The Boston first baseman drove in all seven runs in two wins—nine for the week—and hit .520, with four homers, a double and a triple. He had 20 home runs and was second in the league in RBIs with 87.