Bottom of the eighth Kansas City ahead 2-1, Kirk Gibson at bat for Detroit (6-1) with one man on. Gibson swings and trickles the ball toward First Baseman Willie Aikens. Instead of fielding the grounder and tagging Gibson out, Aikens pulls his mitt away and the ball rolls foul. That was the break Gibson needed to help him bust out of a 1-for-30 slump that had lowered his average to .081. Back at the plate, Gibson walloped his first home run of the season to defeat the Royals 3-2. Before the week was over, Gibson had slammed two more homers.
Can a Lemon make it in the Big Apple? Well, New York Manager Bob Lemon can't. He was fired for the second time last Sunday and replaced by General Manager Gene Michael, who had earlier replaced Dick Howser, who had replaced Billy Martin, who had replaced Lemon, who had replaced Martin who had replaced Bill Virdon.... Meanwhile, Detroit's Chet Lemon made himself right at home by slugging a long two-run homer. Pitcher Jack Morris made those runs stand up for a 3-1 triumph. An even niftier bit of pitching was performed by Milt Wilcox when he defeated the Royals 8-0 on one hit. Wilcox, who severely dislocated his right index finger playing basketball last winter, says the enlarged knuckle that resulted has made his forkball easier to grip and more effective than ever. Rookie Glenn Wilson helped keep the Tigers atop the division by batting .458.
Carl Yastrzemski of the Red Sox (5-1), who tried "nine million stances" in spring training, has gone back to basically the same stance he used during his peak seasons of 1967-70. At the urging of Coach Walt Hriniak, Yaz is holding the bat high and cocked back at a 45-degree angle. Does it work? His .380 average so far indicates it does. So did his fourth and fifth homers, which helped beat Toronto 8-7 and 5-4. That gave Boston four consecutive one-run wins.
Ron Guidry of the Yankees (3-3), who two weeks ago hurled his first complete game in 36 starts spanning three seasons, pitched his second in a row when he cooled off the White Sox 1-0 on three hits. New York hitters, who had seemed to have hung out a Gone Fishing sign, finally hooked into Steve Trout of Chicago. Trout, who had held the Yankees to one hit during the first six innings, was driven from the mound in the seventh. By pounding out 15 hits over the last three innings New York won 11-2 and broke an eight-game Chicago victory streak. The Yankees also ended Detroit's winning string at eight with a 3-1 triumph on Sunday.
The Indians' Rick Manning, a lefthanded batter, hit a paltry .206 against lefthanded pitchers last season. So far this season he's hitting .423 against southpaws, and last week, as Cleveland went 2-4, he socked a two-run triple that beat lefty Frank Tanana and the Rangers 4-2.
Roy Howell of the Brewers (5-0) also beat the Rangers with a long drive, a two-run homer that clinched a 4-1 triumph for Pete Vuckovich, who tossed a three-hitter. While winning the first four games of the week, Milwaukee pitchers yielded a total of only 18 hits. Best of them all was Mike Caldwell, who defeated Toronto 7-0 on just four hits.
Not even the continued productivity of pinch hitters could untrack Toronto (1-5). So far, the batters off the bench have gone 12 for 35 (.343). But a pinch grand slam by Jesse Barfield couldn't prevent the 8-7 loss to Boston. And neither a pinch RBI single by Al Woods nor a pinch two-run double by Hosken Powell could stave off a 5-4 loss to the Red Sox.
"Humiliating" was the word used by General Manager Hank Peters to describe the Orioles' nine-game losing streak. And that total didn't include their embarrassing 6-0 loss to their Rochester farm team. Eddie Murray, who hit .412 and had seven RBIs, ended the agony by homering from both sides of the plate and driving across four runs as Baltimore (2-3) beat Chicago 7-4.
DET 11-6 BOS 9-6 MIL 8-6 CLEV 6-8 NY 6-8 TOR 5-11 BALT 4-10
"I was just trying to deke him," said Manager Billy Gardner of the Twins (2-5) in explaining a move he made against A's Manager Billy Martin with the bases loaded, two out and Oakland leading 1-0 in the ninth inning. What Gardner did was have Jesus Vega, a righthanded hitter, take off his jacket and start swinging a bat as if he were going to pinch-hit for Kent Hrbek, a lefty. Gardner had no intention of lifting Hrbek; he merely wanted to show Vega so Martin wouldn't bring in a lefthanded reliever for Rick Lang-ford, a righty who was tiring. Martin didn't bite, but he should have. After falling behind 0-2 in the count, Hrbek cleared the bases with a double that propelled Minnesota to a 5-2 triumph. At week's end Hrbek led the majors in runs batted in with 21 and in homers with eight.
Martin used a novel tactic of his own later in the week. After the A's (2-4) had played their third 16-inning game of the season—it was 12:43 a.m. when Dan Meyer singled to beat the Twins 4-3—they had to face Minnesota again in less than 12 hours. Before his weary troops took the field, Martin opened his office door and threw some 150 firecrackers into the clubhouse. "I just wanted to wake you guys up," Martin said after the smoke cleared. Apparently he did: They won 5-2.
Reliever Lamarr Hoyt of Chicago (1-4) beat the Orioles, 4-2, for the third time this season. In this game it was a triple in the ninth by Jim Morrison that sealed Hoyt's win.
Brian Downing, a catcher last year and a leftfielder this season, kept the Angels (4-2) rolling with his .458 hitting for the week and his fifth, sixth and seventh homers of the season. So did Tim Foli, who took over at shortstop for the injured Rick Burleson. During Ken Forsch's 7-2 triumph over Oakland, Foli made three superb fielding plays, had two hits and drove in a pair of runs. And Geoff Zahn ran his career record for the month of April to 17-3 when he defeated the A's 4-2.
The five oldest Royals (3-3) were instrumental in three victories. Grant Jackson, 39, hurled 3‚Öî innings of shutout relief against the Indians and was an 11-6 victor, thanks to three hits and two RBIs each by Lee May, 39, Hal McRae, 35, and Amos Otis, 35. May's homer and two doubles did in the Tribe 6-3. And Paul Splittorff, 35, beat Cleveland 5-1.
The Rangers (1-5) continued to lose at home, where they played all week and are now 2-7. However, they did stretch their errorless streak to a club-record seven games—before First Baseman Pat Putnam botched a play against Milwaukee.
Gaylord Perry of Seattle (5-2) appeared headed for a loss when the Angels took a 3-1 lead against him after two innings. By that time five Mariners had already been thrown out on the base paths. But Seattle rallied to win 6-4, and Perry wound up with a team-record 13 strikeouts in just 7‚Öì innings and got his 298th career victory. At 43, Perry is the oldest player in either league. Edwin Nunez, a 6'5" righthanded pitcher from Puerto Rico, was the youngest, at age 18. But when Nunez was yanked after giving up six hits, four runs and three walks in 1‚Öî innings against Minnesota, he punched a door, broke his left hand and went on the disabled list. The Mariners Cruz-ed past the Twins 3-2 when Jose Cruz homered in the fourth inning and Todd Cruz connected in the seventh. Todd walloped his second consecutive game-winning homer when he finished off Minnesota 5-4 with a blast in the 11th inning.
CAL 13-5 CHI 9-4 KC 8-6 SEA 9-10 OAK 8-10 TEX 6-8 MINN 7-12
"The chemistry seems to be there," said Ballard Smith, president of the Padres (5-0). Most of the chemical reactions were created by the hitters, who were explosive. It mattered not that Juan Tyrone Eichelberger gave up 11 hits, including four homers, and six runs to San Francisco; San Diego's batters retaliated with 13 runs and a club-record 24 hits. Terry Kennedy had four hits and four RBIs, and Juan Bonilla, Sixto Lezcano, Broderick Perkins and Ruppert Jones got three hits apiece. Four RBIs by Luis Salazar beat the Giants again, 8-4. But could the Padres handle first-place Atlanta? Does a bear...? Lezcano drove in four runs as San Diego defeated the Braves 6-3 in 12 innings. Then the Padres beat the Braves 6-4, rookie relievers Eric Show and Luis DeLeon finishing up with two shutout innings apiece. That gave San Diego 10 straight wins, tying a team mark.
Earlier Atlanta (2-3) had extended its season-opening winning streak to 13 games, a modern major league record. Victory No. 12 was a 4-2 defeat of the Reds in which the Braves got shutout relief from Steve Bedrosian (4‚Öì innings) and Gene Garber (three innings). No. 13 was a chiller in which Atlanta trailed Cincinnati 3-0 in the fifth. The Braves might well have lost 3-2, but a one-hopper to short that seemed certain to result in a game-ending double play struck Atlanta's Matt Sinatro on his right heel as he dashed from second to third. Although Sinatro was automatically out, the Braves were not; after a wild pitch and a walk, Claudell Washington stroked a single that drove in two runs and pulled Atlanta through 4-3.
Cincinnati (3-3) ended The Braves' magic 2-1 the next day. Winning Pitcher Bruce Berenyi singled in the decisive run before giving way to Tom Hume, who got the final eight outs. Hume also saved Frank Pastore's 3-2 victory in Houston and Sunday's 4-3, 10-inning win over the Astros. But the Reds, obviously not the power hitters they used to be, were last in the majors in taters with only three after 17 games.
"You don't change in the middle of a voyage," said owner John McMullen of his Astros (2-4), who were rapidly shipping water. Art Howe helped keep Houston afloat by driving in three runs in each of its victories. McMullen said he planned no changes.
The Giants (1-5) were also sinking fast in this streak-filled season. The biggest leaks were caused by the defense, which made six errors, and by the pitchers' lack of control. They allowed an average of four walks a game. San Francisco put an end to its losing ways on Sunday when Jeff Leonard hit a grand slam home run in the bottom of the eighth inning to topple Los Angeles 6-3.
Meanwhile, the Dodgers (4-2) cruised along, powered by three big guns: Ken Landreaux, who led the league with a .382 average; Ron Cey, who had four hits and four RBIs as Bob Welch beat the Giants 9-0; and Pedro Guerrero, who drove in five runs to help defeat San Francisco 7-6. Steve Garvey, however, continued to slump, his average falling to .229 as he was dropped to sixth in the batting order. Jerry Reuss was the most impressive of the pitchers, beating Houston 6-0 on one hit, a first-inning double by Howe.
ATL 13-3 SD 11-4 LA 8-9 SF 6-10 CIN 6-11 HOUS 6-12
For Pitcher Ray Burris of Montreal (3-2), very good hasn't been good enough. Despite his 1.17 ERA, Burris was 0-3 following his second 1-0 loss, this one to the Mets. The night before, Montreal beat New York 5-4 when Rodney Scott singled in the last of the ninth, stole second and scooted home on a bases-loaded single by Al Oliver.
It was Charlie Puleo of the Mets (3-2) who beat Burris. Puleo, Pete Falcone and Neil Allen limited the Expos to four hits but had to work out of repeated jams because of 10 walks. Allen picked up the save, his third of the week.
The saver for the Phillies (2-3) was rookie Centerfielder Bob Dernier, whose two sparkling catches preserved Larry Christenson's 2-0 triumph over the Expos. But not even two homers, two doubles and four RBIs by Bo Diaz could avert a 7-4 loss to the streaking Cardinals (page 22). There have been two main reasons for Philadelphia's woeful start. Since Mike Schmidt went out with a pulled muscle in his rib cage on April 13, his replacements have batted .219 and made six errors in 11 games. And Steve Carlton, who has a 6.19 ERA, dropped to 0-4 for the first time in his career before beating Montreal 8-4 on Sunday. (Four other possible Hall of Fame pitchers also had hard-to-believe stats: Nolan Ryan of Houston was 0-4 with a 7.97 ERA, Tom Seaver of Cincinnati was 0-2 with an ERA of 10.38, Tommy John of the Yankees was 0-3 with a 3.43 ERA and Jim Palmer of Baltimore was 0-1 and 7.47.)
A passed ball led to one loss for the Cubs (1-4), but for the most part it was inept pitching that brought them down. When Chicago batters produced 10 runs in one game, the pitchers yielded 12 to Pittsburgh (2-3). The Pirates overcame a 5-0 Cub advantage the next day to win 8-5, Don Robinson picking up the victory as he got three hits, which were as many as he allowed during his 6‚Öì innings of relief work.
ST.L 13-4 MONT 8-5 NY 9-7 PITT 5-8 CHI 6-11 PHIL 4-11
BALL PARK FIGURES
According to an SI poll, here are the pinch hitters that managers and coaches would least like to see at bat if they were protecting a one-run lead in the last of the ninth with the bases loaded and two out:
1. Rick Monday, Los Angeles
2. Jay Johnstone, Los Angeles
3. Willie Stargell, Pittsburgh
4. Rusty Staub, New York
5. Lee Lacy, Pittsburgh
1. José Morales, Baltimore
2. Terry Crowley, Baltimore
3. Bobby Murcer, New York
4. Lou Piniella, New York
5. Bill Stein, Texas
PLAYER OF THE WEEK
SIXTO LEZCANO: The Padre outfielder, who was obtained from the Cardinals during the off-season, batted .571, hit two home runs and a pair of triples, drove across nine runs and scored eight times.