"They really overpowered us, didn't they?" said Billy Martin, manager of Western Division leading Minnesota (2-2) after his team took its first interdivisional win 10-3. Martin's sarcasm could have applied in just about any town in the West, as the supposedly weaker division ended its first week of play against the powerful East with a 17-11 record. The Twins' victories came on strong pitching by Dean Chance and Jim Kaat, both of whom had been out for two weeks with injuries, and power hitting by Harmon Killebrew, who crashed three homers good for five RBIs. Oakland (4-0) found Eastern competition even more to its liking and closed within percentage points of the division leaders. The A's Blue Moon Odom became the majors' first six-game winner with a four-hitter, and Sal Bando, Danny Cater and Rick Monday hit key home runs in three one-run victories. Chicago's (3-0) ace righty, Joel Horlen, and top lefty Gary Peters both won, but they found it is going to be tougher as starters under new manager Don Gutteridge. "It's true, I'm not so quick with the hook," said Gutteridge, after leaving Horlen in to throw 148 pitches in one game and then letting Peters chuck 149 balls the next day before calling on a reliever. Kansas City (2-2) continued to win with dramatic last-inning rallies. The Royals held on to third place by first startling the Tigers on Hawk Taylor's three-run, pinch-hit, ninth-inning homer and then jolting the Orioles when former Baltimore farmhand Mike Fiore capped a rally with a pinch-hit, two-run double. Seattle (3-2) ducked out of the cellar behind rookie Mike Marshall's two-hit shutout in one game and then a 16-13 victory the next day. In that game the Pilots trailed the Senators 3-11, but won with eight runs in the sixth inning—six of them coming on home runs by Rich Rollins and Don Mincher—and four more in the eighth. California (1-3) calls its starting rotation of Jim McGlothlin, Tom Murphy, Andy Messersmith and Rudy May the M-Squad and, even with the Angels slumping to last, they were murderous. The foursome, none of whom is over 25 years old, held opponents to an average of 2.5 runs a game last week, but only Murphy came up a winner as the Angels' batters hit just .217. Boston (5-0) was the only Eastern team making it in the West. The Red Sox moved into second place and eased within one game of division-leading Baltimore (2-3) with a .500 week—including a 518-foot homer—from Carl Yastrzemski and strong pitching from a revamped staff. With three regular starters—Jim Lonborg, Jose Santiago and Dick Ellsworth—either injured or traded, the Sox have turned to newly acquired Sonny Siebert and rookies Ray Jarvis and Mike Nagy to match up with Ray Culp, and the new rotation is 10-3. In Detroit (2-2) the breaks that fell the Tigers' way last year are tumbling backward this season. The World Champions lost a one-run game when Al Kaline's line drive over third hit Umpire Red Flaherty, holding the hit to a single and preventing a run from scoring. And later, with the Tigers still struggling 6½ games out of first, the clubhouse was robbed of five dozen hand-autographed baseballs. Cleveland (1-3) has only a .204 team average, but brassy slugger Hawk Harrelson has not even been able to reach that. Since joining the Indians, he has hit .178 with just one home run and four runs batted in. New York (1-4) booted two games away with eight errors, including four by rookie Third Baseman Bobby Murcer. In one atrocious display the Yanks committed five errors in a single inning, allowing the A's to score two of their runs in a game that Mel Stottlemyre dropped 3-2. Washington (0-5) lost its winning touch and Manager Ted Williams was obviously unhappy. After his team was two-hit, he extended from 15 to 35 minutes the postgame cooling-off period in which visitors are barred from the clubhouse and was still disgruntled enough about his team's hitting to say, "Actually their pitcher should have had a no-hitter."
Standings—East: Balt 22-11, Bos 19-10, Wash 16-16, Det 13-15, NY 12-19, Clev 4-21. West: Minn 18-9, Oak 18-11, Chi 12-11, KC 15-14, Sea 11-17, Cal 9-17.
May 18, 1969
Orlando Cepeda's .252 batting average makes it look as though Atlanta (3-1) took the short end in the preseason deal that sent Joe Torre to the Cardinals. Braves Manager Luman Harris thinks not. "I'm not worried about Cepeda's average. I know he doesn't have many hits, but he's made the most of them." And Cepeda has. With his first 25 hits he drove in 24 runs, six of which won games. That is exactly half the number of game-winning hits Cepeda delivered all last year when he helped the Cardinals to a pennant. Last week he began to hit—at a .400 clip—and was still delivering his specialty. In two games he broke ninth-inning ties, crashing a three-run homer in one, coming through with a run-scoring single in the other for the division-leading Braves. Los Angeles (3-1, page 28) and San Francisco (2-2) remained close behind. The Giants won one game with stars Ron Hunt, Jim Hart, Willie Mays, Bobby Bonds, Willie McCovey and Juan Marichal all out with injuries. Manager Clyde King worked up four different lineups before settling on one that included Don Mason, Bob Etheridge, Bob Burda, Dave Marshall and Ken Henderson, along with Catcher Jack Hiatt playing first base. The Cubs, reasoning that they would have an easy time against the unknowns, decided not to cancel the game despite foul weather and were promptly drubbed by the scrubs 11-1. Larry Dierker helped Houston (3-3) maintain a winning tempo. The rallying Astros have won seven of their last 10 games, and after two of the losses it was Dierker who righted them. He pitched nine innings in both wins and allowed just five hits while striking out 14 in the first. Cincinnati (2-2) was another satisfied customer of the Cards. Former Red-bird Bobby Tolan, whom the Reds picked up in exchange for Vada Pinson, crashed his seventh homer and took over the league lead in RBIs (26) by adding four last week. Two former free agents and a player who could not make the Mets helped San Diego (3-2) to its wins. Veterans Johnny Podres and Jack Baldschun, who were released by their old teams, picked up the victories with excellent relief pitching. Ex-Met Chris Cannizzaro gave Baldschun one of his wins with a ninth-inning, run-scoring double. Fastballing lefthander Ken Holtzman, who was a disappointment in Chicago (2-2) last year when he finished 11-14, has taken over the top spot on the division leader's staff. With two complete-game victories last week, his record now stands at 5-1 and moves him ahead of Fergie Jenkins. Jenkins, who had won four straight, pitched 12 strong innings in a game against the Dodgers, but still lost 4-2. The Jones boys, Cleon of New York (3-2) and Mack of Montreal (2-2), both continued their hot hitting. Cleon held his position as the majors' top batter with a .500 week—an average just 89 points higher than his season's percentage. The Mets' right-handed hitting outfielder, who has been a weak spring batter in the past, also cracked two home runs to pace two of his team's wins. Mack, another .500 batter for the week and .359 for the year, rapped three homers, including a grand slammer, to help his team ease into a tie for fifth place with St. Louis (2-3). The Cardinals' pitching, except when Bob Gibson threw a five-hit shutout, was ragged as 15 hurlers appeared in the Cards' other games and twice failed to hold early leads. Pittsburgh (1-3) also had poor pitching. Starters Steve Blass, Dock Ellis and Jim Bunning were all knocked out early and none too gently. The three survived just five innings between them and allowed 14 runs. Philadelphia's (1-4) hitters averaged an anemic .218, and three times the pitchers allowed leads to slip away in the ninth as the Phillies dropped to fourth place.
Standings—East: Chi 20-11, Pitt 16-13, NY 14-16, Phil 12-15, StL 12-18, Mont 11-17. West: Atl 20-9, LA 18-11, SF 17-12, SD 15-18, Cin 13-16, Hou 11-23.
When Pilot Manager Joe Schultz, who had coached St. Louis' top base stealers Lou Brock and Curt Flood for the past five seasons, first assembled his expansion team at spring training, most of the players were unfamiliar to him. But one he knew well was Tommy Harper. The speed-conscious Schultz called the former Red and Indian over and said, "You were a fine stealer at Cincinnati, why don't you be like Brock? Anytime you get the jump, take the base." That was all Harper, who had stolen 100 bases in his four seasons as a Cincinnati regular but who had been held in check in Cleveland, where he swiped only 11 last year, needed to hear. Running without signs from the bench, the 28-year-old, right-handed batter added four steals last week to run his total to 17 in 21 attempts—best in the majors. That puts second baseman Harper, who is Seattle's biggest hero, ahead of the paces set by Ty Cobb and Maury Wills the years they stole 96 and 104 bases respectively. To keep his rooters cheering, Harper must get on base frequently and Schultz thinks stealing helps him do just that. "He studies the pitchers more now, and that makes him concentrate on hitting good pitches and getting walks," Schultz says. The new, studious Harper, a .251 career batter, hit .355 last week, raising his season's average to .310. He already has only 10 fewer walks than he drew all last year. The extra hits and bases on balls are important because Harper needs every chance he can get to run. "Stealing's getting tougher already," he says. "The pitchers throw to first more and the catchers pitch out more. From here on it's strictly a game of cat and mouse." At his present rate, Harper could finish the season with all the cheese.