In the opinion of Texas Manager Whitey Herzog, pitchers ought to pay for the pleasure of pitching for Baltimore, specifically because the Oriole defense is so larcenous. The night Baltimore dispatched Texas 6-1, stretching the American League's longest winning streak in 13 years to 14 games, Herzog was dazed with admiration. "They only took five doubles and a single away from us," he said. "I hate to get my butt beat, but I enjoyed watching that game."
The Baltimore win streak ended the next night when Ranger batters discovered an Oriole who could not field. Reliever Bob Reynolds. He bungled two bunts to set up the Rangers' insurance run in their 5-3 victory.
While the Orioles flew swiftly off toward a division championship, sagging Boston received most of its excitement from Pitcher Bill Lee. Incensed that League President Joe Cronin fined Texas Pitcher Jim Merritt for admitting that he throws a spitter, Lee charged Cronin with hypocrisy. "This is absolutely ridiculous," he fumed. "More than half the pitchers in the league throw spitters. Me, too. I threw one to Tony Taylor in Detroit and he hit it into the upper deck."
Of the East's six teams, all but Baltimore and surprising Milwaukee floundered. The Brewers moved back within one game of the .500 mark and passed one million in attendance for the first time in their four-year existence. New York dropped eight straight before Mel Stottlemyre defeated Baltimore 5-2. Detroit lost six of seven games, and Manager Billy Martin. Martin was suspended for three days by Cronin for ordering his pitchers to throw wet ones—and then fired. Cleveland stayed right where it was, wallowing in last place and red ink. A $1 million loss is projected for the Indians this year.
BALT 76-54 BOST 72-62 DET 71-64 NY 69-66 MIL 66-67 CLEV 57-58
Oakland headed for a weekend visit to Kansas City with a streak of 14 wins in 17 games and a near lock on the division championship. Kansas City certainly did not appear to have any key of its own. The Royals were returning home from a depressing road trip in which even their lone win in five games was a 3-2 gift from Cleveland. Manager Jack McKeon was forced to reach back to Greenville, Ala. in 1949, his first year in organized baseball, for winning inspiration. "We were six games out of first with 12 to play that year. We won all 12 and then took the pennant in a playoff," he recalled wistfully.
California is not going anywhere either, but Angel Pitcher Nolan Ryan might be. In one game last week he came within inches of becoming the first pitcher ever to throw three no-hitters in one season. In the first inning of his one-hit, 5-0 victory over New York, Ryan jammed Yankee Catcher Thurman Munson with an inside pitch. Munson looped a feeble pop fly into short center that fell in for the Yanks' only hit of the game.
Chicago won five of six games and inched up on third-place Minnesota, even though the Twins had a solid 4-2 record. In one game against last-place Texas, the Twins bombed four Ranger pitchers for 11 runs and 19 hits, three of them by Rod Carew, who raised his league-leading average to .354.
OAK 79-54 KC 74-60 MINN 64-69 CHI 64-70 CAL 61-68 TEX 46-87
The East is the division of the common man, where everyone has a chance to reach the top, including last-place Philadelphia, which is only six games out of first. Last week New York had the most wins, taking four of six games and soaring up to fifth place.
St. Louis, 3-3 for the week, clung to a one game lead but is having severe difficulties with left-handed pitchers. The Cards' record against lefties is 19-30. In a series opener against the Mets, they did not exactly go hit-crazy against righthander Tom Seaver. They finally beat him 1-0 in the 10th inning. The following night they lost 6-4 in 10 innings to the Mets and lefties Ray Sadecki and Tug McGraw.
The Pirates moved closer to becoming the only team besides St. Louis to achieve a winning season's record by zapping the Chicago Cubs 7-0, 5-2 in a twi-night doubleheader. Until then, the Cubs had had high hopes for their critical series at Pittsburgh. Their optimism died as Third Baseman Ron Santo struck out, hit into a double play and made a three-run throwing error in the first game.
In Montreal attendance is picking up and the Expos may be headed for a new gate record. And for two good reasons: Pitcher Steve Rogers, who won two games including a three-hit shutout of Los Angeles, and Outfielder Kenny Singleton, who has lashed out 21 hits in his last 39 at bats.
ST. L 68-66 PITT 65-65 CHI 64-69 MONT 63-70 NY 62-71 PHIL 62-72
The Dodgers ended the week with a 3-2 loss to Houston and a three-game lead over second-place Cincinnati, but they may have lost something quite a bit more vital the night before while defeating the Astros 6-5. One of Los Angeles' few experienced hitters, Willie Davis, strained knee ligaments and will be out of action for a week, possibly missing a critical series in San Francisco.
Cincinnati came up with another precocious youngster in 23-year-old Ken Griffey, an outfielder just promoted from Indianapolis. Griffey broke in with a bang. He rapped nine hits in his first 16 at bats as the Reds won three of four games.
In the rest of the West, the news was not the best. The Giants won only two of five and fell 8½ games back. Despite a ninth-inning win over the Dodgers, Houston lost four of its six games, and in Atlanta all that is left to cheer about are home runs. Major league leader Dave Johnson hit Nos. 36 and 37, including a grand slam that helped beat Pittsburgh 8-6. Henry Aaron hit one against the Chicago Cubs, No. 33 of the season and 706 lifetime. He is now eight behind the Ruthian record. It may be hard to figure out why anyone wants them, but San Diego city attorney John Witt filed a $12 million breach of contract suit against the Padres—and just about everyone else in the National League in connection with the team's proposed move to Washington.
LA 83-52 CINC 80-55 SF 73-59 HOUS 69-68 ATL 65-70 SO 48-85