Baltimore's Jim Palmer became the first American League righthander since Red Ruffing to win 20 games four years in a row (Ruffing did it for the Yankees starting in 1936). No. 20 came against the Brewers 4-1, and afterward nondrinker Palmer broke out five bottles of champagne for his teammates. Other bubbly Oriole news: Utility Infielder Frank (No Home Run) Baker, hitting .097, tripled twice in a victory over Milwaukee and Al Bumbry upped his batting average to .330. The bad news: Elrod Hendricks was lost for the season with a severely dislocated ankle.
The Red Sox, 3-4 for the week even though they had to play the Tigers only once, were trailing Baltimore by 6½ games at week's end. If the Red Sox had a little better than a 2-12 record against Detroit, they might be giving the Orioles a stiffer fight. Anyway, Luis Tiant (18-12) has a chance to reach the Palmer plateau for the second time in his career. He has at least four more starts. And Tommy Harper stole his 44th and 45th bases Saturday against Cleveland, seven short of Tris Speaker's club record set in 1912. Roger Moret beat the Yankees 7-1 Wednesday night for his 11th win against no defeats.
The Tigers used excellent pitching to good advantage in a 4-1 week. John Hiller got his 36th save (coming in to relieve Joe Coleman), breaking Sparky Lyle's year-old American League record and putting Hiller only one short of Clay Carroll's major league mark. Mickey Lolich, who was below .500 most of the season, beat the Brewers 2-1 with Hiller's aid for his 15th victory. He also unveiled his new pitch, a knuckleball that he throws about once per inning. Move over, Wilbur Wood.
New York's Mel Stottlemyre beat the Orioles 3-0 Saturday night, the fourth time this year he has defeated the division leaders. Milwaukee started off the week in fine style with two straight wins, then proceeded to drop six in a row. The Brewers had better brew up some trades. Ken Aspromonte, manager of last-place Cleveland, got the baseball equivalent of the Mafia kiss, a vote of confidence from a front-office man.
BALT 86-60 BOS 81-68 DET 79-69 NY 74-74 MIL 70-79 CLEV 65-85
Oakland's Gene Tenace enjoyed what he called "my biggest day in the majors" Friday when he went four for four against the Rangers, including a grand-slam homer, and drove in five runs. "I looked at the scoreboard," said Tenace, "and saw that Kansas City had lost, and then I thought if we could win this game we'd give Reggie Jackson another week's rest, and I remembered that this was the first time Catfish Hunter had gone 10 innings since the All-Star break. And so I hit a home run." The A's won 5-1, took three other games in the week (two of three from the Royals) and moved 6½ games out in front.
Kansas City was not too happy with just one win in three games at Oakland nor with several early showers. "Their fans are better beer throwers than ours," said Manager Jack McKeon. "Several of us got drenched during the game." The 5-0 victory over the A's was Paul Splittorff's first win since Aug. 11; it was his eighth try for victory No. 16.
Nolan Ryan Night in Anaheim Stadium turned out to be well timed. After the Angels' star pitcher had collected his gifts, including a half-ton pickup truck, he went out and beat the Royals 3-1. His 10 strikeouts tied him with Bob Feller at 348 as the best right-handed whiff artist in history (one-season division). On the way Ryan passed lefty Rube Waddell's total of 343. He is 34 shy of Sandy Koufax' alltime mark. Ryan now has 18 wins.
The White Sox found themselves desperately clinging to third place instead of battling for second. One trouble was formidable pitching from the opposition, especially the Twins' Bert Blyleven who got 12 strikeouts against the bottom half of Chicago's batting order during a 6-0 Minnesota win. Wilbur Wood won his 24th game against the Twins Saturday night, his fifth win in six starts against that club. The Rangers were not performing for Billy Martin any better than they did for Whitey Herzog. They had a 2-4 week and were 18½ games behind fifth-place California.
OAK 86-61 KC 80-68 CHI 73-75 MINN 71-75 CAL 69-76 TEX 51-95
"There's no sense playing 162 games to finish last," said the Phils' Greg Luzinski, who slammed his 26th and 27th home runs of the season and helped Jim Lonborg beat the Mets 6-4. Then, at the end of the typical below-.500 Phillie week, Luzinski was hit over the left ear by Montreal's Balor Moore; so much for the rewards of enthusiasm. Manager Danny Ozark ordered his pitcher, Steve Carlton, not to retaliate and Carlton, who won 27 last year, went on to suffer his 19th loss. Meanwhile, the rest of the division was displaying different kinds of strain and pain (page 24).
PITT 74-71 MONT 73-73 ST. L 72-75 NY 72-76 CHI 70-77 PHIL 65-83
The Reds could do nothing wrong in a 6-0 week. In one game against the Dodgers, Pitcher Jack Billingham, three for 84 at the plate, came to bat in the second inning with the bases loaded. Manager Sparky Anderson took a deep breath and let him swing away. Billingham hit the first pitch for a double. "You know, he's the worst hitter in the world," said Anderson. "The worst who ever lived. He can't run a lick, either.... But I told him to go ahead and hit, and kee-ripes, he did. Maybe there's magic in this world after all." Two recent recalls, Ken Griffey and Ed Armbrister, knocked in five of the six runs in Cincy's other win over L.A., and Bobby Tolan, jeered by the fans because of his brief walkout and troubles with management, delivered a game-winning single against Atlanta. Sounds magical.
The Dodgers had lost 11 of their last 12, their worst slump in 12 years, before they finally beat Houston on Thursday 8-6. Pitcher Don Sutton praised Manager Walt Alston's patience: "If I were the manager, I'd have had to dismantle the clubhouse a couple of times."
"We made too many mistakes," said Manager Charlie Fox after his Giants lost to San Diego 4-3 and fell 8½ games out of first. Three straight losses in Atlanta did not help, either. "Next year our first priority is acquisition of pitchers," said Giant Business Manager Jerry Donovan. "We need them regardless of the price in players or money."
Astro pitching prospect James Rodney Richard suffered a shoulder separation in a motorcycle accident, provoking Manager Leo Durocher to say, "A guy with his future? How can he do that? How can he get on a motorcycle? I just can't believe it." Richard, a 6'8" righthander, had a 6-2 record with 75 strikeouts. Leadoff man Jim Wynn had two doubles and two singles in an 8-6 loss to L.A., a team that has been trying to acquire him for three years. San Diego's bright moments: Dave Roberts hit safely in his 12th straight game; Rookie of the Year candidate John Grubb hit safely in his ninth.
Henry Aaron hit career homer No. 710 in a 10-4 victory over the Giants, and Atlanta continued to go gaga over his chase after Babe Ruth's record of 714. Twenty billboards were unveiled around the city saluting his effort, a street will be named after him, a statue of him erected, etc. The Braves are still offering cash payment for Aaron's home-run balls, stamping all the balls pitched to him beforehand with invisible ink to avoid being sold phonies.
CIN 91-57 LA 86-63 SF 82-65 HOU 75-75 ATL 72-78 SD 54-93