"If you can't handle it, stay out of the kitchen," was New York Manager Bill Virdon's word on the pennant scramble. His Yankees indicated they wanted to be in it, starting off the week by defeating Detroit 10-2 and building their lead over Baltimore to 2½ games. But then the Orioles put the Yankees in a stew as Jim Palmer beat them 4-0, Mike Cuellar won his 20th victory, 10-4, and Dave McNally shut them out 7-0, using just 88 pitches for his eighth win in his last 10 decisions. Baltimore led by half a game. Said Manager Earl Weaver, "We all know Boston had it won and we all know the Yanks had it won. Let's see how we do now that we're on top." Virdon warned, "A good team bounces back."
Moving on to Fenway, Baltimore held off Boston 2-1 as Ross Grimsley won for the 18th time. Meanwhile the Yankees proved to be as resilient as Virdon had hoped by taking a doubleheader from the Indians—5-4 on Bobby Murcer's RBI in the ninth and 3-0 behind Larry Gura's six-hitter. That left the Orioles and Yankees deadlocked and prompted Virdon to say, "Today we start all over."
The next day Cleveland built a 7-2 lead against New York, but the Yankees rebounded with a 19-hit, 14-7 win in which Roy White stole home and drove in five runs and Murcer at long last slugged his first homer in Shea Stadium. Up in Boston the Orioles engaged in one of the most implausible tussles of the season, one that lasted six hours, 36 minutes because of rain delays totaling 3½ hours. Baltimore led 5-1, only to have Boston tie in the ninth (three of the runs came on Dwight Evans' homer) and then win in the 10th on a single by Deron Johnson. When the kitchen had cleared, the Yankees were one game ahead of the Orioles and four in front of the Red Sox.
Boston's hopes were diminished by the loss of Rico Petrocelli for the rest of the season because of inner-ear damage from a beaning. But the Sox were heartened by the hitting of Centerfielder Fred Lynn, who came up from their Pawtucket, R.I. farm club and last week hit .550 and drove in eight runs.
"I'm the first and only pitcher who has won 20 games wet and 20 dry," said Cleveland's Gaylord Perry. The reformed spitballer got No. 20 for 1974 over the Orioles 1-0.
Milwaukee, 3-2, moved to within half a game of fourth-place Cleveland as newcomers provided punch. Gorman Thomas drove across four runs in a 9-5 trouncing of Boston and Sixto Lezcano homered twice.
Newsmakers for Detroit, 3-3, were the oldest Tiger, Al Kaline, and one of the newest, Pitcher Vernon Ruhle. Kaline had seven hits, leaving him just two short of his goal of 3,000. Ruhle, with relief help from John Hiller, beat Boston 3-1.
NY 83-70 BALT 82-71 BOS 78-73 CLEV 73-78 MIL 73-79 DET 70-82
Having defeated the A's five straight times in two weeks, the Rangers eagerly awaited their final confrontation with the world champions. After all, they had 19-game winner Jim Bibby going against five-game winner Glenn Abbott, and a Texas win would slice Oakland's lead to three. Ah, well, Bibby was shelled, Rollie Fingers came to Abbott's rescue and the A's won 4-1.
Both teams had their troubles thereafter, but the A's did stop the Royals 5-4 for Ken Holtzman's 19th win and the White Sox 3-2 for Catfish Hunter's 24th win. Texas' solace was limited to Steve Hargan's 2-0 conquest of California.
Minnesota, which spent much of the season trying to stay out of the cellar, leapfrogged to within 1½ games of second place. Since Aug. 28 the Twins, 5-1, have won 16 games and lost six. Complete games were a rarity for the Twins early in the year, but now they got five. Vic Albury defeated the White Sox 8-0 and both Joe Decker and Bert Blyleven earned their 15th and 16th wins.
Kansas City lost its first two (making 19 defeats in 22 games) before doing a turnabout. The Royals won two of three from the A's (Steve Busby beat them 2-1 for his 20th victory) and swept a doubleheader from the Rangers as they bumped the White Sox from fourth place.
Chicago, 2-3, won only when it had excellent pitching: Bart Johnson and Terry Forster stopped the A's 2-0, and Jim Kaat, who was 4-6 at one point, squelched the Twins 3-1 to reach 18-13. Nolan Ryan of California downed Chicago 6-2 for his 20th win.
OAK 86-67 TEX 80-72 MINN 79-74 KC 75-78 CHI 74-78 CAL 61-92
"I guess they think we're dead," quipped Pete Rose when the Reds arrived at their San Diego hotel and spotted a sign welcoming a convention of casket makers. But Manager Sparky Anderson did not seem to be joking when he said, "The Dodgers have it won." Los Angeles got two victories each from Don Sutton and Andy Messersmith. It was Sutton who began the week with a 7-1 win over Cincinnati with the help of a grand-slam home run by Jimmy Wynn. Although the Dodgers lost three other games, the Reds were 2-5 and fell 3½ games back.
Playing the role of spoilers were San Francisco and San Diego. The Giants shocked the Reds twice—4-3 when Gary Thomasson drove in the go-ahead run in the eighth and 8-6 when Ed Goodson homered in the 10th. The Padres also zapped the Reds twice and knocked off the Dodgers once. Bill Greif beat the Reds 6-1 and the next day Enzo Hernandez, who had never had more than two RBIs in any game, drove in four runs as the Padres won 6-5. And Dan Spillner held off the Dodgers 4-3 with a five-hitter.
The smallest crowd in San Francisco history—748 for a game with the Braves—underscored the fact that the Giants will draw barely 500,000 for the year. In San Diego, however, the team went over 1 million in attendance for the first time.
Atlanta's Phil Niekro lowered his ERA to 2.52 and improved his record to 18-12 by stopping San Diego 3-1 and Houston 1-0, driving in the winning runs in both contests. Houston took two of three from Los Angeles, 7-0 behind Tom Griffin and 3-2 in 10 innings on a pinch double by Bob Watson.
LA 95-57 CIN 92-61 ATL 84-69 HOUS 77-75 SF 70-84 SD 56-98
While St. Louis and Pittsburgh continued their struggle for first place (page 26), the rest of the Eastern teams tried to salvage what they could from the waning season. Philadelphia lost four of five but ended a six-game losing streak by drubbing Montreal 10-2 as Steve Carlton picked up his first win in almost seven weeks.
Montreal, 4-2, tied a club mark by extending its victory streak to eight games before losing. The Expos played three consecutive 3-2 games against the Mets, winning two of them, and closed out their series with a 4-0 win. Dale Murray pitched 6‚Öì innings of scoreless relief to save three games.
New York had just two homers, but both were instrumental in wins. Rusty Staub's drive plus stout relief work by Tug McGraw enabled rookie Randy Sterling to defeat the Expos 3-2. Wayne Garrett's three-run poke helped Jerry Koosman down the Pirates 4-2.
The Cubs had more fun than they have had all year, winning four in a row and five of six. They scored twice in the ninth to beat the Mets 5-4, took three straight from the Phillies and frolicked past the Cardinals 19-4. Young players did some robust hitting: Ron Dunn had three doubles in one game, Steve Swisher a grand slam in another.
ST.L 81-71 PITT 80-71 PHIL 74-77 MONT 71-79 NY 68-83 CHI 64-87