Heat was an element much in evidence as major league baseball set about determining its pennant winners. Entering the playoffs, the two hot teams were the Orioles and Pirates, but the weekend games demonstrated that even tepid teams can warm quickly to the occasion if they have talent—and both the Athletics and Dodgers have been known to ignite on very short notice. Pittsburgh felt L.A.'s heat first; then, having scorched the A's, the Orioles were burned themselves. Baltimore had not lost since Sept. 21, and in the series opener Saturday it routed 25-game winner Catfish Hunter, prevailing 6-3 on homers by Paul Blair, Bobby Grich and Brooks Robinson and the wily pitching of 22-game winner Mike Cuellar. The loss seemed to be the spark needed by the A's, who had played only .500 baseball the last six weeks of the season. On Sunday, Sal Bando and Ray Fosse hit home runs and A's lefthander Ken Holtzman shut out the Orioles 5-0 to even the series.

In the National's playoffs it was the very essence of baseball—strength matched against strength, Pirate hitting against Dodger pitching. But there was little to show for Pittsburgh muscle in the first two games as the Dodger pitching triumvirate of Don Sutton, Andy Messersmith and Mike Marshall muffled the explosive Pirate attack. Unable to score a run in the weekend's first 15 innings, the Pirates fell feebly to Sutton, who shut them out 3-0, and to Messersmith and the omnipresent reliever Marshall, who combined to defeat them 5-2 and tear their pennant hopes nearly to tatters. That the Dodgers banged out 21 hits could hardly be considered surprising: as a team Los Angeles hit only two points below the Pirates. Sawed-off Third Baseman Ron Cey, who drove in 97 runs during the season, had four hits Sunday (tying an NL playoff record), including a homer.

PHOTOMike Cuellar quelled the A's in Game One. PHOTOKen Holtzman burned the Birds in Game Two.
PHOTOSprawling Bobby Grich lunges too late to stop the A's swift Bill North from stealing second. TWO PHOTOSHomer hitter Paul Blair (left) gets a hand from Grich, who gives Blair two after homering also. PHOTOShutout winner Sutton is congratulated by Catcher Steve Yeager. PHOTODodger Davey Lopes overslides stealing second but is safe under Paul Popovich's tag. PHOTORon Cey connects for a home run in Game Two, biggest of his record-tying four hits.