It seemed as though the Westerners had come to praise one another—and themselves—rather than to bury anyone. Walter Alston used a rare superlative in speaking about his Dodgers, and Sparky Anderson of the Reds was ecstatic about his Gold Dust Twins. Cincy players were rhapsodic about Randy Jones of the Padres, while Andy Messersmith of the Braves and Bob Watson of the Astros had a few kind words to say about themselves. Only San Francisco seemed to be unpraiseworthy.
"It's the best stretch of baseball since the Dodgers of 1955," said Alston. The Dodgers have won 22 of 26 games, topped off by last week's 6-1 effort that lifted them into first place. Sharp pitching was the main ingredient. Burt Hooton won twice, Rick Rhoden stymied the Reds 5-0 and Tommy John downed the Braves 4-1. The bullpen did the rest, Mike Marshall gaining his eighth save and Charlie Hough (5-0) winning twice.
Anderson's Gold Dust Twins are Pat Zachry, 24, and Santo Alcala, 23, who are both 3-0. "I've never told this to a kid your age, but you are a bona fide major league pitcher," Anderson told Zachry between innings against the Dodgers. "When you get a four-run lead against anybody [which Zachry had at that moment], you look over in that dugout and tell those guys, 'That's it, boys. This one's in the hamper.' " Sure enough, Zachry kept it in the hamper, 5-3, then stifled the Padres 3-2. Alcala won 5-4 over the Giants. "Where would we be without them?" Anderson asked. The answer: last week the Reds fell 2½ games behind the Dodgers as they lost four of the five games in which Zachry and Alcala did not appear.
May 30, 1976
"He's the exact opposite of Tom Seaver, but he gets the same results," said the Reds' Joe Morgan of the Padres' Jones. "I think the next time I face him I'll go up without a bat," said Pete Rose. "Maybe it'll confuse him and he'll walk me." Jones brought his record to 8-2 by taming the Giants 12-2, then used just 87 pitches to beat the Reds 4-2 in a 99-minute five-hitter. Rookie Reliever Butch Metzger earned his fourth win for San Diego (3-4) without a loss, overcoming the Giants 7-6 when Doug Rader broke up a double play, enabling Dave Winfield to score all the way from second with the deciding run in the 11th inning.
"Good stuff" is what Andy Messersmith of Atlanta (4-4) said that he finally had as he registered his first wins, 3-2 over Houston and 8-0 over San Francisco.
Bob Watson of Houston (3-5), who had hit only one homer this season, walloped four last week. No hot dog, Watson nonetheless permitted himself the slugger's luxury of slowing down on the bases to watch one of his drives sail into the seats. "I felt I owed it to myself," he said.
Amid accusations of lack of hustle, the Giants, losers of 21 of 26 games, dropped into the cellar. But San Francisco did pull out one win in seven games, when Gary Lavelle picked up his seventh save in a 6-5 defeat of the Reds.
LA 25-13 CIN 22-15 SD 18-18 HOUS 18-22 ATL 14-24 SF 12-26
What does the manager say when he confers with his pitcher on the mound? Tug McGraw revealed that, when Philadelphia's Danny Ozark visited him with one Met on and the Phillies (4-2) leading 5-3 in the eighth, Ozark told him, "I'm here to make you smile. You're too serious." Added McGraw, "Me? Too serious? That was funny in itself. I broke up." McGraw got the last laugh, holding the Mets at bay the rest of the way.
Reggie Smith, playing with a bum shoulder and a rotten .168 average, blasted three homers in a 7-6 Cardinal win over the Phils. The switch-hitting Smith slugged two right-handed, the other left-handed, the sixth time he has homered from both sides of the plate in the same game. Only Mickey Mantle has accomplished the feat more often; he did it 10 times. Smith socked his third homer in the top of the ninth to put St. Louis (3-4) ahead. Then, playing third base rather than his customary outfield position, he saved the game with a sparkling fielding play.
Since coming to the majors in 1973, Pittsburgh's Dave Parker has hit .366 against St. Louis. So when Parker was sidelined with a knee injury, the Cardinals felt relieved. Not for long. Filling in for Parker, Bill Robinson hit a two-run homer as the Pirates (4-3) defeated the Cardinals 2-1, and a three-run shot as the Bucs beat them 4-1. Bob Moose ran his string of scoreless relief innings to 22‚Öì while earning two saves and a win. When the regular umpires refused to cross a picket line of striking vendors at Three Rivers Stadium, a crew of local sandlot officials handled two games between the Pirates and Cubs without incident.
In his first game for Montreal (2-2) since being picked up from Chicago, Andre Thornton socked a two-run homer against his former Cub roommate, Ray Burris, as the Expos won 3-0.
Wayne Garrett of the Mets (3-3) drove in all four runs as New York beat Montreal 4-3. And Rick Monday, although weakened by a bout with the flu during which he lost 12 pounds, pinch-hit a three-run homer as the Cubs (2-2) put down the Padres 6-5.
PHIL 22-9 PITT 21-14 NY 22-16 CHI 15-20 ST.L 16-22 MONT 13-19
"We're the team to beat, and A.O. [Amos Otis] is the best player in the league," said John Mayberry of Kansas City (5-2). Mayberry batted .414 and Otis .385 as the Royals went on a .335 spree. Also lending a bat was Tom Poquette, whose double in the 12th inning beat Texas 8-7. The Royals bumped the Rangers out of first place by a 3-1 score the next night as Otis hit his seventh homer and helped preserve Al Fitzmorris' fifth win by making a shoetop catch in center field. Two days later A.O. was more than O.K. again, getting four hits and escaping a rundown to keep alive a game-winning uprising as the Royals toppled the A's 8-4. While his teammates praised him, Otis inexplicably remained silent about his deeds, preferring to point to a sign above his locker that read, "No interviews. A.O."
Nelson Briles prevented the week from being a total washout for Texas (1-5) by defeating California 5-2.
"Speed has won half our games for us," said Chuck Tanner, manager of the A's (1-6). Fresh on Tanner's mind was the swiftness of Larry Lintz, who had gone to first base as a pinch runner with two out in the seventh, zipped to third on an errant pickoff try and scored on a wild pitch for a 3-2 win over Texas. But the A's found out that not every race goes to the swift. They stole nine bases in one game (four of them by Don Baylor), a 5-4 loss to the Twins in which Oakland stranded 16 runners. Despite five more thefts in the next game against Minnesota, the A's lost again, 4-3. After two defeats at Kansas City ran Oakland's string to four in a row, Tanner met with Owner Charles O. Finley and the team astrologer. Emerging from the mini-summit, Tanner said, "In Chicago, we start something better." The A's, once guided by stars on the field rather than by heavenly bodies, lost both games in Chicago. That dropped them to fifth place, eight games out, their lowest standing since 1970.
Opponents stole 24 bases in as many tries against the Twins (3-4) before one runner was picked off and another was caught stealing. Minnesota's two wins over Oakland came in 11 innings. Dave Goltz went all the way for a 4-3 victory in which Dan Ford drove in the winning run, and Reliever Bill Campbell (5-1) earned a 5-4 decision when Steve Brye, who was hitting .097, delivered the decisive hit.
With Wilbur Wood injured and Terry Forster hampered by arm trouble, the Chicago staff seemed sure to be shaky. Instead, the White Sox (6-1) got their finest pitching of the year. Bart Johnson, who had a 1-4 record and 10.96 ERA, heeded Manager Paul Richards' recommendation to eliminate his high-kick delivery and to throw more curves and beat the Angels 5-0 with a three-hitter. Pete Vuckovich downed the Twins 4-1, then Rich Gossage trimmed Minnesota 3-2. Ken Brett, in his first appearance since being obtained in a trade with the Yankees, blanked the A's 6-0 with four innings of relief from Clay Carroll, who earlier had earned his first American League victory by giving up just one run to the Royals in 6‚Öì innings. And hitherto winless Jesse Jefferson handcuffed the A's 7-2. Leading Chicago's offense was Bucky Dent, who hit .556.
Frank Tanana of California (4-2) struck out 18 as he sidetracked Chicago 10-5 and Texas 5-1. Reliever Jim Brewer, who often arrives at the park at noon for night games so he can run his daily two miles or more, continued to excel in his 17th season. Brewer lowered his ERA to 0.95 with two scoreless innings as he bailed out Gary Ross in a 6-3 win over the Rangers.
KC 21-11 TEX 20-13 MINN 17-16 CHI 14-16 OAK 16-21 CAL 15-24
While New York (4-2) and Boston (4-3) scrambled (page 18), Baltimore (5-0) jumped up to second place. On the eve of his 39th birthday, Brooks Robinson of the Orioles was benched because of his .165 batting average. Replacing him at third base was Doug DeCinces, who had nine hits in 18 times up, including a grand slam in an 8-5 defeat of the Tigers. Doyle Alexander notched that win with eight innings of two-run relief. Baltimore used a similar formula to beat Detroit 8-4 the next night, Reliever Wayne Garland allowing one run in 6‚Öì innings and Ken Singleton ending the game with a grand slammer in the bottom of the ninth. Ken Holtz-man throttled the Yankees 7-0, and the Birds won 4-3 and 5-3 over their cousins, the Brewers, whom they have beaten 10 times in a row and in 17 of 19 games during the past two seasons.
Before the first game of the week, Milwaukee Manager Alex Grammas received a phone call from his Cincinnati counterpart, Sparky Anderson, who urged his former third-base coach to "hang in there." With Don Money leading a 19-hit assault by driving in five runs, the Brewers (3-2) hung one on the Red Sox 11-5 to break a seven-game losing streak. Jim Slaton was credited with his fifth win in that game, then earned his sixth as he held off the Indians 6-5.
Ron LeFlore extended his hitting streak to 24 games, the longest by a Tiger since 1935. Despite LeFlore's .400 hitting, which raised his average to a league-leading .390, Detroit (0-6) fizzled.
Jackie Brown, a former fastballer who uses an assortment of curves since recovering from a sore arm, came up with Cleveland's only win in five tries when he defeated Detroit 4-0. George Hendrick took over the league lead in home runs by hitting his seventh and eighth of the season.
NY 21-11 BALT 18-14 MIL 13-14 BOS 14-18 DET 13-17 CLEV 13-19
PLAYER OF THE WEEK
BURT HOOTON: By blanking the Pirates 6-0 on three singles and a double and by stopping the Astros 2-1 on six singles, the righthander chalked up his third and fourth consecutive wins as the Dodgers built a two-game division lead.