As the least awe-inspiring of the majors' four division leaders, New York might have been expected to weaken after the All-Star break. Instead the Yankees led the big leagues with a 5-0 week, getting their usual quota of out-of-his-head heroics. This week's unexpected feat came from reserve Infielder Sandy Alomar, who has hit one homer per 380 at bats during his major league career. He belted one in the 10th inning to beat Texas 6-4. "I go for the long ball in situations like that," he said. "I don't always succeed." Ed Figueroa won his 10th and 11th games, Catfish Hunter and Dock Ellis their 11th and Ken Holtzman his eighth as the Yankees increased their lead from 9½ to 12 games.
Baltimore (3-1) moved from fourth to second as Jim Palmer (page 28) registered his 12th victory, Wayne Garland his 11th and Reggie Jackson homered twice. "The second half of the season belongs to me," said Jackson, who already has 10 homers, 44 RBIs and 13 stolen bases, although a contract hassle kept him inactive for a month.
Detroit (3-1) climbed from fifth to a tie for third, and Mark Fidrych atoned for his shakiness in the All-Star Game by beating Oakland 1-0 in 11 innings. At one point during the game Fidrych squatted on the mound, waiting for a stalling Claudell Washington to step back into the batter's box. Fidrych's next pitch was inside, Washington advanced toward the mound and both benches emptied. A good deal of hollering ensued, but it could not match the shouts of the 45,905 spectators who boisterously refused to leave Tiger Stadium until The Bird returned to the field to take his usual post-game bow.
July 25, 1976
Cleveland (2-2) Manager Frank Robinson moved Buddy Bell from third to first, started Larvell Blanks at third and Ron Pruitt as catcher and benched slumping First Baseman Boog Powell. Whereupon the Indians lost their fifth straight 5-2, to the Twins. With a more normal lineup the next night, Cleveland beat Minnesota 7-6. "We've got to do something," Robinson insisted, and he promptly demoted last season's ace, Dennis Eckersley (4-8), to the bullpen.
Boston (2-4) lost four of five games to Kansas City—three of them by 2-1 scores—and Captain Carl Yastrzemski publicly blasted his teammates. Taking the cue, Manager Darrell Johnson called a clubhouse meeting and benched 1975 Rookie of the Year and Most Valuable Player Fred Lynn.
Even a winning (3-2) week had its drawbacks for Milwaukee. When the White Sox hit Jim Slaton hard for two innings, Manager Alex Grammas had him change signs. Though Slaton's pitching improved, Grammas decided to yank him in the 10th inning, and Slaton seethed on the bench as Ray Sadecki gave up a game-winning homer to Pat Kelly. "I feel like tearing up my room," Slaton said.
NY 54-31 BALT 42-43 DET 40-42 CLEV 40-42 BOST 41-44 MIL 35-46
There is a race in this division—for second place. Texas (0-6) managed to create one by extending its losing streak to 10. The most lonesome Rangers were Toby Harrah, whose average has dropped from .300 to .265 in three weeks, and Jeff Burroughs, who had just two RBIs in the last II games. Oakland (2-2) moved to just .001 behind Texas when Mike Norris and Rollie Fingers shut out the Tigers 3-0 on four hits. Earlier the A's had blown a chance to move into second when they lost two games to Detroit while allowing only one earned run. Bill North caused their most embarrassing defeat, allowing a line drive to hit him in the chest.
Rod Carew of Minnesota (1-3) predicted he would win his fifth straight batting title despite George Brett's 40-point lead. Then Carew had one hit in a three-game series with Cleveland and fell further back. Brett appears unbeatable anyway. He went three-for-four against Boston—the 22nd time this season he has had three or more hits—as Kansas City posted a 4-2 week.
Chicago (2-2) and California (1-3) sought other ways to entertain. The White Sox managed to pass 500,000 in attendance on their 33rd home date by staging a Greek-American Night featuring Alex Karras and 13 belly dancers. The evening's festivities concluded with Bart Johnson and Dave Hamilton combining to beat Milwaukee 5-2. As the Angels kept slipping, Andy Etchebarren created a "Kalifornia Kangaroo Kourt" similar to the one that sat in Baltimore when he played with the Orioles. One important difference: such "felonies" as poor base running and feeble swings will result in fines of only $1 (the Orioles charged $5). The Kourt meets after wins—which may mean it will not meet often.
KC 55-32 TEX 44-42 OAK 45-43 MINN 40-46 CHI 39-46 CAL 36-54
New York (1-3) was doing two things it cannot afford to do: lose close games and get bad relief pitching. Beaten 4-3 and 1-0 by the Astros, the Mets also dropped a 9-8 decision to Atlanta when all three of New York's stoppers—Jon Matlack, Jerry Koosman and Tom Seaver—pitched in the same game for the first time. However, it was Reliever Bob Apodaca who gave up the deciding hit, a three-run double to Willie Montanez.
Their pennant hopes all but crushed, Met fans turned their attention to slugger Dave (Kong) Kingman, who homered for the 31st time in a 3-1 win over Houston. Kingman was torn between his distaste for discussing home run records and his obligations to Shea Stadium crowds. "Why don't I want to talk about home runs?" he asked. "Because the more I talk about them, the more I think about them." But thinking of Shea, where he has homered only 11 times this year, Kingman said, "Maybe I'll hit more at home the second half of the season. The fans here have big expectations."
Philadelphia (2-2) Pitcher Jim Kaat stopped San Diego (3-0) in 1:36 and lost 1-0 to San Francisco in 1:32, the shortest game of the year. Kaat and his teammates were only too happy to leave cold, windy Candlestick Park, where they had dropped two of three games to the Giants. "If I had to play here," said Greg Luzinski, who was two-for-11 in San Francisco, "I'd go bananas."
Pittsburgh (3-1) outscored its opponents 30-18, and even slumping (.259 for the season) Rennie Stennett got into the act, doubling home the deciding run in an 8-5 win over Cincinnati. The Pirates were streaking even in defeat. Frank Taveras stole his 24th consecutive base in a 10-2 loss to Atlanta.
After Mike Anderson of St. Louis (3-1) had three hits and scored three runs in a victory over Padre Randy Jones, Cardinal Trainer Gene Gieselmann had the hotel bellhop wake him at 9 a.m. and present him with 10 copies of a laudatory newspaper article.
Attempting to catch winless Chicago, Montreal (1-3) celebrated when Woodie Fryman beat the Reds for the first time since Aug. 8, 1975. Unfortunately for the Expos what Fryman won was a cow-milking contest, not a baseball game.
PHIL 57-27 PITT 48-36 NY 47-44 ST.L 39-46 CHI 36-51 MONT 26-54
When unbeaten Rick Rhoden gave up four runs in the first inning, Los Angeles (4-0) Manager Walter Alston put off plans to celebrate his 2,000th career victory. Then Rhoden took charge, shutting out Chicago the rest of the way, singling home the tying and go-ahead runs and picking up his ninth victory. With a 2,000-1,584 record over 23 seasons, Alston now is the sixth-ranked manager in wins and eighth-ranked in winning percentage (.557). "I'd trade about 1,000 of those victories for 60 more this year," he said. "That would give us about 110, and that would be enough."
The Dodgers were not doing badly, though, having crept to within five games of idling (2-2) Cincinnati in baseball's only bona fide division race. One reason was Pitcher Don Sutton, who beat the Cubs 4-1 for his 10th victory of the year to move into a fourth-place tie with Sandy Koufax for career wins (165) as a Dodger.
Houston moved into third by taking three of four games. Rookie Joaquin Andujar earned his fourth shutout, beating New York's Tom Seaver 1-0 on a Cesar Cedeno home run. Earlier Bob Watson's three-run shot had bested Jon Matlack 4-3. "Seaver, Matlack and the other Mets have good control," said Watson. "That's the kind of pitcher I prefer to bat against."
San Diego (0-4) could not hit anyone; the Padres had scored 15 runs in the last 11 games and lost 18 of their last 25. Suffering a rare loss was Randy Jones, who had thrown just three innings (in the All-Star Game) over an eight-day stretch. "I just couldn't get into the groove today," he said after losing 4-2 to the Cardinals.
Ed Halicki of San Francisco (3-1) had similar problems, but much different results. Halicki shut out Chicago 2-0 on two hits and Philadelphia 1-0 on six, then explained, "When I was warming up for those games, I didn't feel my control was sharp. But once I got on the mound my slider, my sinking fastball and my control were great. On days when I've felt good before a game, I've gotten belted early."
After settling his contractual difficulties with Atlanta (2-2) Owner Ted Turner, Willie Montanez had six RBIs in one game and hit .412 for the week.
CIN 55-34 LA 50-39 HOUS 44-45 SD 43-47 ATL 41-47 SF 37-53
PLAYER OF THE WEEK
GEORGE FOSTER: The Reds' outfielder was named the Most Valuable Player in the All-Star Game after he led the National League to its fifth straight victory. Foster had three RBIs and a long homer in the 7-1 win.