The division was not only loaded with offense but also with offensive behavior. Texas (3-2) Pitcher Bert Blyleven set the tone by hitting Kansas City Catcher Darrell Porter on the leg during the ninth inning of a 5-0 Ranger win. Blyleven was retaliating for a pitch Royal Marty Pattin had buzzed by the head of Texas' Juan Beniquez, who had hit one of his rare home runs earlier in the game. Admitting he had deliberately thrown at Porter, Blyleven said, "I didn't throw at him hard.... I think it puts a little excitement into the game.... I'd rather have the respect of my teammates than a shutout." He didn't have the respect of American League President Lee MacPhail, who fined him $500 and suspended him three days. Other Ranger hitmen were Willie Horton, Claudell Washington and Sandy Alomar, each of whom drove in three runs in a 14-4 win over Chicago.
The Royals (3-3) were peeved at everyone, including themselves. Porter said he couldn't understand how Texas Manager Frank Lucchesi could order a beanball after being beaten up in spring training by Lenny Randle KC Manager Whitey Herzog called Lucchesi "Emmett Kelly" and said of his own sagging slugger John Mayberry (.240 average and three homers), "My patience is exhausted. It's ridiculous for a man with his talent to hit like he has for 1½ seasons." Other choice words came from Pattin, who said of Beniquez, "Why hit a guy like that when you can get him out?" And from George Brett, who said of Blyleven, "If he had any brains, he'd be 25-0." Despite all the heated language and the .474 batting of Tom Poquette, Kansas City was cold on the field, most chillingly blowing a ninth-inning lead and losing 2-1 to Toronto.
Minnesota (4-2) contributed to the mayhem when Rod Carew took some swings at Detroit's Dave Roberts, who had plugged Carew on the back with a pitch. "He's a control pitcher, and I'm sure he threw at me," said Carew, who was ejected after the second-inning episode. Roberts lasted only a couple of batters more, and Minnesota won 7-3. The Twins had 62 hits for the week, but needed to call on their bullpen five times, an ominous turn of events considering the auto accident Relievers Mike Pazik and Don Carrithers were involved in. Carrithers (fractured kneecap, broken right wrist and a partial rupture of the quadriceps tendon) will be out three months; Pazik (broken legs) is through for the season.
May 8, 1977
Chicago (2-4) fell out of first despite 13 homers. The pitchers, especially Steve Stone, who lost twice to Texas, were the culprits. With an 0-2 count. Stone even threw a run-scoring wild pitch to .182-hitter John Ellis. Events were somewhat happier—if a little mixed up—in Oakland (3-4), where owner Charlie Finley gave $10,000 raises to rookies Rick Langford and Rob Picciolo. Broadcaster Monte Moore mistakenly introduced Right-fielder Larry Murray as Wayne Murray, Finley introduced newly acquired Infielder Marty Perez as Tony, and Dick Allen introduced a sobering note after his young teammates complained of the umpiring. "I've never seen such a bunch of crybabies," he said. Upon hitting his fourth homer of the season, Allen refused teammates' handshakes, saying, "Tell it to the umpires." Another veteran, Dock Ellis, had no scapegoats after losing his first start since coming from the Yankees. "I was terrible," he said. So was Seattle (2-5).
Despite a 2-4 week, California provided the division with a model of deportment. After being demoted to the bullpen, Paul Hartzell said, "I would rather help a club win a pennant in relief than start for an also-ran." And also-rans the Angels were, although Joe Rudi had two homers. He has five for the season, all of them when Frank Tanana (4-0) was pitching.
MINN 13-9 KC 11-8 OAK 12-9 CHI 10-8 TEX 10-8 CAL 9-13 SEA 8-16
Streaking from fourth to second, New York (6-1) never had a dull moment. The Yankees whipped their Cleveland cousins 10-1 and 7-1 to extend a winning streak over the Indians to 10. In Baltimore, New York encountered effigies, obscenities and flying hot dogs, all directed at former Oriole Reggie Jackson. Responding with five RBIs, Jackson led the Yankees to victories in two of three games. When Ron Guidry beat Seattle 3-0 and Ed Figueroa bested the Mariners 7-2, Manager Billy Martin should have been enjoying himself. Instead he was wondering when new Pitcher Mike Torrez would show up. Torrez was rumored to be both fishing in Arizona and attending his sick wife in Montreal.
Baltimore (3-4) owed its wins to Ken Singleton, who went 10 for 28 and drove in six runs. None of the hits was more satisfying than the 10th-inning single that beat Nolan Ryan 4-3. "I was aggravated all night because I wasn't touching the ball," he said. "The hit was some sort of strange gratification." Stranger still was 10-year-veteran Tom Shopay's first major league homer in a 3-1 win over Detroit. Asked why he has hit only one tater, Shopay said, "My bats-weren't long enough."
Democracy had no lasting effect in Cleveland (2-4). Even when he let the players pick a batting order and the Indians beat Toronto 4-3, Manager Frank Robinson appeared to be in danger of losing his job. Designated Hitter Rico Carty scarcely improved Robby's prospects when he cited the manager for a lack of leadership. "We need your help, Frank," Carty said before a luncheon audience of 600 people. "If you don't help, we'll all be in trouble."
Things were more harmonious in Boston (5-2). Ferguson Jenkins won twice, including a 9-0 three-hitter over the Blue Jays before an appreciative crowd of fellow Canadians, George Scott had three homers and millionaire Reliever Bill Campbell finally got a save.
Milwaukee (2-3) Pitcher Bob McClure picked a man off first for the third time this season to save one game, but Catcher Larry Haney lost another by throwing a ball into right field. In a 3-3 week, Detroit had plenty of offense but not enough defense. The Tigers had 63 hits—but gave up 60.
Toronto won three of seven as Bob Bailor hit safely in every game, and Otto Velez (10 for 23) moved into the league lead with a .442 average. Rookie Jerry Garvin (4-0) had his third complete game in five starts, beating Kansas City 2-1, and lowered his earned-run average to 2.14.
MIL 11-6 NY 11-9 BALT 9-8 BOS 9-9 TOR 10-11 DET 8-12 CLEV 6-11
Cincinnati (5-1) went from the ridiculous to the sublime. To start the week, Manager Sparky Anderson juggled his lineup—notably putting 5'7", 165-pound Joe Morgan at cleanup—and the Reds lost 7-1 to the Cubs. The lowest moment of the game came when base runner George Foster and Third Base Coach George Scherger collided. "Throw a tent over us and we're a three-ring circus," said Johnny Bench. "All we lack is a lady riding a horse." Bench, who was hitting .175 at the time, should not have been joking. "There is nobody who has a lock on playing if he doesn't produce," fumed Anderson as his team's season record slipped to 4-10. The next night the Reds unloaded on the Braves with a 12-run fifth inning and went on to win 23-9. Batting seventh, Bench homered twice and drove in four runs, while Foster had two homers and seven RBIs. Even so. Third Baseman Pete Rose was unsatisfied. "I'd rather win 3-2," he said. When the Reds squeezed 3-1 and 3-2 victories between 9-1 and 8-0 breathers and moved from last to second, he was appeased.
Alas, Cincinnati still lost 1½ games to the Dodgers, who had a 7-0 week and completed an 11-1 road trip. Even when they trailed San Diego 4-0, the Dodgers calmly rallied with a six-run third inning as Reggie Smith, Steve Garvey and Rick Monday drove in two runs apiece and won 7-5. The Dodgers are averaging 6.6 runs a game. "I think having pretty much the same batting order every day is a factor," said Manager Tom Lasorda. "I started the same eight guys in the first intra-squad game, the first exhibition, the first league game. They played together, and they lived together as a team. And that's important. They know one another."
Houston (4-2) ended an eight-game losing streak with some last-minute heroics. Rob Sperring's ground-rule double scored Bob Watson to give the Astros a 9-8, 10-inning win over the Padres, and Joe Ferguson's 13th-inning homer stopped the Giants 4-3. Astro pitching was improved, too, with Ken Forsch saving a 3-1 win and Floyd Bannister beating Pittsburgh 11-3 for his first major league victory.
Other teams in the division played dismally. San Diego lost all seven of its games, including a 9-2 embarrassment before 43,497, who had come to see pregame rock music and postgame fireworks. The loudest explosion came from Manager John McNamara, when he belatedly discovered that the victorious Mets had been batting out of order. Atlanta (0-6) rolled up a seven-game losing streak and dropped from second to fifth. Phil Niekro, the club's best pitcher for most of the last decade, remained winless, injured Andy Messersmith missed two starts and Willie Montanez hit .227. Darrell Evans' two-run homer to beat Houston 3-2 provided one of the bright moments for San Francisco (2-4), which is 1-7 at Candlestick this season. "I was swinging for a home run," said Evans. "I was getting psyched about never winning at home." The lowlight was an error by new Shortstop Tim Foli, which set up a 3-1 loss to Houston.
LA 17-3 CIN 9-10 HOUS 9-11 SF 8-11 ATL 8-12 SD 8-15
Montreal (1-3) had the stormiest week. First Shortstop Tim Foli, traded to San Francisco, left with a parting shot: "I just spent five years in Montreal under the worst conditions possible, and now they've got good conditions and I'm not going to get to play under them." Foli's replacement, former Giant Chris Speier, looked as if he could not play under any conditions, even though he had been outhitting his predecessor .176 to .175. Speier singled twice in his first game but cost a run in the 4-0 defeat by Los Angeles with a slow relay. Then he made two errors as the Expos again lost 6-4. "Let's put it this way," he said. "I didn't need a glove. One ball hit me in the chest and one in the cup."
Chicago (2-3) started the week optimistically. After a 7-1 defeat of the Reds, Reliever Bruce Sutter told Chicago reporters, "Write this down. We're going to win the pennant. We've got everything—speed, power hitters, good defense and good pitching." That day they had all those things, as Bobby Murcer and Jerry Morales backed Ray Burris' complete game with homers. But more typical of the Cubs' showing was the fourth straight poor performance by rookie starting Pitcher Mike Krukow, a 21-3 loser to the Cardinals. "It's like Noah's wife told him," Krukow lamented. "She said, 'Noah, honey, it's going to stop raining one of these days.' " In this game, at least, St. Louis (3-2) kept pouring it on, with a homer, six doubles and eight walks. It all added up to John Denny's fifth win without a loss. Other high-flying Cardinals were Ted Simmons, who hit .467 with 10 RBIs. and Reliever Al Hrabosky, who once figured he would not be around to get in on all the fun. Hrabosky had been sure he would be traded as a result of his differences with Manager Vern Rapp over hair regulations. No deal was made, and last week Hrabosky struck out six Braves in 2‚Öì innings.
New York (2-1) received the usual mixed blessings from Dave Kingman, who dropped a throw, setting up a 3-2 loss to Montreal, and had two three-run homers in a 9-2 win over San Diego. The Mets, who often seem more interested in having a good image than a good team, unexpectedly acquired Lenny Randle from Texas, where he had become persona non grata for slugging Manager Frank Lucchesi. In his first National League appearance, Randle's tumbling catch in left of a ball he had misjudged helped Tom Seaver run his record to 4-0.
Pittsburgh's new look was typified by its running (two steals a game) and pitching (shutouts by John Candelaria and Jim Rooker). The Pirates won three of four and moved into second. Philadelphia (3-2) stayed in the cellar, notwithstanding some heroic efforts. Despite injured ribs, Richie Hebner clouted a 410-foot triple to help beat the Giants. Even Manager Danny Ozark hit a 400-foot sacrifice fly in an exhibition game. Rookie Pitcher Randy Lerch was cheered like a homecoming GI when he won his third game, 6-4 over the Giants. In the stands were 100 relatives and friends from Rancho Cordova, Calif. "I swear most of them were crocked," said Lerch.
ST. L 12-7 PITT 10-7 MONT 8-8 NY 8-9 CHI 7-9 PHIL 7-9
PLAYER OF THE WEEK
RON CEY: The Dodger third baseman had five homers and 12 runs batted in, bringing his RBI total to 29, a big-league record for April. Cey finished the month with a .425 average and nine home runs, most in the majors.