The White Sox weren't the only surprise in Chicago. Led by Manny Trillo's three homers, the Cubs (5-1) racked up 43 runs. Their pitching was not bad either. Ray Burris shut out the Astros 9-0 on five hits, and Bruce Sutter's 3‚Öì-inning relief stint preserving a 4-1 victory over Cincinnati earned the following accolade from Johnny Bench: "He's got only one pitch, the forkball, but that's still one too many, because no one can hit it." Unfortunately, Bill Buckner couldn't hit any pitch—or field or run—after tendinitis in the left ankle sidelined him again. There was more bad news when Burris was hit by a pitch on a finger of his throwing hand. Still, the Cubs moved from fifth to third and edged above the .500 mark.
Montreal (4-2) was no less surprising. The Expos even stopped an eight-game Dodger winning streak, beating them 6-2 on two homers by Gary Carter and one by Del Unser. Despite hitting two homers and driving in six runs during the week, Unser wasn't sure he had earned a starting job in the outfield. With Berra-like wit and wisdom, he maintained, "All you've got to do is prove you can do what you can do." Further proof the Expos can at least hit for real came from Ellis Valentine (9 for 24) and Warren Cromartie (7 for 20 with four doubles).
Though they have stolen 50 bases (compared to four at this time last year), Pittsburgh (6-0) looked like the Lumber Company of yore. Willie Stargell twice had two homers in one game, and Dave Parker had a pair in another as Pittsburgh moved into first place, smacking Houston 4-3, Atlanta 11-1, 8-7 and 8-0 and Cincinnati 6-3 and 12-10. Parker, with eight RBIs and a .481 average for the week, was the most unabashed basher, and his spirit was catching. Reliever Grant Jackson drove in what proved to be the winning runs with a two-run double in the 12-10 defeat of the Reds.
May 15, 1977
St. Louis had a 3-2 week as its pitchers allowed just seven earned runs. Unfortunately, one of them, 5-0 ace John Denny, pulled a hamstring and will miss a couple of turns. The Cardinals were lucky no one else was hurt in a 20-minute free-for-all with Houston. The brawl started in the ninth inning of a 4-1 win when, predictably, the Astros' Cesar Cedeno charged Al Hrabosky, who had just hit him with a pitch. Predictably, Hrabosky denied any evil intent and, predictably, no one believed him. A more pleasant note was struck by rookie Tony Scott, who homered before his mother and 15 other relatives to help beat the Reds 8-1.
It wasn't so bad that the Mets (2-5) dropped four straight to Los Angeles. That's happening a lot to teams this year. But it was bad that two of the Mets' biggest names were name-calling. After Dave Kingman took himself out of the lineup with bruised ribs. Pitcher Jon Matlack said, "If he doesn't want to play, the hell with him." When Board Chairman M. Donald Grant supposedly sent a "must-win" edict to Manager Joe Frazier about the Mayor's Trophy exhibition game with the Yankees, Tom Seaver let loose. "The man [Grant] is a maniac," he said. "The man is image-conscious, that's all. Here we are in the worst slump of the season, and all he's worrying about is an exhibition. I never wanted to leave this organization. Never. But the time is now." Seaver later apologized, telling a news conference he was not misquoted but adding, "There was a time difference between the time I thought Grant said what he said and the time he actually said it."
Winning on alternate days, the Phillies had only a 4-3 week, but were bragging like champions. Though Ollie Brown scored the winning run in a 10-inning, 4-3 win over the Padres, his biggest thrill was throwing out Jerry Turner at third base in the ninth. "That cat was just passing second base when I picked up the ball," said Brown, "and I told myself. 'I'm going to nail him.' " Pitcher Gene Garber noticed that the ball had a cut on it after the throw. "My eyes lit up," he said. "Gene Richards was the next hitter, and with that cut on it, I struck him out with three of the greatest sinkers you'll ever see." Finally, there was Tim McCarver, who smashed a triple and two doubles in the same game. His proudest moment: a pop foul he hit that advanced two runners in a 9-3 loss. "You've got to admit, it's tough creating excitement on a pop foul," he boasted. "It's just another dimension of my talent."
PITT 16-7 ST. L 15-9 CHI 12-10 MONT 12-10 PHIL 11-12 NY 10-14
While the sizzling Dodgers (page 24) were 5-2, every other team in the division had a losing week and stayed below .500. Most pathetic were the Braves, who dropped five and extended their losing streak to 13. The script differed from game to game, but the result was always the same. Dick Ruthven lost his third, in the process tearing ligaments, which may knock him out for the season. Buzz Capra had his first start and his first loss, and winless Phil Niekro lost his fifth and sixth. "We're not going to jump off the highest building," Director of Player Personnel Bill Lucas said. Added Manager Dave Bristol, "It's the worst thing that could happen to Atlanta, Georgia." The Braves gave up 120 runs in the 13 losses.
Cincinnati lost four of five as its homerless streak reached seven games. "We're giving 'em a 7½-game lead," Manager Sparky Anderson said about the Dodgers at midweek. "That's just about right. They come back to us every year." By week's end, the lead was 11. Another would-be contender, San Diego, showed some improvement, if playing 3-4 ball can be called that. Randy Jones' pitching could be. He beat the Phils 4-1 in 1:29, getting 19 of his 27 outs on grounders in the Padres' first complete game of the year. Mike Ivie's behavior drew less favorable reviews. First Ivie said he thought he was ready for superstardom, "if the good Lord's willing and the creek don't rise." Then Ivie refused to play third base because "playing third affects my hitting." He was fined $400 and suspended for a day. Meanwhile, Dave Winfield was keeping San Diego in games all by himself, getting two homers and 10 RBIs in seven games.
Houston (2-4) got a win on an extra-inning homer by Catcher Joe Ferguson. "Well. I feel the longer you play in a game the better your timing gets," he said. San Francisco (2-3) was getting desperate. With Chub Feeney, the National League president and former Giant general manager, looking on in embarrassment, the Giants lost 7-1 to Montreal before only 1,805 fans at Candlestick Park. No wonder, the Giants were 3-11 at home.
LA 22-5 CIN 10-14 HOUS 11-15 SF 10-15 SD 11-19 ATL 8-18
New York (4-1) was finally living up to expectations. The Yankees moved into first by mowing down the A's 11-2 on the same day that Milwaukee was losing to Detroit 5-2. The Yankee win had everything: a complete-game, 10-strikeout performance by Don Gullett, hits by every starter but Carlos May and errorless defense. And it ended a week in which Ken Holtzman won his second game, Ed Figueroa his third, Mike Torrez his fourth (his first as a Yankee) and Thurman Munson extended his hitting streak to 15 games. New York Manager Billy Martin celebrated by babbling obscenely about an official scorer's decision he did not like.
For Milwaukee (3-5) it could have been a week to remember. After all, hadn't rookies Moose Haas and Barry Cort strengthened the rotation with their first big league wins? Haas beat Toronto 3-1 despite a bad back, and Toronto-born Cort pleased his relatives and father, an unemployed painter who flew north from Florida, by stopping the Blue Jays 6-2 the next night. Trouble was, there were just too many fans in Toronto, where the Blue Jays draw an average of 21,300, for the Jays to disappoint. In the third game of the series, Ron Fairly had his first three-hit game in a Toronto uniform, and Dave McKay abandoned his hopeless switch-hitting experiment to knock in three runs right-handed as the Blue Jays won 10-3. The next day, in a game delayed an hour by fog. McKay tripled and Fairly homered to halve the series 9-8. Alas, Toronto then lost two to the Twins to finish up a 2-5 week.
Even though Red Sox rookie Bob Stanley threw a six-hitter at the Angels, beating Frank Tanana 3-0, Reliever Bill Campbell got his first win, and Jim Rice and Carlton Fisk each homered twice, perhaps the best news in Boston was that Fred Lynn, who was socking the ball all over Fenway in batting practice, was ready to be activated.
Most of the news in Cleveland, where the Indians had a 2-4 week, took place off the field. Amid rumors of Manager Frank Robinson's imminent dismissal, rival skippers Bob Lemon (White Sox) and Gene Mauch (Twins) gave him testimonials. "It's not the job of a manager to motivate," Lemon said. "Self-motivation is the key to success on any team." Mauch added that Robinson rarely made mistakes in games with Minnesota. Among the other rumors: the club would not be able to meet its mid-May payroll, and San Francisco 49er owner Edward J. DeBartolo was negotiating to pick up the remains.
A substitute going into the week, Baltimore (4-1) Outfielder Pat Kelly may have made himself a regular by going 9 for 16, with four homers and one double. Kelly began his streak by figuring in all the Oriole runs during a 3-2 victory over California. His 10th-inning homer clinched the win. As he approached the plate before hitting his home run, Kelly said to himself, "Dear Lord, it would be nice if I could win this game with a dinger." Kelly did not seem to have a prayer of doing that, because he already had homered once in the game and had a career total of just 42 in nine seasons. He connected nonetheless and had subsequent home runs in a 9-2 win over Oakland and a 4-1 victory over Seattle. Finally, Kelly singled, stole a base, scored a run and drove in another in a 4-2 defeat of the Mariners. It was almost enough to gladden Jim Palmer, who muttered, "I haven't thrown the ball well" even as he set down the A's on seven hits and kept his ERA at 1.13.
Detroit (2-2) Reliever John Hiller had better reason to complain. "I make good pitches and wind up getting beat when a perfect curve ball goes off the end of Roy Smalley's bat," he moaned after the switch-hitting Twin got his first left-handed hit of the year, a bloop single, to beat the Tigers 6-5. Former Tiger Willie Horton had no gripe about the treatment he received on his first visit to Detroit as a Texas Ranger. Mayor Coleman Young threw a party for Horton, and the fans chanted, "We want Willie." Said Horton, "The first time up I had tears in my eyes. I tried not to look at my ex-teammates until I got ready to hit." So overcome was Horton that he went 4 for 6 as the Rangers won 13-0.
NY 15-10 BALT 13-9 MIL 14-11 BOS 13-11 TOR 12-16 DET 10-14 CLEV 8-15
If Kansas City (4-3) and Texas (2-2) are playing, it must be fight time. Round One: the Rangers' Bump Wills, caught in a rundown, is tagged out by Third Baseman George Brett after colliding with Catcher Darrell Porter. Wills and Porter fall to the ground, get up and exchange words. Both benches empty. Round Two: seven players—two Royals, five Rangers—are ejected, but the only injury is a minor one to Brett's throwing arm. Verdict: split decision to Texas. During the inevitable postmortems, Wills gave this version of his t√™te-√†-t√™te with Porter:
Porter: "How do you like it down there?"
Wills: "I thought it was a good baseball play."
Porter: "Sure it was. But you're out, so get your rear end back to the dugout."
Added Wills: "He instigated it, and he's got a big mouth." K.C. Manager Whitey Herzog predictably disagreed. He admitted Porter may have spoken first, but added, "To me, it's just a matter of a guy gets caught in a squeeze and gets mad." Other bits of sweetness and light included Brett calling Texas' Claudell Washington a "gutless bleep" and Ranger Willie Horton threatening to show Porter "the old school."
All but obscured was the fact that K.C. won the game 6-5 in the 10th inning, when Joe Zdeb's sacrifice fly scored Frank White. These were the same two teams that had tangled the previous week after Ranger Bert Blyleven retaliated for an alleged beanball by plunking Porter on the knee. This week Blyleven shut out Detroit 13-0.
California's 1-3 week was brightened by a 15-strikeout performance by Nolan Ryan, who whipped the Red Sox 8-4. Bobby Grich had a two-run homer, and Jerry Remy went 4 for 4. Minnesota (4-1) stayed in first despite the continued inability of Dave Goltz and Pete Redfern to win. Cub castoff Geoff Zahn took up the slack with his fifth victory (7-2 over Toronto), and rookie Jeff Holly pitched seven scoreless innings en route to beating Detroit 6-5.
Oakland (2-4) egos were put down by the Yankees, who beat the A's twice and even refused to appear on the A's postgame radio show. Said announcer Bob Waller, "One guy said he had to get home early for dinner, another had a date, a third said he didn't like radio appearances and a fourth said he had to take a shower." Ah, but what was Dock Ellis of the A's doing refusing interviews? Pounded for five first-inning runs by the Yankees, Ellis said, "My head's not in the right place yet." Neither is his arm. He has a 21.20 ERA in two appearances with Oakland.
As Chicago went 5-2, Seattle dipped to 1-5 and gave up eight stolen bases in two nights. In their first 29 games, the Mariners have allowed opponents 30 homers, given up 121 walks, thrown 15 wild pitches and hit 16 batsmen. "I have the patience of Job," said Manager Darrell Johnson. But will he be patient enough to keep from raising the King-dome's short right-field fence? "Don't do it," advised Baltimore Manager Earl Weaver. "Fans like homers. After all, who likes 1-0 games?"
MINN 17-10 CHI 15-10 KC 15-11 TEX 12-10 OAK 14-13 CAL 10-16 SEA 9-21
PLAYER OF THE WEEK
STEVE ROGERS: The Montreal righthander beat Los Angeles 6-2 and San Francisco 7-1, driving in two runs against the Giants with two singles. He has a 3-1 record, four complete games and a 1.34 earned run average.