Ken Singleton wasn't the only hero as Baltimore (6-1) moved into first place. Mike Flanagan beat New York 4-3 and Milwaukee 4-2 for his fourth and fifth consecutive complete-game victories. Ross Grimsley won twice and Rudy May once. Though Eddie Murray (10 for 26. two game-winning hits) continued his barrage at the plate, it was Oriole pitching that had people finally believing Baltimore is a true contender. Fans of Boston (6-2), though, are worried their pitching may not be strong enough. Accordingly, the happiest news of the week was not that Carl Yastrzemski got his 2,655th hit to take over the club career lead from Ted Williams, but that Rick Wise pitched strongly in two wins.
New York's act was growing more and more tiresome. After Grimsley knocked the Yankees out of first place, New York Manager Billy Martin blamed the 6-0 loss on "greaseballs." This is the same Martin who attributed the Reds' four-game sweep of the World Series to bloop hits. The next day an unnamed Yankee accused owner George Steinbrenner of doing Martin's managing. Later in the week Catfish Hunter called his teammates selfish and wondered why Martin couldn't settle on a rotation. The answer is that the staff has been ailing all season. At week's end the Yankees (2-5) dropped two to Kansas City and were in third place.
Detroit (4-3) and Toronto (3-5) had topsyturvy weeks. The Tigers ran off a three-game win streak and a three-game losing streak. There was instant grief for 25,000 fans when Mark Fidrych had to leave a game with a sore arm after 15 pitches. Then there was instant joy when his substitute, Jim Crawford, threw 8‚Öì innings of scoreless baseball to beat Toronto 2-1. Blue Jay Ron Fairly, who celebrated his 39th birthday, was named to the American League All-Star team even as he was going 2 for 28.
July 24, 1977
There was nothing but bad news in Milwaukee (1-6) and Cleveland (1-7). The Brewers have lost 10 of their last 12 and Manager Alex Grammas was suffering further abuse. "Grammas is a nice guy," said utility man Mike Hegan, "but as a manager he makes a good third-base coach." Whereupon the Brewers gave Hegan his unconditional release. When they blew a 4-3 ninth-inning lead and went on to drop a seven-hour double-header to Boston, Third Baseman Sal Bando had another observation. "We're going to have to learn to come back," he said. "That's the one lesson we have to learn. We lost the first game, but we still had the chance to salvage a decent day, and it snowballed into a very bad day." The Indians homered nine times, but among the pitchers only Jim Bib-by could complete a game. And he lost it.
BALT 53-38 BOS 51-37 NY 50-41 CLEV 40-47 DET 40-49 MIL 40-49 TOR 33-57
California (3-4) busily fired one manager (Norm Sherry), hired another (Dave Garcia), fired a pitching coach (Billy Muffett) and hired a batting coach (Frank Robinson). Then the Angels brought in hypnotist Arthur Ellen to teach the players positive thinking. Nolan Ryan came out of the session in a good enough mind-set to record his 98th 10-strikeout game, a 5-4 win over Seattle. The feat erased a Sandy Koufax record. Still lingering, though, was Ryan's remaining negative thought: he wasn't going to play in the All-Star Game because Billy Martin had added him to the team only as a last-minute pick. That made Ryan and two injured players, teammate Frank Tanana and Mark Fidrych, the best would-be rotation ever to miss an All-Star Game.
Another team quickly dropping out of contention was Minnesota (2-4). Twice Manager Gene Mauch inserted a five-man infield with an opposing runner on third. Twice the runner scored to beat the Twins. Rod Carew went 7 for 24 and his average dropped from .401 to .393. Finally, Lyman Bostock, gearing up for free agency, called the Twins a "second-class organization...playing with my mind in moving me from my natural position in center field to left field." Twins fans, he added, know little about baseball. Responded owner Calvin Griffith: "Bostock is a cancer on our club."
With Chicago treading water at 4-4 (page 8), Texas (5-2) and Kansas City (6-1) made their long-expected moves. For Texas, Toby Harrah delivered his ninth game-winning hit of the season, a 10th-inning single to beat Baltimore 4-3, and Bert Blyleven and Doyle Alexander had complete-game victories. For Kansas City, light-hitting Frank White went 8 for 12 over a three-game stretch, and Amos Otis added a steak, milk shake, pie and ice cream to his light frame before homering and tripling to beat Chicago. Manager Whitey Herzog was kind to George Brett, assessing him only a $5 fine after Brett ran through a third-base stop sign, scored—and thereby started a go-ahead rally against Oakland. Seattle (3-4) Manager Darrell Johnson was not so inclined toward Pitcher Stan Thomas. When Thomas revived an old feud with Minnesota's Mike Cubbage by throwing at him three times, Johnson levied "the biggest fine I've ever handed out." The fine, its amount undisclosed, followed a 15-0 shellacking. Things got even more embarrassing when Lee Stanton grounded into a triple play against California.
Vida Blue won twice to give Oakland a 4-2 week. Blue, 8-11, has had only 15 runs to work with in his defeats.
CHI 53-36 KC 50-38 MINN 48-42 TEX 46-43 CAL 42-45 OAK 39-49 SEA 40-54
A double-barreled surprise, the Mets were both winners and civic saints. They took four of five as Pat Zachry, Jon Matlack, Nino Espinosa and Craig Swan won their first games of the month and Steve Henderson homered twice. The team even looked good in losing two Cub games to the blackout. When the lights dimmed in the first game, Shea Stadium organist Jane Jarvis entertained the 21,000 spectators by playing 90 minutes worth of melodies. Included was "Downtown where all the lights are bright." Met players pitched in by signing autographs and staging a pantomime infield drill, by the lights of their cars, deep in the outfield.
While the 2-4 Cubs (page 8) were in the dark most of the week, Philadelphia (4-4) began seeing some light at the end of the tunnel. Led by Greg Luzinski (12 for 30, five homers, 14 RBIs), the Phillies smacked 91 hits. Luzinski may have to keep up the pace, though, because Third Baseman Mike Schmidt will be lost for six weeks if he has surgery on the fractured ring finger of his right hand. And somebody will have to atone for the base-running antics of Bob Boone, the Stanford psychology grad who was thrown out at second, third and home in a single game. "We were hoping he'd be thrown out at first," said Pitcher Jim Kaat. "That way he'd have gone for the cycle."
Pittsburgh (5-3) also moved into contention. The Pirates beat Montreal 5-4 when 35-year-old Jim Fregosi homered in the 12th. St. Louis (2-5) was a multifaceted loser. Card pitchers gave up 33 runs, and one of the hurlers, Al Hrabosky, was having his old troubles with Manager Vern Rapp. "As silly as it may sound," said the still-shaven, still-disgruntled Hrabosky, "the hair and mustache might be the psychological thing that will carry me over the hump. I feel phony without them. I'm not myself." A broken record? Perhaps, but this time Hrabosky had accompaniment. When Rapp called a "motivational" meeting in the clubhouse, the team, through player rep Lou Brock, asked him to "bend some" on his strict hair and dress code. Rapp went so far as to arrange a champagne party after one game. It fizzled when the team lost. "It's time for the players to look at themselves and say, 'Maybe we're the guys who are causing all the troubles,' " snapped Rapp. As reports stirred of incipient rebellion, others suggested Rapp question his own policy of batting slumping players fourth. He claims it inspires them.
Montreal (3-3) Pitcher Stan Bahnsen and Catcher Gary Carter went from goat to hero. Most recently a failure at Oakland, Bahnsen beat Pittsburgh 4-2 and St. Louis 3-0. Carter left the plate uncovered, and as a result the tying run scored in a game the Expos eventually lost to Pittsburgh in extra innings. A few days later, after promising a 12-year-old terminal cancer patient that he would hit a home run, Carter delivered in storybook fashion. His three-run homer helped the Expos collar the Cardinals 7-6.
CHI 53-34 PHIL 51-38 PITT 49-41 ST.L 47-44 MONT 41-47 NY 36-53
It was easy enough to figure out the Dodger week (2-5). No one was hitting, least of all sluggers Steve Garvey (6 for 29), Ron Cey (3 for 25) and Rick Monday (1 for 10). And Charlie Hough, who got belted three times, was of little use in the bullpen. More perplexing was Cincinnati's (2-5) continued inability to cut the gap. The Reds used up their best shots in one game, with George Foster homering three times and Tom Seaver once in a 7-1 victory over Atlanta. Explaining away Seaver's disappointing 3-2 record as a Red, Manager Sparky Anderson, who earlier had predicted 25 Seaver wins this season, said, "He's just fitting in, getting comfortable. He'll win 25 next year." Accepting no excuses, Cincinnati columnist Pat Harmon wrote off the Reds' pennant chances. The last straw was the abrupt retirement of Pitcher Woodie Fryman, who preferred his nearby Kentucky farm to an Ohio bullpen.
The front-runners' troubles were other teams' delights. Houston had a 4-3 week against Cincy and L.A. Jose Cruz figured in all the wins by hitting .435, and J. R. Richard beat the Reds twice. "A pitcher is just like a farmer with his crops," said Richard. "You get out of it what you put into it." Putting in two wins in three games with the Reds, the Braves got out with their second straight 3-4 week. San Diego (4-3) took three of four from the Dodgers. "I wish we could play the Reds and Dodgers all the time," said Outfielder Dave Winfield, who hit .333, homered twice and drove in seven runs for the week. Teammate Rollie Fingers would probably settle for beating the Reds daily—in retaliation for Anderson's leaving him off the All-Star team. "I have more wins [six] and saves  than I had when I made the last four American League All-Star teams," said the well-used Fingers.
San Francisco (5-2) got a helpful lift when the Mets withdrew a protest of a game in which they were trailing the Giants 10-0. Later, rookie Pitcher Bob Knepper claimed that being forced to pitch the day of a flight disturbed his concentration. He pitched anyway, after the Giants landed in San Diego, and beat the Padres 5-1. The Giants' Charlie Williams was positively sky-high after stopping Atlanta 5-2; it was his first complete game since 1971.
LA 58-33 CIN 48-40 SF 43-50 HOUS 42-50 SD 40-54 ATL 33-57
PLAYER OF THE WEEK
BUTCH HOBSON: The Red Sox third baseman had four homers, three of which contributed to wins, went 17 for 34 and extended his hitting streak to 12 games. He has 18 homers and 64 runs batted in for the season.