With the team sluggins like the Yankees of old instead of behaving like the Crankees of recent months, New York (5-2) built a two-game lead over Boston. Eleven Yankee homers complemented tight pitching, most notably Ron Guidry's 2-1 victory against Texas, Catfish Hunter's 11-1 defeat of Minnesota and Sparky Lyle's 20th and 21st saves. Graig Nettles homered three times, Mickey Rivers had eight hits in a row and none of the players accused Manager Billy Martin of giving them a subtle dig when he treated them to a clubhouse feast of Maryland crabs.
Nothing perturbed the Yankees, not the first homer given up by their pitching staff in 59 innings, not a run-in with White Sox owner Bill Veeck, not an accusation of spying. For some time now, Yankee Administrative Assistant Gene Michael has had the league's permission to station himself in press boxes with a walkie-talkie, the better to advise the dugout on positioning the defense. Veeck objected to Michael's presence in Chicago's press box and ordered him to the stands, where he was heckled by fans. Minnesota Manager Gene Mauch suspected the Yankees might have stolen his signs, but the New Yorkers were hardly upset by that charge—mainly because they won the game 6-4.
Dwight Evans was placed on the disabled list with torn knee ligaments. Fred Lynn rehurt the ankle that had hampered him since spring training and Carlton Fisk said the Red Sox (2-6) were "in a mental slump." Lifting their spirits were Bill Campbell's 21st save during a 9-6 win over Texas and four homers that polished off Minnesota 7-5.
September 4, 1977
Manager Earl Weaver of Baltimore (2-5) was ejected from two games, Shortstop Mark Belanger's errorless streak stopped at 63 games and Brooks Robinson's 23-year playing career came to an end. Following a 10-5 defeat of Chicago, Weaver admitted, "I managed the whole thing right here [in the clubhouse] on closed-circuit TV and old No. 77 [the telephone extension to the dugout]." For Robinson, the end came so room could be made for the return of Catcher Rick Dempsey from the disabled ranks. Rich Dauer had six hits in the Birds' two wins and batted .526.
Detroit (4-3) walloped nine home runs, and got unaccustomed pitching from Fernando Arroyo, who had been knocked out in the first inning in three of his previous four starts. He went the route to beat California 5-1. The Tigers announced that Mark Fidrych will pitch no more this season; he will rest his ailing arm and perhaps play some winter ball.
Solid hitting and pitching kept alive Cleveland's hopes of bumping Detroit out of fourth place. Andre Thornton hit his 24th homer and raised his slugging percentage to .584, second only to the .590 of Boston's Jim Rice. Bruce Bochte batted .407 and Jim Bibby won on a two-hitter and Dennis Eckersley with a three-hitter and four-hitter as the Indians had four victories in seven games.
Cecil Cooper's 15th home run and Sal Bando's 14th helped Mike Caldwell of Milwaukee (1-6) beat Texas 4-2. Bill Castro came out of the bullpen in the ninth inning of that game to nail down his 13th save.
"I didn't have any curve at the start and I couldn't get my fastball over," said rookie Jim Clancy of Toronto (3-4), who got his act together as the game went on and beat Oakland 8-1. The Blue Jays swept a doubleheader in Seattle during which Hector Torres had six RBIs. Jerry Garvin won the opener 7-0. Jesse Jefferson the nightcap 9-3. Newcomer Rick Cerone became the first catcher to throw out Oakland rookie Mitchell Page, who had stolen 26 bases in a row.
NY 76-52 BOS 73-53 BALT 72-54 DET 60-67 CLEV 59-69 MIL 56-78 TOR 45-81
Bobby Winkles' first 11 weeks as manager of the A's were crammed with problems: injuries, a 14-game losing streak and a road trip on which he found two right shoes in his equipment bag. Last week, the shoe—presumably a right one—was on the other foot for Oakland (5-2). Vida Blue's 12th win was a nifty four-hit, 3-1 job over the Tigers. Rookie relievers saved a pair of games against Toronto for Doc Medich, Bob Lacey protecting a 5-2 lead and Doug Bair preserving a 9-8 advantage.
Willie Crawford wrapped up the first of those games with a three-run pinch home run in the eighth inning. In the other, Oakland batters ran up a season high of 18 hits, including three each by Bill North, Rodney Scott, Earl Williams and Manny Sanguillen. A day earlier, the A's had 13 hits—Sanguillen also had three hits in that game—as they bopped the Blue Jays 8-4. By tossing 4‚Öî innings of scoreless relief, Pedro Torrealba earned the win.
While Kansas City, Chicago, Texas and Minnesota continued to battle for first (page 20), the scramble for sixth tightened as Seattle's edge over Oakland dwindled to five percentage points. A five-game Mariner losing streak ended when John Montague beat the Indians 4-3. Seattle's other win was also against Cleveland. In that 4-2 victory, the Mariners (2-5) scored three times in the top of the ninth on singles by Ruppert Jones, Carlos Lopez and Craig Reynolds and a double by Steve Braun.
Bobby Bonds of California (3-4) figured he was right on schedule in his effort to become the first ever to get 40 homers and 40 stolen bases in a single season. He has 31 home runs and 29 steals. No. 31 gave Bonds a share of the league lead with Graig Nettles of the Yankees and George Scott of the Red Sox. Ken Brett bagged his 11th win and Dave LaRoche his 13th save as the Angels defeated the Indians 5-2. Frank Tanana's 20th complete game and 15th victory came at the expense of the Blue Jays by a 3-2 score.
KC 74-52 CHI 72-54 TEX 72-56 MINN 73-57 CAL 61-64 SEA 52-80 OAK 49-77
On the whole, the Phillies (3-4) would rather have stayed in Philadelphia. It was there that they stretched their at-home winning streak to 13 games behind Steve Carlton, who yielded just five hits and struck out 14 while stopping the Astros 7-3. As he racked up his 18th win, Carlton socked his second homer of the season, giving him nine hits in his last 15 times up. The Phillies then won twice in Atlanta, Jim Lonborg chalking up his seventh straight victory in the first game by a 5-4 score. Mike Schmidt's 31st homer and Bake McBride's three hits, three stolen bases and game-saving catch in center field sealed a 3-2 Phillie win the next day. That gave the Phillies 19 wins in 20 outings and a 7½-game lead over the Pirates. But just as they seemed ready to make a runaway of the division race, they lost four games in a row as Carlton stopped hitting, Lonborg stopped winning and the defense became shoddy.
Pittsburgh (4-3) used superb pitching to get three week-ending wins and move within 4½ games of the top. John Candelaria (14-4) and Larry Demery combined to shackle Los Angeles 2-1. Dave Parker's 18th homer and Rich Gossage's 18th save led to a 3-1 victory in San Diego. Winning Pitcher Bruce Kison had two singles, a double and a stolen base. In all, the Pirates stole 18 bases, seven by Frank Taveras, who leads the majors with 49. Jerry Reuss then whitewashed the Padres 4-0. The Bucs also downed the Padres 7-6, as Bill Robinson hit a two-run homer and Al Oliver a last-of-the-ninth blast.
Pittsburgh lost Rennie Stennett for the rest of the season after he suffered a broken right leg and dislocated ankle sliding into second base. He was batting .336, eight points below Parker's league-leading figure. And Willie Stargell may undergo surgery for a displaced nerve in his left elbow.
Bruce Sutter came off the disabled list and got his 25th save to lift Chicago (2-5) into third place. Rick Reuschel (18-5) won that game 5-2 against the Giants; four days earlier he had beaten them 3-2 as Bobby Murcer slugged his 24th home run.
The Cardinals (3-4) overhauled the Dodgers 8-6, scoring seven times in the bottom of the ninth. Roger Freed concluded the uprising with a three-run pinch homer. Then Bob Forsch (16-5) beat L.A. 2-1 with a three-hitter. Lou Brock stole four bases, leaving him one short of Ty Cobb's record 892.
Del Unser and rookie Sam Mejias filled in ably for injured Montreal Outfielders Ellis Valentine and Andre Dawson. Four RBIs by Unser helped the Expos (3-2) knock off the Braves 10-4. Mejias hit two doubles and a single during a 5-1 win in Cincinnati. Dave Cash, a .480 hitter last week, had two hits and drove in a run as the Expos again beat the Reds, this time 4-2. Cash is hitting .486 against Cincinnati this season.
Jerry Koosman and Jon Matlack of New York (2-5), once the best pair of lefthanders on any pitching staff, continued to lose. Two defeats left Koosman with an 8-16 record, despite a respectable 3.35 ERA. Matlack (6-15) was bombed 11-4 by the Reds as his ERA ballooned to 4.25. Reliever Skip Lockwood continued to excel, getting his 18th save and third victory in a pair of 2-1 wins over Houston. Pinch doubles by Bruce Boisclair and Ed Kranepool were vital in those games. Boisclair, whose .571 pinch-hitting average last season was the league's best, had a two-run double in the first win. Kranepool's hit produced the Mets' first run the next day and gave him 30 hits in his last 65 pinch swings dating back to 1974, a .462 average.
PHIL 78-49 PITT 75-55 CHI 70-57 ST.L 71-58 MONT 59-69 NY 51-77
A prime reason why major league attendance has already surpassed last season's 31,318,331 has been the Reds, who have been a hot draw at home and on the road. There were 46,265 fans at Shea Stadium when Tom Seaver returned for the first time since being traded to Cincinnati. Seaver responded with a vintage performance, pitching a six-hitter, striking out 11, slamming a double, scoring twice and winning 5-1. Although not as sharp when he faced Steve Carlton and the Phillies in his next start, Seaver (15-5) survived eight walks and five hits en route to a 4-2 victory, his seventh in a row. The Reds (5-2) also beat Philadelphia 6-5, coming from behind four times and winning it with two away in the ninth, when Dan Driessen legged out an inside-the-park homer and Johnny Bench followed with his 28th home run. Crowds of more than 46,000 watched each of those triumphs at Riverfront Stadium, where attendance has reached 2,161,336.
Almost 56,000 fans saw two earlier wins there over New York, which gave the Reds six victories in seven days against the Mets. Cincinnati took the opener of the series 11-4 as George Foster clouted his 42nd home run. The Reds pulled out the second game 3-2 when Dave Concepcion drove in two runs in the seventh. Pete Rose, who had hit only .250 in his 160 previous at bats, had five two-hit games as the Reds advanced to within 8½ games of the laboring Dodgers.
Despite hitting only .229 in their last five games—all of them one-run affairs—the Dodgers (4-3) salvaged three of them. With the aid of Reggie Smith's 23rd homer and 10th-inning RBI single and Mike Garman's seventh save. Tommy John (15-5) was a 2-1 winner in Pittsburgh. Then the Dodgers returned home, where they raised their attendance to 2,274,247 by playing before two crowds of more than 50,000. Garman preserved Rick Rhoden's second win of the week and 15th of the season as Los Angeles stopped St. Louis 5-4. (Rhoden's first victory was a 5-1 verdict in Chicago, during which he had three hits, including his third home run of the season.) The Dodgers then beat the Cardinals 4-3, scoring twice in the ninth.
Three straight setbacks on the road extended Houston's losing streak to six games. When the Astros (4-3) got back home, they promptly put together a four-game victory string, their longest of the season. Joe Niekro cooled off Philadelphia 3-1, and J. R. Richard blanked Montreal 4-0 on three singles. In between were two 6-5 triumphs, one each over the Phillies and Expos, in which the Astros had five consecutive pinch hits.
Rookies were instrumental in three San Francisco (4-3) wins. Outfielder Jack Clark, 21, walked in the 13th inning, stole second and scored the decisive run during a 4-3 victory in Chicago. In a 4-2 win at St. Louis, Clark connected for his 12th homer, and Outfielder Randy Elliott, 26, for his sixth. And Bob Knepper, 23, squared his record at 7-7 by trimming the Cubs 7-1 on a three-hitter.
Also getting a boost from rookies was Atlanta. After dropping their first three games, the Braves won four straight, starting the streak with a 4-3 decision over the Cubs. Don Collins, 24, got the win in that game, David Campbell, 25, was awarded a save and Third Baseman Junior Moore, 24, drove in the clinching run. Moore then hit a grand slam as the Braves defeated the Cubs 8-6 and a homer with none on as Preston Hanna, 22, picked up his first big league win by stopping the Mets 5-3. A single by Shortstop Pat Rockett, 22, finished off New York 5-4 in the 10th. Phil Niekro (13-16) was the victor in that contest, as Jeff Burroughs hit his 34th homer.
Until last week San Diego (2-3) pitchers had just one shutout and two complete games. Then rookie lefthanders Bob Owchinko, 22, and Bob Shirley, 23, showed their stuff. Owchinko (6-8) became the first Padre to pitch a complete-game shutout this season as he defeated the Cardinals 7-0. Dave Kingman walloped a grand slam in that game. Gene Tenace's homer produced the only run the next day as Shirley (8-15) and Reliever Rollie Fingers held off the Pirates. It was Fingers' 28th save, which, combined with his eight wins, gave him a hand in 36 of the Padres' first 56 victories. He is challenging Clay Carroll's league record of 37 saves and John Hiller's major league high of 38.
LA 77-52 CIN 69-61 HOUS 61-69 SF 60-71 SD 56-75 ATL 47-81
PLAYER OF THE WEEK
MICKEY RIVERS: The Yankee centerfielder connected for his eighth and ninth homers, had eight RBIs and moved into third place in the batting race with a .332 average by getting 15 hits in 29 trips to the plate.