"We're on our death bed, but we're not dead yet," said Baltimore Outfielder Pat Kelly. "We're still breathing," was how Boston Manager Don Zimmer put it. While they described their teams' dwindling first-place hopes in morbid terms, the first-place Yankees were the ones who were lucky to be alive. Their plane to Toronto made an abrupt stop on the runway in Boston and narrowly avoided being hit by an incoming jet. New York Manager Billy Martin insisted the miss was so close that he was able to see who was piloting the approaching plane. "It was Zimmer and Earl Weaver," said Martin.
The Yankees had started the week with a close call of another sort, carrying a 6-0 lead into the bottom of the ninth in Detroit and escaping with a 6-5 victory. Home runs by Reggie Jackson (his 30th) and Dave Kingman helped build that lead, before two errors and four Tiger hits led to five quick runs. With Ron LeFlore on third base and two out, Sparky Lyle came in from the Yankee bullpen. Jackson, who had been replaced in right field for defensive purposes, came back from the clubhouse to the dugout in his shorts to watch the tense situation. After Lyle nailed down the win with his 24th save, the Yankees winged their way to Boston for two games.
Almost 52,000 fans showed up in Baltimore on Sunday to pay tribute to recently retired Brooks Robinson. Summing up the crowd's feelings best was a banner that read IT HURTS. What hurt the Birds even more that day was a 10-4 loss to the Red Sox. Ted Cox of Boston equaled a record with four hits in his major league debut, Bob Stanley hurled five innings of scoreless relief, and Bill Campbell blanked the Orioles for the last 2‚Öì innings to chalk up his 27th save. That left Baltimore 3½ games in back of New York and Boston 4½ out.
The Red Sox tightened up the race again by sweeping the Yankees 6-3 and 3-2. Reggie Cleveland went the distance in the first game, supported by Carlton Fisk's three-run homer and a bases-empty drive by Carl Yastrzemski. In the second game, First Baseman George Scott did in the Yankees with his bat and glove. He walloped a tie-breaking home run in the sixth, thwarted a Yankee uprising in the seventh with a diving catch and ended the game by turning another "sure" hit into a double play. That glove work enabled the hard-working Campbell to hold the Yankees without a run during the last three innings.
Baltimore received a new source of hope when Kenyan witch doctor Dr. John Agunga, whose wizardry did not help the club two years ago, accepted a $12 fee to try again. But assorted incantations could not keep the Orioles from losing to the Blue Jays 3-1. The next night Jim Palmer, who receives slightly more than $12 to work his magic, beat Toronto 5-2. Ken Singleton drove in two of the Oriole runs, and rookie Eddie Murray slugged his 23rd home run of the season. Then Lee May's two-run homer and the four-hit pitching of Ross Grimsley made the Orioles winners over the Blue Jays again, this time by a 4-0 margin. After Wednesday's action the Orioles trailed by two games. The Red Sox were 2½ behind.
Four hits by Murray and a three-run homer by May, the 299th of his career, gave Mike Flanagan plenty of working room as he beat Toronto 7-1 on Thursday. With Campbell's arm aching, the Red Sox were knocked off 5-4 by the Tigers, who scored four times in the seventh. The Yankees had the day off after their near crash.
Don Gullett of New York struck out 12 Blue Jays and allowed only five hits on Friday, but it took a two-run homer in the ninth by Graig Nettles—his 36th—to make Gullett a 5-3 victor. Butch Hobson's three-run shot and a four-hitter by Bill Lee gave Boston a 5-1 win in Detroit. In that game Fisk became the first catcher in the American League to score 100 runs since Yogi Berra of the Yankees did it in 1950. Baltimore was a 3-2 loser in Cleveland.
Rain washed out New York's Saturday game in Toronto, while homers by Cox, Yastrzemski and Fred Lynn propelled Boston to a 6-1 triumph in Detroit. Rookie Mike Paxton picked up his 10th win and Campbell his 29th save. Meanwhile, late-inning heroics gave Baltimore a 4-1 win in Cleveland. With the score tied 1-1 in the eighth, the Indians loaded the bases with none out. Palmer got the next two batters on a pop-up and strikeout, and Al Bumbry climbed the fence in deepest center to rob Rico Carty of a grand slam. In the ninth the Orioles got back-to-back homers from Singleton and Murray, who hit .464 during the week. Palmer, who has yielded only four runs in his last 44 innings, got his 19th win. At week's end, both pursuers were still alive, the Orioles two games back and the Red Sox 2½.
Detroit (3-3) virtually sewed up fourth place as Ron LeFlore and Jason Thompson excelled. LeFlore batted .385 and became the first Tiger to get 200 hits since Al Kaline in 1955. Thompson bopped two homers and became the first Detroit player to hit 30 since Norm Cash in 1971.
Sixto Lezcano's 19th home run for Milwaukee (1-3) set a record. It was the 3,430th of the season, one more than the previous major league high amassed in 1970. Jim Slaton's 10th win came at the expense of the Mariners, whom he defeated 5-1.
Roy Howell, who had hit just three homers in 71 games after being picked up from Texas, slammed five in Toronto's 13 most recent games. The last helped finish off Cleveland 7-4. Although he was tagged for nine hits, rookie Jerry Garvin held off the Orioles 3-1 to give the Blue Jays one of their two wins in six tries. With Baltimore runners on first and third and nobody out in the ninth inning, Garvin got two Birds to pop up and fanned another.
Also snuffing out an Oriole rally in the ninth was Jim Bibby of the Indians (1-4). Bibby came in from the bullpen to get the final three outs on strikes and save a 3-2 victory for Rick Waits.
NY 94-59 BALT 93-62 BOS 92-62 DET 72-83 CLEV 68-86 MIL 64-91 TOR 52-101
"I doubt if there has ever been a stretch drive like this one of ours," said Manager Whitey Herzog of his Royals. Kansas City (5-0), which clinched its second consecutive western title, had won 22 of 23 games and 33 of 37. While improving his record to 19-11, Dennis Leonard beat Seattle 8-3 and California 7-3. Leonard's 13 strikeouts against the Angels gave him 226 for the season, the second highest total in the league. A potent offense also kept the Royals going as they hammered seven homers and batted .311 as a team. Al Cowens drove in five runs in one game to increase his RBIs to 106. Both John Mayberry and George Brett connected for two homers, but the most talked-about smash was one by Outfielder Clint Hurdle in his first major league game. Hurdle, 20, clouted a ball 425 feet off a sign above the dancing waters in center-field at Royals Stadium.
Texas (6-1) pulled two games in front of Chicago in the battle for second place. Gay-lord Perry (14-12) was a two-time winner, 5-4 over Minnesota and 6-5 over Oakland. After Adrian Devine locked up the first of those wins with his 13th save, Perry tossed a three-hitter against the A's. Five homers and another save by Devine settled a 10-8 slugfest against the Twins. Receiving neither home-run support nor relief was Doyle Alexander (17-10), who nonetheless stopped Oakland 3-1 with a three-hitter. Mike Hargrove ignited the offense with five two-hit games.
Ten home runs and tight pitching kept Chicago (6-2) going. Steve Stone (15-11) beat Oakland 8-2, and Ken Kravec (10-3) blanked the A's 8-0 and defeated the Mariners 8-3. Utilityman Jack Brohamer, who entered the win over Seattle with a .225 batting average, had his best day of the season as he had four RBIs and hit for the cycle.
With Rod Carew hampered by lymphangitis in his right arm and with Larry Hisle out with the flu, the Twins (1-4) went all week without hitting for the cycle. Their lone win was a 4-3 defeat of the Brewers. Roy Smalley drove in the go-ahead run in the eighth, Dave Goltz picking up his 19th victory.
Bobby Bonds hit his 36th homer as the Angels (1-7) zapped the Rangers 5-2. In another game, Bonds stole his 40th base. Nolan Ryan probably should not pitch again this season, having been advised by a doctor that doing so might damage his weary right arm. But with a 20th victory and a possible Cy Young Award on the line, Ryan indicated he might keep on throwing anyway.
The Mariners pounded out 18 hits while overhauling the Brewers 11-4. Four of the hits were by Ray Fosse, who was recently obtained from Cleveland. Dan Meyer was credited with a novel home run after his King-dome smash was snatched from the glove of Chicago Left Fielder Ralph Garr by a fan with a mitt of his own. The ball would not have cleared the fence, but no umpire was close enough to ascertain that. Thus Meyer got his 22nd home run. (Justice of a sort prevailed when Garr tripled and scored the winning run in the ninth as Chicago won 5-4.) Another one-run game between these teams went to Seattle 3-2 as Lee Santon hit his 26th homer of the season.
While watching the A's commit seven errors during an 8-2 loss to the White Sox, Chicago Broadcaster Jimmy Piersall dubbed them the "Oakland Apathetics" and the "Oakland Triple A's." After an 8-0 loss in Chicago, losing Pitcher Vida Blue was asked by another White Sox announcer if the season has been a disappointment to him. Replied Blue, who has a 14-17 record, "Have you ever seen a mechanic work on a car without tools?" Manny Sanguillen, for one, had the right equipment, delivering two game-winning hits, a single in the eighth inning as the A's trimmed the Brewers 3-1 and a two-run homer in the ninth that finished off the White Sox 8-6.
KC 97-55 TEX 88-67 CHI 87-69 MINN 81-73 CAL 72-82 OAK 60-93 SEA 60-96
"He's like a scalpel to a surgeon. He makes the operation possible." That was Philadelphia Manager Danny Ozark's assessment of Tim McCarver, the designated catcher whenever Steve Carlton goes to the mound. The Scalpel and the Surgeon combined for a pair of victories that reduced the magic number to two for the Phillies (3-3). McCarver homered and drove in three runs, while Carlton picked his 21st runner off base, slammed his 25th hit and held the Cubs to four hits during a 4-2 win. With McCarver again behind the plate, Carlton sewed up his 23rd victory with another four-hitter as he defeated Montreal 1-0. The only run of the game was driven in by Garry Maddox in the second inning. All of which left McCarver-Carlton with a 42-15 record for games they have worked together during the past two seasons. Assisting Larry Christenson (17-6) during a 6-1 verdict in Montreal were Mike Schmidt, who blasted his 37th home run, and Gene Garber, who earned his 17th save.
The fielding of Pittsburgh's Dave Parker ranged from A (for acrobatic) to Z (for zany). During a 4-2 victory in New York, Parker dropped two fly balls in right field and fell on his back while pursuing another, much to the delight of Met fans, who were delirious to finally have something to cheer about. But when Centerfielder Omar Moreno fell down in the ninth inning of that game, it was Parker who snagged the ball just before it hit the ground. John Candelaria picked up the victory, his 18th. Later, in Chicago, Parker robbed Bobby Murcer of a bases-full hit by crashing into the wall to haul down his drive. Parker also threw a runner out at the plate in that game, which the Pirates (5-0) won 2-0 as Ed Ott hit a two-run homer in the eighth and four pitchers combined on a six-hitter. Rich Gossage, who is unsigned, picked up his 24th and 25th saves. One was a wrap-up of a 4-0 victory in New York for Bruce Kison. During his 11 most recent outings, Gossage has been unscored upon, enabling him to lower his ERA to 1.70.
St. Louis' usually tepid offense heated up. Especially grateful for the sudden outburst was Bob Forsch. He beat Philadelphia 12-5 as Lou Brock had five hits and Keith Hernandez tied a league record by slugging his second grand slam of the month. Forsch (19-6) then joined the attack, driving in two runs as the Cardinals (3-2) beat the Mets 10-6 with 13 base hits in between Shea Stadium raindrops.
Bruce Sutter raised his total saves to 30 by sealing all three wins for Chicago (3-4). In the process, he yielded only three hits and struck out seven batters in 4‚Öî innings of relief. One of his saves came during a 6-3 victory in New York that made Rick Reuschel a 20-game winner. Sutter also preserved Ray Burris' 14th win, a 2-0 decision in Philadelphia.
Dan Schatzeder, a 22-year-old lefty for Montreal (2-4), did it all as he beat St. Louis 2-0 on six hits, made the defensive play of the game and singled to drive in the first run. Tony Perez drove in his 90th run for the 11th consecutive year. Two home runs by Gary Carter brought his total up to 29, one shy of Rusty Staub's club record.
Craig Swan and Bob Myrick of the Mets (1-4) collaborated on a four-hit, 6-0 shutout of the Cubs. Jerry Koosman, a 21-game winner last season, hit 20 again, this time in the loss column, when he was beaten by Pittsburgh 4-0.
PHIL 96-58 PITT 90-65 ST.L 80-74 CHI 80-75 MONT 71-83 NY 60-94
After Tommy John (19-6) clinched first place with a 3-1 win in San Francisco, the Dodgers celebrated until 5 a.m. Two days later, $1,400 from their clubhouse kangaroo-court kitty was lavished on another bash, this one to celebrate Manager Tom Lasorda's 50th birthday. In between canapés and cocktails, the Dodgers squeezed past Houston 1-0 behind the two-hit pitching of Burt Hooton. Ron Cey and Reggie Smith each slugged his 30th home run.
Baseball's new home-run king, George Foster of Cincinnati (4-2), walloped No. 50, the first batter in either league to hit that many since Willie Mays in 1965. Foster also had four hits in two consecutive games. Tom Seaver (19-6) beat the Padres 4-0 on two hits, and Pedro Borbon notched his 17th and 18th saves.
Cesar Cedeno's hitting streak was stopped at 22 games, a Houston (2-3) record. Joe Niekro beat Atlanta 6-3 as he improved his record to 13-7.
On Willie McCovey Day, the big first baseman for San Francisco (4-1) drove in the winning run in the ninth to give rookie Bob Knepper a 3-2 win over Cincinnati. It was McCovey's 15th game-deciding hit of the season. The Giants also beat the Padres by the same score as pinch hitter Marc Hill singled across the winning run in the ninth. Rookie Skip James broke a 4-4 deadlock with a ninth-inning run-scoring single and the Giants went on to polish off the Padres 6-4. Gary Lavelle's 20th save came during a 5-4 triumph over the Dodgers.
Jeff Burroughs slammed his 40th homer as Atlanta (3-3) outslugged Los Angeles 9-8. Phil Niekro's 16th victory, 20th complete game and 252nd strikeout came against the Astros, whom he defeated 5-3.
Rollie Fingers picked up his 34th save for San Diego (1-4) and Gene Richards set a modern record for steals by a rookie with his 50th theft.
LA 93-61 CIN 84-72 HOUS 77-77 SF 72-83 SD 66-90 ATL 59-96
PLAYER OF THE WEEK
BERT BLYLEVEN: Despite an eighth-inning aggravation of a groin pull that had shelved him for 15 days, the Ranger righty, who said he threw "about 60% curveballs," hurled a 6-0 no-hitter against the Angels.