More and more, Jim Rice of Boston (5-1), who leads the majors in homers with 11 and is batting .363, is becoming the most-feared hitter in the league. Kansas City Manager Whitey Herzog tried to stop Rice by massing four outfielders against him, putting Third Baseman Jerry Terrell in leftfield and shifting Second Baseman Frank White to third. "What I'd like is a couple guys on top of the fence in left," Herzog said. After Jim Colborn of the Royals plunked Rice with a pitch in the fifth inning in Boston, the Red Sox slugger stalked to the mound and had a few words with the pitcher. Colborn later said, "When I saw him coming, I thought I might become Rice-A-Roni." What Colborn did become was a 4-3 loser. Rice made sure of that when he came up in the seventh and tagged a Colborn pitch so far that it could not have been caught even if a couple of Royals had been stationed on top of the fence. Rice's clout sailed far over Fenway's screen for his fourth hit in six at bats against Herzog's overstuffed outfield. Mike Torrez was a two-time winner, stifling Chicago 5-0 and Minnesota 4-2 as the Red Sox moved into first place.
After almost a month atop the East, the Tigers (1-3) fell back as their bullpen repeatedly failed to hold leads. Milt Wilcox was the only Detroit pitcher who did not have to be bailed out, hurling a five-hitter to down Oakland 4-0.
Catfish Hunter of New York (3-1) has endured a great deal in the past few seasons: arm trouble, a ballooning ERA and the news that he had diabetes, as well as his teammates' practice of kidding him about his proclivity for giving up homers (Centerfielder Mickey Rivers once strapped an umpire's chest protector to his back before a game in which Hunter was to pitch). But Catfish, who started the week with a 7.20 ERA, finally had reason to feel better, allowing only one single in six innings as he and Reliever Sparky Lyle curbed the Twins 3-1. Further cheering the Yankees were four innings of hitless relief by Rich Gossage and a 12th-inning homer by Chris Chambliss in a 3-2 defeat of the Rangers.
May 21, 1978
Cleveland (4-1) reached .500 and bumped Milwaukee (1-4) out of fourth place. Mike Vail's single in the ninth gave the Indians a 5-4 win over the Mariners. Mike Paxton was a 4-3 winner against Nolan Ryan and the Angels; Reliever Jim Kern and Rightfielder Jim Morris saved that game, Kern with strong relief and Norris with a belly-flopper catch that kept the tying run from scoring in the ninth. Milwaukee's lone win was a 6-1 conquest of Chicago in which rookie Andy Replogle tossed a five-hitter.
Jim Palmer of Baltimore (2-3) lost twice, giving up 14 hits, 11 runs and eight walks in 7⅖ innings. He was also slapped with a fine by General Manager Hank Peters for leaving the park before the game was over after his first shellacking. The Orioles also suffered the loss of Outfielder Al Bumbry, possibly for the season, with a dislocated left ankle and fractured fibula. On the brighter side. Mike Flanagan struck out 10 batters, and Eddie Murray swatted a two-run homer in the bottom of the ninth as the Orioles nipped the Red Sox 3-2. And Scott McGregor, retiring 16 batters on grounders, worked his way to a 5-1 victory over the Rangers.
Toronto (3-2) equaled its longest-ever winning streak with three consecutive complete-game victories (a Blue Jay record). Tom Underwood began the streak by taming the A's 4-0 on five hits and nine strikeouts. Jim Clancy, who "rediscovered" his fastball, then downed Oakland 3-1 with a six-hit effort. Jesse Jefferson followed with an 8-3 verdict over Seattle. Rico Carty, who batted .400, had four hits in that game, and John Mayberry walloped a three-run homer.
BOS 21-11 DET 17-9 NY 17-11 CLEV 14-14 MIL 13-16 BALT 12-17 TOR 11-19
After his A's (2-3) had dropped their fourth consecutive game, owner Charlie Finley phoned Manager Bobby Winkles and told him to rearrange his lineup. Thus it was that Winkles had Mario Guerrero bat fourth, Gary Alexander seventh and Gary Thomasson ninth. Next time out the A's, who in the previous four outings had scored just one run and had only 20 hits, pounded out 16 hits and used a seven-run ninth to overhaul the Tigers 10-4. The biggest contributors to the onslaught were Guerrero, Alexander and Thomasson, who combined for eight hits and four RBIs in 11 trips to the plate. Alexander had four of those hits, including two doubles and his ninth home run. The next day Oakland was held hitless for seven innings by Detroit's Dave Rozema, but Guerrero opened the eighth with a single. Dave Revering homered and the A's scored a third run to pull out a 3-2 win. Reliever Elias Sosa earned his fifth save-that day as the surprising A's led the West by 2½ games.
Also snapping out of their slump were the White Sox (2-2). Returning to Chicago from a road trip, the Sox, who had not scored in 23 innings, were told by Coach Larry Doby to use a batting tee to sharpen their hitting. As with Finley's phone call, the instructional device, which belongs to Catcher Bill Nahorodny, paid off. In their very first licks at home the White Sox scored three times, and Nahorodny and Lamar Johnson hit the team's first homers in five games as the Sox defeated the Twins 7-2. Johnson then slammed a three-run double to beat the Brewers 4-3 in a rain-shortened game. Although he pitched only 4‚Äö√Ñ√∂‚àö√±‚àö¬® innings before being relieved, starter Wilbur Wood was awarded the win in that game. Wood was entitled to the victory under the provisions of Rule 10.19(b), which was invoked when rain ended the game after 4½ innings.
Kansas City (2-3) picked up an unexpected win. This was the situation: two out in the bottom of the ninth, Yankees ahead 3-2, Darrell Porter on first and a 2-0 count on Amos Otis. In from the bullpen came Rich Gossage. Otis drilled Gossage's first delivery to deep right-center. Racing for the ball were Centerfielder Paul Blair and Rightfielder Reggie Jackson. Blair got his glove on the ball for what appeared to be the game-ending out. However, Jackson, lunging for the ball, cut Blair's feet from under him, and the ball popped out of the centerfielder's glove, Porter sped home and Otis followed him around the bases for an inside-the-park homer and a 4-3 Royal win. Rich Gale gained the Royals' other victory, an 8-6 battle in Milwaukee. "I haven't felt like I've turned the ball loose yet," said Gale, who was removed after 5⅖ innings because of a blister on his hand. "In Omaha [where Gale had been pitching until two weeks ago] they clocked my fastball at 95 to 96 mph. I haven't approached that up here."
Dick Pole of Seattle (2-3) was shaking his head after failing to become a winner despite near-perfect pitching and then becoming a winner when he pitched poorly. Against the Blue Jays, Pole retired the first 19 batters in a row before giving up a homer to Bob Bailor. He was removed from the game in the eighth with a 5-1 lead and then watched in dismay as Toronto deprived him of the win when Rick Bosetti tied the score with a grand-slam homer. Six days later Pole was shelled for seven hits and five runs in six innings, yet wound up the winning pitcher. In both games—Seattle won the first 9-7 and the other 9-6—Outfielder Leon Roberts hit home runs for the Mariners. Roberts won the first game with a two-run drive in the eighth inning for his fifth and sixth RBIs of the game, a Seattle record.
With Ron Jackson cracking out four hits and driving in four runs and with Don Baylor slugging his eighth homer and three singles. California (2-2) romped past Cleveland 16-3. The Angels had to struggle for their other win, Ron Fairly's third hit of the game breaking a 5-5 deadlock in the eighth and setting up a 7-5 victory over the Tigers.
Rejuvenated Ferguson Jenkins of Texas (3-2) mowed down Milwaukee 7-1 with the aid of four RBIs by Al Oliver. In all, Oliver drove in nine runs during the week. Juan Beniquez, who was hitting .179 going into the game, had four hits as the Rangers whipped the Orioles 9-3.
Last-place Minnesota (1-3) had one moment of glory—a 15-9 triumph in Baltimore. Powering the victory were Butch Wynegar (four hits, three RBIs), Mike Cubbage (four hits, four RBIs) and Rod Carew (three RBIs).
OAK 21-9 CAL 18-11 KC 16-13 TEX 14-13 CHI 9-17 SEA 12-23 MINN 10-22
Catcher Ted Simmons of St. Louis (3-3) spoke in superlatives. After Reliever Mark Littell struck out eight and gave up only two hits in six innings to earn a 6-5 win in Los Angeles. Simmons said, "Littell has the latest-breaking slider I've ever seen. It looks so much like a fastball that it's unreal." Simmons also spoke up after Bob Forsch beat San Diego 8-4 and held the Dodgers to three hits while winning 2-0. "Right now, Forsch is the best pitcher in the whole world," Simmons said. As of that moment, Forsch led the majors in wins with six and shutouts with three. Simmons was himself superlative at the plate, batting .500.
Manager Danny Ozark of first-place Philadelphia (3-3) had a lot to say, too. But the umpires did not appreciate the way Ozark expressed his opinions and thumbed him out of two games. Helping to soothe Ozark were Greg Luzinski (he hit three homers), Jim Lonborg (he beat Houston 3-1 on a five-hitter) and Steve Carlton (he beat the Reds 4-1).
With Andre Dawson getting three homers and eight RBIs, Montreal (4-4) stayed half a game behind Philadelphia. The Expos had 20 hits as they swamped the Reds 19-5, then stunned the Braves 7-6 when Gary Carter slammed a two-out, three-run homer in the ninth. Three hits were all the Braves could get as Steve Rogers won 3-0.
Although the Pirates (2-4) put their best feet forward, they stumbled into fifth place. They had started the week in Los Angeles by moving up to third with a 6-4 victory over the Dodgers, a game in which they stole eight bases while Tommy John was on the mound. The Pirates had 18 steals during the week, five by Frank Taveras (he also batted .480) and six by Omar Moreno, who leads both leagues with 20 and has been safe in his last 18 attempts. At his current pace, Moreno would finish with 112 steals, six short of Lou Brock's record of 118. A 12-strikeout, six-hit effort by Bert Blyleven made him a 5-1 winner in San Francisco.
Chicago (3-3) got help from its reserves. Pinch hitter Rudy Meoli's bases-loaded single in the ninth beat San Diego 4-3. Outfielder Joe Wallis homered as the Cubs decked the Dodgers 9-7 and had a two-run triple in an 8-5 win over the Padres.
Some of the Mets" finest performances were wasted. Despite 16 hits, New York (3-4) lost 8-5 in Philadelphia. A rare double play in which the Mets nipped would-be Astro stealers at the plate and then at second base could not avert a 7-4 loss. But Nino Espinosa stopped Montreal 7-2, and Pat Zachry and Skip Lockwood held off the Expos 3-2. Left-fielder Steve Henderson made a dazzling catch in the ninth to deprive the Reds of a 3-2 win in a game the Mets won 3-2 on a 10th-inning single by Bruce Boisclair.
PHIL 16-11 MONT 17-13 CHI 15-15 ST.L 14-17 PITT 13-16 NY 14-20
"When the young guys see a 30-year-old man sacrificing himself to help the club, they are inspired," said Manager Joe Altobelli of the Giants (5-1). What those youngsters saw was Darrell Evans barreling into Cardinal Shortstop Garry Templeton to break up a double play and allow a run to score. Duly inspired, the Giants went on to win 9-3 and take over first place. Vida Blue (5-1), who pitched that game, had earlier beaten Chicago 2-1 with the help of two RBIs by Willie McCovey, who drove in seven runs during the week. Bill Madlock batted .409 and Evans .421.
Another veteran who helped his team with a hard slide was Pete Rose of Cincinnati (4-3). Rose crashed into Philadelphia's rookie second baseman, Jim Morrison, preventing a twin killing that would have given the Phillies a 3-2 win and causing a wild throw to first that permitted two Reds to score for a 4-3 decision.
Los Angeles (2-4) built both its wins around tight pitching, Doug Rau (5-0) stopping St. Louis 3-1 and Tommy John (5-1) trimming Chicago 5-2, but skidded to third.
Atlanta (1-3) played for a tie against Montreal and wound up winning. With the Braves trailing the Expos 2-1 in the last of the ninth, Darrel Chaney led off with a double. Hoping to advance Chaney and the tying run to third, Jerry Royster sacrificed. Montreal Reliever Bill Atkinson scooped up the bunt and made a wild throw toward first, enabling Chaney to score and Royster to reach second. Two walks loaded the bases before Brian Asselstine singled home the winning run.
After Julio Gonzalez doubled in the 14th inning of a 4-4 tie with New York, Manager Bill Virdon of Houston (3-1) would have liked to pinch-hit for Pitcher Tom Dixon. Alas, the only Astros who had not played already were pitchers. So Dixon batted, singled and made himself a 5-4 winner. J. R. Richard struck out 11 Phillies as he won 5-1.
Before pitching against Chicago, confessed greaseballer Gaylord Perry of San Diego (3-3) sent a baseball smeared with a greasy substance to Cub Manager Herman Franks. "I'll bet he has a tube of Vaseline in his warmup jacket," Franks said. To find out, Franks sneaked into the Padre dugout before the game and grabbed Perry's jacket. "See what I mean?" Franks said when he found a small tube of the stuff in a pocket. Perry pitched well, but the Cubs won 4-3. Pitching even better against Chicago was Randy Jones, who got 21 groundouts as he blanked the Cubs 1-0. Gene Richards batted .440, raising his average 54 points to .267. And George (Silence Is Golden) Hendrick actually spoke to a reporter. Asked what pitch he hit for a homer in Jones' win, Hendrick broke his lengthy silence with the media by saying, "I have no idea." Then he rushed into the shower.
SF 18-12 CIN 19-13 LA 18-13 HOUS 13-16 SD 13-17 ATL 11-18
PLAYER OF THE WEEK
LEE MAY: Baltimore's designated hitter connected for three home runs, had seven RBIs and batted .500. He finished the week by walloping his sixth and seventh homers of the season as the Orioles defeated the Rangers 5-1.