With more than one-fourth of the season completed, some startling statistics indicate a considerable decline in offense. National Leaguers are batting 12 points less (.252) than at this time last season, have connected for 90 fewer homers—a 19.1% dropoff—and are scoring at a 9.3% slower pace. No team was less productive last week than the Astros (3-4), who batted .195 and had only nine extra-base hits and two steals. Nonetheless, Houston beat San Francisco 1-0 behind the pitching of Mark Lemongello and a ninth-inning sacrifice fly by Jesus Alou. Then the Astros nudged the Cardinals 2-1 when Jose Cruz hit a two-run homer in the last of the ninth. It did not help Houston's puny attack that Cesar Cedeno, angered by his failure to hit in the clutch, punched the dugout roof and was sidelined with an injured hand.
Also furious was Manager Roger Craig of San Diego (3-3), who was so upset by the Padres' blundering play and skimpy hitting that he said, "The country club is closed." However, extra workouts ordered by Craig could not prevent another costly boo-boo—a balk by Bob Owchinko that gave the Mets a 3-2 decision. San Diego's Shirley-Jones pitching combination was singing along as it accounted for all the Padre wins. Bob Shirley hummed the ball past Los Angeles for a 3-1 victory, and Randy Jones had two performances of note, beating Cincinnati 3-1 and New York 5-4. Jones, again sporting the Orphan Annie hairdo he wore when he won the Cy Young Award in 1976, has been 4-1 with a 1.67 ERA since the end of April. All three San Diego victories were locked up by Rollie Fingers, who leads the majors with 12 saves.
Reliever Jamie Easterly of Atlanta (2-4) was credited with his first save and first win. After preserving a 5-3 victory over Philadelphia, Easterly became a 4-3 winner against Cincinnati when Gary Matthews homered in the bottom of the 10th. But a crimp was put in the Braves' already vapid attack when Brian Asselstine dislocated his left ankle.
On Senior Citizens Night in Montreal, the crucial moment was a 10th-inning matchup between Willie McCovey, 40, of the Giants, and the oldest Expo, 36-year-old Reliever Darold Knowles. The score was tied 5-5 at the time, but McCovey unknotted it with a game-winning single. Helping San Francisco (4-2) move 4½ lengths ahead of third-place Los Angeles was a pinch grand slam by Mike Ivie that decked the Dodgers 6-5. Ed Halicki's 8-1 defeat of Houston left him with a 1.92 ERA during his last 61 innings against the Astros. "I noticed that when Vida Blue kicks to throw, he keeps his right elbow tucked in," Bob Knepper said of his fellow Giant pitcher. "I tried that for the first time against Houston and felt unbeatable." He was. Knepper trimmed Houston 1-0 on five hits.
With Second Baseman Davey Lopes nursing a pulled chest muscle and Rick Monday strained leg muscles, Los Angeles (3-3) sputtered. But Lee Lacy, who filled in for Lopes, slugged home runs in 9-6 and 10-2 wins over the Padres.
Hurting, too, were Johnny Bench, Joe Morgan, Dan Driessen and Cesar Geronimo of Cincinnati (4-2). Still, the Reds stayed within half a game of the top as George Foster had 10 RBIs and four homers. Pinch-hit home runs also helped the Reds, Mike Lum's three-run blast in the eighth beating the Braves 7-5 and Bench's two-out, last-of-the-ninth wallop toppling the Pirates 3-2.
SF 31-17 CIN 32-19 LA 27-22 HOUS 22-26 SD 22-27 ATL 18-29
Silvio Martinez, who speaks little English, and George Hendrick, who speaks little, came through loud and clear for St. Louis (4-4). Martinez, 22, gave up only one hit, Steve Henderson's homer in the seventh, in his first big league start as he beat the Mets 8-2. The only other National Leaguer to pitch a one-hitter in his debut as a starter was Juan Marichal, who like Martinez came from the Dominican Republic. Hendrick broke his policy of silence toward the media by sitting for an interview after being acquired from San Diego. More important, he made superb plays in centerfield and hit a three-run homer.
"We saw a scouting report on the Pirates that said Rich Gossage and Terry Forster were pitching well, and they're not even with the club anymore," complained Ross Grimsley of the inept Montreal scouting system. Without any report on the Cubs, the Expos (4-2) nailed the division leaders in three straight games—4-2 as Grimsley allowed just four hits, 7-4 behind Steve Rogers and 9-1 when Rudy May pitched a five-hitter. During that sweep, Outfielders Ellis Valentine, Andre Dawson and Warren Cromartie were 14 for 33 (.424) and had 12 RBIs. Grimsley (9-2) then beat the Giants 5-3.
Chicago (3-3) labored to a pair of wins over Atlanta. Manny Trillo's single in the 11th settled the first game 2-1, and then a four-run seventh made the Cubs 8-6 victors.
Along with hitting .458, Garry Maddox of Philadelphia (4-2) stole eight bases to lead the Phillie larcenists, who made good on 17 of 18 attempts to steal. Dave Johnson set a major league record with his second pinch grand slam of the season. This one came in the ninth and defeated the Dodgers 5-1.
Pat Zachry of the Mets (3-4) defeated the Cardinals 7-2 with a three-hitter. Then, with the aid of Skip Lockwood's eighth save, Zachry (6-1) trimmed the Padres 3-2.
Pittsburgh (2-4) lost three one-run games. But Jim Bibby's four-hitter took care of Montreal 5-2, and John Candelaria and Kent Tekulve held off Philadelphia 2-1.
CHI 26-20 PHIL 24-21 MONT 26-23 NY 24-28 PITT 21-27 ST.L 19-33
American Leaguers, too, have been less productive on offense. Their batting is down nine points to .259, their homers are off by 73, or 12.1%, their runs have dropped off 7.1% and their steals have decreased 9.5%. Nonetheless, the White Sox (7-0) hit .348 and spurted to sixth place. Jorge Orta batted .500, and three new arrivals drove pitchers dizzy, Thad Bosley hitting .419, Greg Pryor .407 and Jim Breazeale .375. No wonder Chicago put together its biggest inning in seven years, an 11-run outburst, while drubbing California 17-2. Pitcher Francisco Barrios muffled Oakland 4-0 and Kansas City 5-1 on a total of seven hits, and Pablo Torrealba beat the Angels 7-0.
In four losses, the A's (2-4) scored four runs. But they belted three homers as Matt Keough defeated New York 5-1 and had 11 hits as Pete Broberg beat Milwaukee 6-2.
Roger Moret of Texas (2-4) pitched for the first time since going into a catatonic trance on April 12. His two strong innings of relief wrapped up a 7-1 win over Minnesota.
Shortly after Jim Fregosi made two errors at third base for Pittsburgh, he was hired as the non-playing manager for California (0-6), replacing Dave Garcia.
Seattle was also winless as Mariner pitchers were battered for 38 runs in five outings. Kansas City (4-2) bombed Seattle 8-2, 8-3 and 10-0. Picking up the shutout was Dennis Leonard. The Royals pounded out 22 doubles and got .455 batting from Frank White.
Minnesota (4-3) got two wins from Roger Erickson, three saves from Mike Marshall and, a 2-0 shutout over Texas by Geoff Zahn. Rookie Larry Wolfe hit two homers and had five RBIs as the Twins beat Detroit 9-2.
OAK 28-21 KC 26-21 CAL 25-23 TEX 24-24 MINN 21-29 CHI 19-28 SEA 17-36
"Not many pitchers can throw it right by our hitters like he did," said Boston Manager Don Zimmer after Jim Clancy of Toronto (3-4) cooled off the Red Sox 6-2. Clancy, a 22-year-old, 6'5" righthander, struck out eight as he ended Boston's winning streak at eight games. The Blue Jays' Jesse Jefferson gave the Rangers fits—and only four hits—as he won 3-1.
Having concluded their best May (23-7) ever, the Red Sox (6-1) began June with two victories and built their lead over the second-place Yankees to 4½ games. Jim Rice's 18th home run—his 11th straight tie-breaker—finished off Detroit 4-3. Fred Lynn's homer in the ninth made Mike Torrez (8-2) a 5-4 winner over the Angels. Other reasons why Boston kept cruising: Dennis Eckersley beat Toronto 4-0; Dwight Evans hit three homers, giving him 11 in 25 games; and 14 double-plays gave the Red Sox a league-leading 65.
In his first start since July 3, 1977, Andy Messersmith of New York (4-4) yielded just one hit in five innings before Rawly East-wick wrapped up a 2-0 victory in Cleveland with four hitless innings of relief. Graig Nettles supplied the only runs with a homer in the seventh. Willie Randolph's single in the 13th knocked off Toronto 6-5. Ron Guidry (8-0) won twice, 5-3 over Toronto and 3-1 in Oakland.
Scott McGregor of Baltimore (6-2) beat Detroit 6-3 as Lee May hit two homers in a game for the 32nd time in his career, and stopped Seattle 2-1 as Eddie Murray and Doug DeCinces connected. Billy Smith's grand slam defeated Seattle 10-9, and Ken Singleton's two-run clout gave Mike Flanagan a 3-2 three-hit victory in New York. Jim Palmer held the Yankees to two infield hits, their scantiest output since July 3, 1975.
Cleveland (4-2) bumped Milwaukee out of fifth with 7-6 and 6-4 victories over the Brewers. In the opener of that series, the Indians got their first extra-base hit in 40 innings, a double by Paul Dade. Andre Thornton, returning after missing seven games because of back spasms, homered and had three RBIs in each of the victories.
"Many pitchers don't learn to use their heads until they get arm trouble and are forced to think," said Manager George Bamberger of Milwaukee (2-5). Bamberger was alluding to Mike Caldwell, who was 13-29 during the past three seasons after elbow surgery. Now thinking more and losing less, Caldwell (5-3) disposed of the A's 2-1.
Doing some thinking for newcomer Steve Baker, 21, was Catcher Milt May of Detroit (3-5) After Baker got two strikes on Oriole leadoff man Larry Harlow, he shook off a sign from May, a seasoned catcher, and then pumped in a third strike. Baker was not being disrespectful of his elder; the shakeoff was a ruse—May having told Baker to shake him off when signaled to do so—to confuse the hitter. Baker fanned seven in seven innings, and then John Hiller came in from the bullpen to seal the 5-2 victory.
BOS 36-16 NY 30-19 DET 27-22 BALT 26-25 CLEV 23-24 MIL 23-25 TOR 19-31
PLAYER OF THE WEEK
JIM PALMER: Both of the Baltimore right-hander's shutouts were notable: his 3-0 win over Cleveland was his 200th career victory; his 1-0 two-hitter in New York was the first whitewashing of the Yanks in 125 outings.