The Yankee surge (page 24) has almost obscured the play of Los Angeles (7-0), the second-hottest team in baseball. The Dodgers, who have won 30 of their last 40, outdid themselves by shutting out four opponents. Burt Hooton beat San Francisco 8-0 and Bob Welch stopped Houston 6-0. The Dodgers then stumbled horribly—allowing one run in a victory over the Astros—before Don Sutton shut out Atlanta 5-0 and Doug Rau and Terry Forster combined to beat Atlanta 2-0. At one point the staff had given up one earned run in 47 innings. Forster has allowed just three earned runs in his last 26 relief appearances. The hitters have kept pace, most notably Steve Garvey (.425 in his last 19 games). Indeed, it seems that every one of the Dodgers hits: Forster, who had a run-scoring single, is a .424 lifetime hitter. With their magic number down to five, the Dodgers are about to become the first team to clinch a divisional title. "I smell it," said Hooton.
Atlanta (3-4) Pitcher Jim Bouton won his first game since July 11, 1970, beating the Giants 4-1. Though Bouton gave up only three hits in six innings, San Francisco players reacted as childishly as had the Dodgers following Bouton's losing debut four days earlier. "It was a disgrace," said Bill Madlock. "I hope he's not around next year. If he is, I'll send up my little son to hit him. He was just a plain joke, gathering material for another book." In truth, the Giants were a disgrace, dropping six of seven, which all but eliminated their chances of catching the Dodgers, and arguing among themselves. The players held a clubhouse meeting and couldn't agree what was going wrong. The answer was just about everything. In one game Jack Clark and Art Gardner made base-running mistakes. In another, Vida Blue failed for the eighth time to win his 17th game. Nonetheless, the Giants clung to second place when Terry Whitfield's two-out, bases-loaded single clipped the Reds 3-2.
Cincinnati took four of seven, but Sparky Anderson admitted that he managed "like a butcher." His behavior wasn't much better. Anderson walked away from Umpire Doug Harvey telling him that he "had no belly." Anderson patted his stomach for emphasis. Not to be outdone, Harvey trotted 100 feet after Anderson and tapped him on the shoulder. "I want you to see this," Harvey said. "You're outta here." He added a gesture that everyone in the stadium could see.
September 24, 1978
The Padres (4-3) were winners on and off the field. They even held on to their celebrated KGB Chicken, entertainer Ted Giannoulas, who turned down an $85,000 offer from Atlanta owner Ted Turner. Padres owner Ray Kroc gave Giannoulas a $10,000 "signing bonus" for staying.
Houston's J.R. Richard beat San Diego 3-2 and 8-4, struck out 23 Padres and improved his league-leading strikeout total to 279. With three starts remaining, Richard should break Tom Seaver's National League record of 289. That, however, will only slightly alleviate Astro (2-5) frustrations. After watching a 25-foot bunt cost Houston a game, Manager Bill Virdon said, "Kind of sums up the way our year has gone on the road."
LA 91-58 SF 82-67 CIN 81-67 SD 77-73 HOUS 68-80 ATL 65-84
More and more the race was pointing toward a season-ending series between Philadelphia (4-3) and Pittsburgh (5-2). Already they were squaring off—verbally. Knocking the Pittsburgh defense after the Pirates committed two errors, two misplays and two balks in a 10-3 loss to the Phillies, ex-Pirate now-Phillie Richie Hebner said, "They give you a lot of four-out innings, and that kills you." Countered Pirate Dave Parker, "Opinions are like rear ends: everybody's got one. Sure, defense is a big factor in baseball, but Pirate baseball ain't exciting unless we make a few mistakes."
Pittsburgh cut a game off Philadelphia's four-game lead with a vintage Pirate week. On Saturday they unloaded their heaviest barrage of the season, burying Montreal 12-5 with a 19-hit attack. Parker, as usual, was the big gun (four RBIs). But the biggest win of the week had occurred four days earlier when John Candelaria, who had thought arm troubles might end his season, beat the Phils 5-1 to begin a five-game win streak. Said Pittsburgh Manager Chuck Tanner, "If I had to pick a pitcher to win a game when it meant my life, I'd pick John Candelaria." Said Candelaria, "I don't blame him."
Phillie play also inspired superlatives. "I saw it and I still don't believe it," said John Stearns of the Mets (3-3). He was referring to a homer Mike Schmidt hit to beat New York 2-1. "It was a low and away slider, and there are only two other players in the National League, Greg Luzinski and George Foster, who even have a chance to duplicate what Schmidt did. Nobody hits that kind of pitch that far."
Chicago's (2-4) Bobby Murcer was no less awe-inspiring, with eight consecutive hits. He has improved his hitting thanks to a late-season tip from old Yankee teammate Tony Kubek, who asked him why he had strayed from his Yankee stance. Murcer, who hadn't noticed, reverted to form.
The Cardinals (3-4) got the Cub jinx off their backs with two wins. Chicago had taken their previous 12 games. Utility man Mike Phillips figured in both wins, smacking a three-run homer to help win the first 6-2 and a go-ahead single in the following 4-1 victory. No less gratifying were two hits by prize rookie Terry Kennedy. Cub General Manager Bob Kennedy was especially delighted; he is Terry's father.
Montreal's (3-4) Ross Grimsley knew exactly why his 7‚Äö√Ñ√∂‚àö√±‚àö¬®-inning perfect game was broken up. Grimsley's pregame ritual includes rubbing the nose of Utility Infielder Stan Papi. This time Grimsley forgot. Despite that disastrous oversight, he went on to beat the Cardinals 3-1.
PHIL 82-66 PITT 79-69 CHI 73-75 MONT 70-80 ST.L 64-86 NY 61-88
While California (3-4) and Kansas City (5-2) squared off for the divisional title (page 26), Texas (6-3) reviewed a lost season and looked to the future. Manager Billy Hunter should not be blamed, said Executive Vice-President Eddie Robinson, who again promised "substantial trades." One player who figures to stay is 34-year-old Ferguson Jenkins, who throttled California 1-0 and Oakland 8-1, running his record to 16-8. Jenkins beat the A's despite losing his precious glove. "Going to the mound without your gamer," he said, "is like Mario Andretti starting a race without his clutch."
The Oakland Tribune suggested that the Oakland Coliseum put up $3 million to help local businesses acquire the A's and keep them in town. For their part, the A's (2-7) did little to encourage buyers. Manager Jack McKeon, who normally yanks pitchers at the first sign of weakness, inspired locker-room grumbling by allowing rookie John Henry Johnson to absorb a nine-run pounding in six innings. McKeon had the good sense, though, to leave in Alan Wirth, who shut out the Rangers 1-0, and Pete Broberg, who four-hit Texas 2-1.
Chicago had one of its infrequent winning weeks (5-1) and avoided an embarrassment. Since 1900 no major league team has gone a full season without winning an extra-inning game. After eight such losses the White Sox finally won one, scoring five runs in the 10th inning to beat Seattle 8-3. Francisco Barrios ended the week by stopping Seattle 9-1.
Minnesota (4-1) got two sparkling performances from ace Pitcher Dave Goltz, who beat Milwaukee by 3-1 and 5-2 scores. Predictable enough. Less expected were the heroics of little-used Catcher Glenn Borgmann, who helped Goltz win one game with a two-run homer and the next day had two hits and two runs.
Seattle lost four of five, all but assuring skipper Darrell Johnson of his first last-place finish in 30 years as a player, coach and manager. Even Shortstop Craig Reynolds, the lone Mariner in the All-Star Game, looked bad. Reynolds turned his back on White Sox runner Thad Bosley when he should have been faking Bosley back to third. Bosley kept running and scored the winning run as Reynolds stood with the ball in his hand.
KC 82-65 CAL 80-70 TEX 74-73 MINN 66-81 OAK 67-83 CHI 65-83 SEA 54-91
As the Yankees (5-1) continued flattening the Red Sox (1-6), Baltimore, Milwaukee and Detroit kept pipe-dreaming. "All the Red Sox and Yankees have to do is play .500, and if we keep winning it might be ours," said Baltimore Pitcher Dennis Martinez. "We're not knocked out," said Milwaukee Manager George Bamberger. "If we put a sixor seven-game winning streak together...we could end up second," said Tiger Centerfielder Ron LeFlore.
Then all three teams played like also-rans. Detroit split six, losing twice at home but getting encouragement from rookie Kip Young, who beat the Bombers 7-4. Dave Rozema topped Cleveland 1-0 for his second straight complete-game victory, and LeFlore hit .391.
Milwaukee's (3-4) divisional-title hopes were set back by three losses to Minnesota. Mike Caldwell (19-9), who has been to the Brewers what Ron Guidry has been to the Yankees, stopped the Orioles 4-3.
Baltimore (3-3) got two superb pitching performances from Dennis Martinez, who beat Boston 3-2 on three hits and Toronto 11-1 on six. Martinez has thrown six consecutive complete games. "I'm the best," he said, "and I love it." Jim Palmer, long accustomed to such acclaim, wasn't getting it from his teammates. Palmer beat Toronto 8-3, but left a game against Boston because he said he had arm trouble. Jim Rice's second homer subsequently won the game for the Red Sox. "Does Palmer have a guaranteed contract?" asked an Oriole. "If he does, why couldn't he pitch with pain?" Rich Dauer, however, pleased everyone. Dauer broke the league record for most consecutive games in a season without an error by a second baseman. Passing Bobby Doerr's old mark of 73, he has flawlessly handled 367 chances in 76 games.
First the good news in Toronto (1-3): Don Kirkwood threw his best game of the season, a six-hitter, to beat the Indians 7-1. On the other hand, Jesse Jefferson, 1-7 since July 2, was beaten 6-4 by Cleveland and 11-1 by Baltimore, and Victor Cruz was pummeled by the Orioles 8-3. In a sad (2-11) September, the Blue Jays faced the prospect of losing 100 games for the second year in a row. Thankfully, they had two scheduled days off and one rainout.
By contrast, the Indians (4-3) were enjoying their role as giant-killers. The staggering Red Sox limped into Municipal Stadium and were whipped twice. Cleveland rookies did some of the damage. In a 2-1 game, Outfielder Dan Briggs made an acrobatic catch of a bases-loaded fly ball, saving two runs, and later tripled and scored the winning run on Tom Veryzer's suicide squeeze. Wayne Cage contributed to a 4-3 win with a two-run homer.
NY 90-57 BOS 87-61 MIL 85-64 BALT 83-65 DET 80-67 CLEV 64-83 TOR 57-91
PLAYER OF THE WEEK
GAYLORD PERRY: The 40-year-old Padre righthander beat Atlanta 3-1 and Houston 2-1. With the National League's best record (19-6) and a 2.89 earned run average, he is in contention for a second Cy Young Award.