The crowd of 33,694 that jammed Fenway Park for the first Boston-New York game since the Oct. 2, 1978 playoff anticipated another classic confrontation between Red Sox Pitcher Mike Torrez and Yankee playoff hero Bucky Dent. Torrez got Dent to bounce out in his first at bat, but that was the last good news of the day for Boston. The Yankees won 10-0 and had 17 hits, including Reggie Jackson's bases-loaded double and a Dent single that sent Torrez to the showers. Jim Beattie, who early last season had pitched so badly in Fenway that he was dispatched to the minors, got the win—and his first big league shutout.
Otherwise it was a joyous week for both clubs. New York (4-2) got another win—11-3 over Detroit (3-3)—from Tommy John, at 8-0 the majors' most successful pitcher. For the week, the Yankees scored 43 runs as Graig Nettles hit three homers and had 15 RBIs.
The Red Sox took four of six, mostly by doing the unexpected. Rookie Chuck Rainey continued his surprising pitching, beating Oakland 8-2 on three hits. Dennis Eckersley defeated the Orioles 3-2 in 10 innings for his first win over Baltimore in three years. And there were bigger surprises. Normally considered an offensive team, the Red Sox beat Baltimore behind six outstanding defensive plays and had four double plays in a 4-3 win over New York. The DPs stoked up the already heated Sox-Yankee rivalry. Blasting Jackson and Thurman Munson for sliding beyond the baseline to try to knock him out of two of the double plays, Boston Shortstop Rick Burleson bleeped, "I hate every dirty bleeper who wears a bleeping pinstripe uniform."
May 27, 1979
Cleveland (5-2) was uncustomarily joyous. The pitching staff allowed only 17 runs in seven outings, as Rick Waits got two wins—1-0 over Toronto on two hits and, combined with Don Hood and Dan Spillner, 6-0 over Detroit on four—and Wayne Garland beat Minnesota 3-2 for his first win since April 25, 1978. As the Indians moved to within 1½ games of fifth place, oft-traded slugger Bobby Bonds said he would like to end his career with the team. "I've had more fun playing here than I've had in a long, long time," he said. Milwaukee (1-5) was more miserable than it's been in a long, long time. The Brewers dropped to fourth and lost Outfielder Larry Hisle for at least two weeks with a torn muscle in his shoulder. If he needs surgery, he could be finished for the season. So, Brewer fans fear, would be any hope of a divisional title.
Despite a 3-2 week, there was cause for concern in Baltimore, too. Base-running errors contributed to a 6-2 defeat by Boston, and Pitcher Steve Stone, the loser in that game, allowed a first-or second-inning home run for the fourth time in a row. Toronto had a 2-6 week, which at least was consistent. It kept the Jays' season percentage at .250. At their current rate, they'll equal the pace of the 1962 Mets. Toronto might do even worse, now that Pitcher Jim Clancy has been lost for six to eight weeks after surgery on his right foot.
BALT 25-13 BOS 24-13 NY 21-17 MIL 21-18 DET 14-18 CLEV 15-22 TOR 10-30
When surprising Minnesota (2-4) began its first tough stretch of competition with three losses to Texas, critics scoffed, "I told you so," and shifted their attention from the first-place Twins to the Rangers (4-3). Of special note was Texas' red-hot Relief Pitcher Jim Kern, who faced the minimum nine batters while shutting the door on the Twins in the 7-5 Rangers victory that opened the series. Kern, 5-0, picked up saves in the other two wins. But the Twins immediately righted themselves, beating Kansas City 7-6 in what has become their typical fashion. Jerry Koosman got the win, his seventh without a loss; Mike Marshall got the save, his 10th; and Shortstop Roy Smalley had a hand in the game-ending double play. Not that Smalley was aware it had been completed. "I caught the ball, stepped on second, threw to first and I don't remember another thing," said Smalley, who was knocked down on the play by George Brett. The Twins took another game from the Royals, 10-6 in 10 innings, behind the 4-for-6 hitting of Hosken Powell.
Even so, the Royals (4-3) were beginning to resemble contenders. The most promising sign was a return to form of Pitcher Rich Gale, who had kept them in the race early in 1978. Gale decided to stop worrying about walks, and he set down the Mariners 1-0 on five hits—and four bases on balls. In his first five starts, Gale had concentrated on not walking batters. He gave up only eight bases on balls in 27 innings, but was 0-2. Last year, when he walked 100 in 192 innings, he was 13-3 before injuring his shoulder in mid-August. Steve Busby, who won his first game since April 9, 1978, could smell victory coming. "There's a certain scent when you get close to winning," said Busby after beating Seattle 4-3. "You may go a long time without winning, but you never forget that scent." Al Hrabosky, by contrast, has been leaving a bad taste in Kansas City's mouth. In his last five appearances, he has given up eight earned runs and 12 hits in 3‚Äö√Ñ√∂‚àö√±‚àö¬® innings.
The fourth contender, California, won five of six, with Frank Tanana beating Chicago 7-3 for his first win since April 20. Up the coast, Seattle (3-3) was still trying to get unpacked. Only Willie (The Ancient Mariner) Horton, Seattle's 36-year-old designated hitter, seemed at peace with himself. "I don't worry about hitting streaks," said Horton, who as usual was streaking (.348) in the spring. "Winning is all that matters." Seeing was all that mattered to Pitcher Byron McLaughlin, who said he thought Catcher Bob Stinson had signaled curve when Stinson actually wanted a fastball. McLaughlin's curve went for a passed ball and led to a loss.
Chicago (3-3) swept three from Oakland (1-5) as Ken Kravec won his third in a row, Ross Baumgarten ran his record to 4-0 and Jorge Orta broke out of a slump with a timely opposite-field double. Before his team snapped an eight-game losing streak by beating Milwaukee 12-4, Oakland's run-starved Manager Jim Marshall had visions of transplantation. "I almost wished I was in Wrigley Field," he said, "watching people run across home plate."
MINN 24-12 CAL 24-15 TEX 21-16 KC 21-18 CHI 18-19 OAK 13-26 SEA 13-27
As the Phillies (3-3) and Cubs (1-5) collapsed after their 23-22 slugfest (page 20), a Pirate bat gained renewed stature around the league. It was Willie Stargell's black beauty, which smote four homers and contributed mightily to Pittsburgh's best week (4-2) of the season. Stargell hit his first homer in a 4-3, 13-inning win over New York, added two more to help beat the Mets 6-5 and hit his fourth in John Candelaria's 9-5 defeat of Chicago. Stargell now has hit 60 homers against New York, more than any other player. Shell-shocked in Pittsburgh, the Mets (1-4) limped home from a 3-11 road trip. After the club's chief operating officer, Lorinda de Roulet, met with Manager Joe Torre, she told the few New Yorkers who weren't concentrating on the Yankees and hockey's Rangers, "He didn't think it would be necessary for me to address the club. He said all the players are doing their darndest."
So were the Cardinals (4-0), who had something to show for it. They whipped Atlanta 7-3 on Pete Vuckovich's six-hitter and George Hendrick's three RBIs, beat the Expos 1-0 on John Denny's two-hitter, defeated Montreal again, 2-0, as Bob Forsch got his first win, and exploded for six runs in the 12th inning to beat New York 9-4. "If nobody's believing, they're crazy," said Third Baseman Ken Reitz of an early bout of pennant fever that has infected St. Louis. Unfortunately, the Cards' public relations were also crazy. Outraging 18,225 fans at Busch Memorial Stadium, the Cardinals suspended a 2-2 game in the 10th inning so the players could make a 4:55 p.m. flight to New York for the next day's game. "Obviously we made a mistake," said Executive Vice-President John Claiborne.
As St. Louis moved six games ahead of its 1978 pace, Montreal (2-3) extended its losing streak to five games before beating Philadelphia 5-3. One of the losses—a 1-0 defeat by St. Louis—was divisive as well. When the Cards' Mike Phillips came to bat with men on second and third and two outs in the ninth, Expo Manager Dick Williams gave Steve Rogers the option: pitch to him or walk him to get to a pinch hitter. Rogers pitched and yielded a game-ending single. "That move is the manager's, not the pitcher's," snapped team President John McHale.
PHIL 24-12 MONT 21-13 ST. L 20-14 PITT 16-18 CHI 15-18 NY 11-23
Call him Guidry West. The difference is that Bob Welch, who is a starter-turned-reliever for the Dodgers (2-4), is likely to remain in the bullpen. "I'm enjoying helping the team," said Welch, who helped extend a Los Angeles winning streak to eight games by beating the Braves 5-4. "Maybe if I stop helping, it won't be as much fun." When the Dodgers lost four straight games, during which Welch pitched only once, he was neither helpful nor, presumably, happy.
The Dodger-beaters were Atlanta (3-4) and Cincinnati (5-1), each of which took two from L.A. "I don't understand it," Dodger Pitcher Doug Rau said of the Braves. "They can't be this good or they wouldn't be in last place. As far as we're concerned, they're great." The Braves certainly agreed that Dale Murphy's hitting was great. He batted .462, with four homers and 12 RBIs. Meanwhile, the Reds quietly ran their lead up to 3½ games. Overshadowing their fine play was a boorish gesture by the club's president, Dick Wagner; he refused to let Cincy writers honor Pete Rose, who was elected the Reds' MVP last season, in a home-plate ceremony when he visits Riverfront Stadium on June 1. "I'm not interested in honoring a player from another club in our park," said Wagner. So much for Rose's 16 years in Cincinnati.
So what if Vida Blue's ERA was 4.99 and John Montefusco was on the disabled list; other Giant lights were shining. Phil Nastu got his first major league win, beating the Astros 8-1 on five hits; Ed Halicki threw a 3-0, two-hit shutout at Houston; and Willie McCovey ended a 5-2 week with an 11th-inning homer that beat Atlanta 7-6.
Joe Niekro, who twice went the distance for wins, saved the week for Houston (2-4).
Despite Gene Richards' .440 hitting, San Diego (3-3) also needed some saving. In their past 10 games—six of them losses—the Padres have scored just 21 runs. But neither the team nor its fans were panicking. With attendance about 30,000 ahead of last year's club-record pace, the Padres obviously haven't been hit by the gas shortage—yet. And like every club in baseball, they were overjoyed by the return of the regular umpires. Presenting a lineup card to a veteran crew, Manager Roger Craig blurted out, "I feel like hugging you."
CIN 23-14 HOUS 21-19 SF 21-19 LA 19-22 SD 16-24 ATL 13-24
PLAYER OF THE WEEK
ROY SMALLEY: The 26-year-old Twin short-stop batted .500 and ran his hitting streak to 18 consecutive games, longest in the American League this year. He also continued to lead the majors with a .413 batting average.