The time was ripe for a good old-fashioned bench-clearing brawl. Neither the Dodgers (3-3) nor the Reds (2-4) had been faring well. "We're not getting the big hit or the big out when we need it," said Los Angeles Manager Tom Lasorda. The Dodgers proved him right, dropping two winnable games, 3-2 and 7-6, to San Diego.
While committing three errors in a 12-2 loss to San Francisco, the Reds looked worse. In that forgettable game, two Red runners ended a threat by winding up together at third, and a third runner was thrown out at home by 20 feet.
Then came fight time. With the Dodgers ahead 14-2, the Reds were already on edge as Los Angeles' Davey Lopes took an unexpected swing at a 3-0 pitch—and homered. Now the Reds were seething. Trouble came, as it usually does, with an act of retribution. The next time Lopes came to bat, Cincy's Dave Tomlin threw four straight brushbacks, one of which sailed behind Lopes' neck. The Dodgers charged Tomlin en masse; the Reds charged the Dodgers en masse. After matters seemed to have cooled, the Dodgers' Derrel Thomas and the Reds' Rick Auerbach staged a fracas of their own, prompting another general brawl.
The Dodgers got the best of the evening. They not only won 17-6 on a club-record-tying seven homers, but also got an inning's work from the reactivated Reliever Terry Forster, who retired the side in his first outing of the season. Earlier, Don Sutton set a club record by getting his 210th victory, one more than Don Drysdale.
Three San Diego (3-4) irregulars—Kurt Bevacqua, Broderick Perkins and Dan Briggs—had game-winning, ninth-inning RBIs. Padre regulars didn't fare as well, as the team scored just 17 runs in seven games. Not even the signing of Pitcher Gaylord Perry through 1980 was particularly cheering. Embarrassed that Perry had gotten a loss and a no-decision despite giving up only one earned run in two starts, owner Ray Kroc wrote him, "Not a run for you and that's sad."
The news was sadder still in Atlanta (3-3), where slugger Dale Murphy (13 homers, 36 RBIs) will be out six to eight weeks recuperating from a knee operation. However, the Braves did brighten the spirits of Houston's Joe Niekro, who received a bottle of fine wine from brother Phil after beating Atlanta 4-1 for his 100th victory. At week's end he defeated the Padres 9-0 for his fifth straight victory. In that win the Astros (4-3) got a first-inning run for the 21st time this year. They have scored 23% of their runs in their first at bat. Alas, Pitcher Ken Forsch was placed on the 21-day disabled list with tendinitis.
Bob Knepper helped give the Giants a 4-2 week by beating Atlanta 6-4 on his 25th birthday. Nevertheless, there was an ill wind blowing across the Bay. The Giants have informed their Candlestick Park landlord—the city of San Francisco—that the newly installed grass surface is uneven and soft.
CIN 25-18 SF 25-21 HOUS 25-22 LA 22-25 SD 19-28 ATL 16-27
Montreal (3-1) moved into first, .013 ahead of Philadelphia (2-4). The Expos had it all: Pitcher Ross Grimsley won for the first time in 18 days, and Steve Rogers for the first time in 13; slugger Tony Perez batted .417; on defense, Second Baseman Rodney Scott saved Rogers' win with a diving stop; and coming off the bench, the seven-man BUS—Broke Underrated Superstars—squad had a .455 week.
Despite four errorless games, the Phillies had virtually nothing. The pitching was embarrassing. Nino Espinosa lost twice, allowing 10 runs in 11‚Äö√Ñ√∂‚àö√±‚àö¬® innings, and Dick Ruthven's slow pitching motion allowed the Cardinals to steal four bases and use them to beat him 3-1. The hitting—16 runs in six games—was almost nonexistent. And the depth, evidently, was shallow. When Shortstop Larry Bowa suffered a broken thumb and was lost for at least 15 days, the club brought Bud Harrelson out of retirement. Harrelson had previously been working in sales for a Wall Street commercial collection agency and playing Softball on weekends.
St. Louis (1-3) was equally horrible, but infinitely more entertaining. The Cards surrendered a three-run lead in the 10th when the Mets' Richie Hebner hit a three-run homer, and then lost that game 8-7 in the 11th on weak-swinging Frank Taveras' run-scoring single. "Mark Littell pitched to a bleep hitter like he was Babe Ruth," said Card Manager Ken Boyer, his 48th birthday spoiled.
Boyer's players then began committing Cardinal sins. Lou Brock had both a hot bat (.438) and a hot temper. He threw a bat toward Third Base Umpire Andy Olsen, who had ruled that Brock failed to check his swing on strike three. Pitcher John Denny, a 5-3 loser to the Phillies, advanced threateningly on a mike-toting reporter and also alleged that veteran Umpire Frank Pulli, who had worked the plate during Denny's defeat, was worse than the substitute umps had been. Responded Catcher Ted Simmons, "The pitchers who win 15 to 25 games are usually not affected by those things." Defending Pulli, Simmons added, "I've known him a long time, and I've always known him to be a good umpire."
Nothing could ruin New York's week, not even a game called by fog with the score tied 3-3 in the 11th, no outs and Met Joel Young-blood on third. That game now must be entirely replayed. The Mets took four of five as Richie Hebner drove in 13 runs, Lee Mazzilli went on one of his .500 tears, Youngblood batted .407, and reactivated Pat Zachry beat the Cubs 4-2 for his first victory in 42 days.
Chicago (3-3) traded one troubled pitcher, Ray Burris (6.14 ERA), to the Yankees for another, Dick Tidrow (7.83). Encouraged by the change of scenery, Tidrow threw three innings of hitless relief and saved Dennis Lamp's 4-1 win over the Phils. When the Cubs beat the Mets 9-7 in the first game of a doubleheader, Manager Herman Franks compared the experience to making love. Alas, the 4-2 defeat in the nightcap was anything but romantic.
Pittsburgh (2-3) had to love a 4-2 win over Montreal. It was the Pirates' sixth straight victory, and Bert Blyleven's first of the year. Blyleven took his moment of triumph to get in the last word in his spat with the departing substitute umpires. "I can't blame my record on them," said Blyleven, who entered the week with a 5.14 ERA, "but I could've won three or four games. I threw a lot of 3-2 pitches that completely confused them."
MONT 24-14 PHIL 26-16 ST.L 21-17 CHI 18-21 PITT 18-21 NY 15-24
The race tightened when Minnesota dropped five of six to Kansas City (4-2) and Texas (4-2). When Jerry Koosman suffered his first loss—4-3 to Texas—the Twins' record against the Royals, Rangers and Angels declined to an embarrassing 4-13.
Kansas City overcame a tendency to self-destruct. After losing 12-7 to Seattle, Pitcher Rich Gale commented, "I was super in the first inning. In the second I eroded in parts, and in the third I completely disappeared." Later in the week Gale again "eroded in parts" but beat Minnesota 7-4. Other K.C. pitchers were abuilding. Paul Splittorff, who has won six of his last seven, defeated the Twins 5-1 and 7-4, Dennis Leonard edged Seattle 5-4 for his first win since April 28, and Al Hrabosky got his first save since May 5.
Coming out of a slump, the Rangers' Al Oliver blasted three homers in a 7-2 win over the Twins. "I went three games without a hit," Oliver said, "and my wife refused to cook dinner. When I didn't get a hit the fourth day, she gave her tickets away. She said she wasn't coming out to the park to see me do that stuff. I guess if I ever go a week without a hit, I'll be sleeping in a tent in the backyard."
California (2-4) was hurting. At least half a dozen players were nursing injuries, most notably catchers Brian Downing and Terry Humphrey. With no healthy receivers, Manager Jim Fregosi was forced to use Jim Anderson, who had caught only once before—in the Babe Ruth League. Anderson was fine for six innings, but in the seventh he deflected Don Aase's bouncing pitch down the third baseline and tripped while chasing it, allowing the Brewers' Paul Molitor to score the game's only run. Undaunted, Anderson said, "I'll play anywhere."
Seattle Shortstop Mario Mendoza seems to play everywhere. Known as El Aspirador—Spanish for the vacuum cleaner—he has committed just two errors in his last 32 games. The Mariners have made only 16 errors in that stretch. Sparked by Mendoza's expected fielding and unexpected hitting—his two singles and a double contributed to a 12-11, 12-inning win over K.C.—Seattle won four of seven from the Royals and Rangers.
Chicago (4-2) pitchers had some interesting comments. Ross Baumgarten whipped California 6-1, allowing one hit in eight innings, and wasn't pleased. "I was mediocre, and yet I won," said Baumgarten, who gave up eight walks. "I pitched better in California [where Nolan Ryan had earlier beaten him 4-0 on two hits and 11 strikeouts]." After whipping Oakland 6-1, Ken Kravec credited a nutritionist with putting him on a carbohydrate diet that is heavy on spaghetti and cereals. "Being single and eating out a lot, my diet was terrible," Kravec said. "A new diet is better than getting married."
What happened in Oakland (1-5) was no laughing matter. Distracted by base runner Junior Moore, Pitcher John Johnson was called for a balk. Johnson, however, continued his motion and lobbed the ball to home plate. What Johnson didn't know is that a thrown ball on a balk call is in play. The White Sox' Chet Lemon knew—and socked a three-run homer, turning a 1-1 game into a rout.
MINN 25-17 CAL 26-19 TEX 25-19 KC 25-20 CHI 22-21 SEA 17-30 OAK 15-31
Little-known players made big contributions. Second Baseman Danny Ainge, the 20-year-old BYU basketball star, reported to Toronto (2-3) and hit .500 in his first four games. Ainge and 21-year-old Shortstop Alfredo Griffin, who hit .471, are baseball's youngest double-play combination. Boston Catcher Gary Allenson, a 24-year-old rookie, reached base on a 75-foot blooper past the pitcher's mound, to set up a seven-run inning in a 7-5 win over Baltimore. The Orioles (4-1), however, continued to surge—they've won 26 of their last 32 games—because of contributions by unfamiliar players such as Sammy Stewart, who threw 12‚Äö√Ñ√∂‚àö√±‚àö¬® innings of shutout relief, and Kiko Garcia, whose homer beat the Red Sox 5-3. Milwaukee's Jim Gantner, filling in at third because Don Money is injured and Sal Bando was serving as the designated hitter, batted .481 as the Brewers won five of seven.
Some better-known players were less successful. The Tigers (2-3) placed Pitcher Mark Fidrych on the 21-day disabled list when tendinitis flared up in his throwing arm. New York (2-3) used slowballing Jim Kaat in short relief, a job usually reserved for fastballers. Kaat hit Steve Kemp with a pitch and forced in the Tigers' winning run in a 4-3 victory over the Yanks. "I was trying to play country hardball," Kaat said, "and I didn't make it."
At least the Indians' big names lived up to their reputations. As Cleveland won four of five, Andre Thornton (.389) kept hitting while Wayne Garland pitched his first complete game in two years, beating Toronto 4-3. Then came the disappointment. With a crowd of 40,000 anticipated, the opener of a Yankee series was rained out. The next afternoon the dollar-conscious Indians insisted on playing despite dangerously slippery grounds and handed Tommy John an 8-4 loss, his first.
BALT 29-14 BOS 25-17 MIL 26-20 NY 23-20 CLEV 19-23 DET 16-21 TOR 12-33
PLAYER OF THE WEEK
GEORGE BRETT: The Royal third baseman batted .538, with half of his hits—three doubles, two triples, two homers—going for extra bases. He had nine RBIs and set a club record by scoring in his 11th straight game.