"We've had one of the worst spells a team can have. But we're together and loose, and that's why we'll be there when it comes down to the end." So said Jack Clark after San Francisco (4-2) beat Pittsburgh to end a skid in which the Giants lost 11 of 14 games. Clark led all San Francisco batters with 10 hits and eight RBIs, and Willie McCovey slammed four home runs, giving him a career total of 516, five fewer than Ted Williams, who is eighth on the alltime list. John Montefusco, sidelined 54 days with a nerve irritation in his pitching arm, returned and yielded just six hits and one run in five innings against Chicago, and Bob Knepper threw a nine-hitter to beat the Cubs 7-2.
"That's as good as I can pitch," said Tom Seaver of Cincinnati (3-3) after he defeated Philadelphia 6-3 on a six-hitter. Seaver struck out six Phillies as he became only the seventh major leaguer to record 2,800 strikeouts. Mike LaCoss won his eighth game without defeat by a 4-1 score over New York, lowering his ERA to 2.33, best among league starters. LaCoss left the game after the fifth inning because of a sore elbow. Injuries also plagued Ken Griffey, Ray Knight and Paul Blair.
San Diego (3-3) beat Pittsburgh 6-3 for Gaylord Perry. It was Perry's third straight victory and 273rd overall, tying him with Red Ruffing for 17th on the alltime list. But Perry was more concerned about his team's low standing. "We need improvement," he said. "We have only an outside shot unless we make a trade." Two days later the Padres traded Mike Hargrove, a career .288 hitter but a .192 bust in 1979, to Cleveland for Paul Dade, who had been batting .282 for the Indians.
June 24, 1979
Joe Niekro got his ninth straight victory and his 10th of the season—tops in the league—as Houston (3-3) beat Philadelphia 4-3 and clung to the division lead. Outfielder Terry Puhl and First Baseman Cesar Cedeno batted .385 and .380 respectively, and Shortstop Craig Reynolds had nine hits in 24 at bats. Another shortstop, Pepe Frias of Atlanta (1-5), went 11 for 21 at the plate to brighten an otherwise dismal week. In all, the Braves committed 13 errors, including two on one play, to raise their league-leading total to 86. And Manager Bobby Cox was so upset by an 11th-inning loss in which Montreal's winning run was walked in that he threw things around in his office and came away with a cut on his head. "I don't know what happened," Cox said. "Something bounced off something, I guess."
Los Angeles (2-4) hit a healthy .287 but Dodger opponents hit an even healthier .309 and outscored the defending league champions 42-33. Don Sutton lost twice, and excluding Terry Forster, the relief corps was shellacked for 14 runs in 13‚Äö√Ñ√∂‚àö√±‚àö¬® innings. "It's evident we need help in the bullpen," said Davey Lopes on the eve of the June 15 trading deadline. It came and went without a deal for a reliever.
HOUS 38-28 CIN 35-28 SF 32-33 LA 30-36 SD 30-37 ATL 22-41
Montreal (4-2) regained first place, thanks mainly to a three-game sweep of Atlanta. Steve Rogers won one of the games against the Braves with a six-hitter, Tony Perez went 8 for 13 for the series, and the Expos twice came from behind to win. Still, Manager Dick Williams was unhappy because Montreal's fizzling offense produced not a single home run during a five-game stretch. So he dropped Andrè Dawson, who had struck out 43 times in 52 games, from leadoff to No. 3 in the batting order and shifted Warren Cromartie, who had only 22 RBIs in 54 games, from No. 3 to lead-off. No help. Cromartie got just one hit and scored only one run in four games, and Dawson went 1 for 4 in the clutch. So feeble were Expo bats that after Gary Carter hit four singles—none of them a hot smash—against Houston, his teammates facetiously stacked bats in his locker. Some Expos weren't thinking too well, either. Rodney Scott walked with the bases loaded to force in the game-winning run in the ninth inning against Atlanta, but after taking ball four, he trotted toward the dugout. Williams screamed, motioning to Scott that he had to touch first base, which he finally did. Had he stepped into the dugout or touched a teammate before reaching first, he would've been called out. "I don't know what I was thinking," Scott said. "I just figured the game was over."
Silvio Martinez of St. Louis (2-4) allowed only six hits in eight innings and beat San Diego 3-2, but in five other games the Cardinal starters were shelled. In those outings, Martinez, Bob Sykes, John Denny, Bob Forsch and Pete Vuckovich lasted 23 innings and were racked for 39 hits and 28 earned runs. Their collective ERA was 10.95. They seemed to be doing their damndest to make a prophet of former Cardinal Reggie Smith, now a Dodger, who earlier in the week had said, "If St. Louis doesn't win its division, it'll be because of the pitching." Smith wasn't the only ex-Card who found a St. Louis weakness. San Francisco's John Curtis, another former Cardinal, pitched his first complete game in two years and beat St. Louis 6-1. Ted Simmons, who batted .311 and belted three home runs, said, "The Man gave me good tools and you don't mess with The Man." He wasn't referring to Musial.
Pittsburgh (2-4), which has had a sub-.500 record out West every season since 1974, launched its first 1979 trip to the Coast by losing three straight to San Diego. The Pirates scored only six runs in the three defeats. But then the Pirates beat Los Angeles twice as Omar Moreno singled home two runs in a 6-2 win and hit a three-run home run in a 6-3 victory.
Second Baseman Manny Trillo, who had missed 40 games with a fractured left forearm, returned to the Philadelphia (3-3) lineup and doubled to spark a game-winning rally against Cincinnati. Nino Espinosa and Randy Lerch pitched complete-game wins over Houston, but the Phillies' woes persisted. In none of their six games did they score more than four runs, and their team batting average was just .217. The principal strugglers were Pete Rose (4 for 19), Mike Schmidt (4 for 18) and Greg Luzinski (0 for 16), who ended up the week on the bench.
Pitching and hot-hitting shortstops boosted New York (4-2) and Chicago (5-1). The Mets beat Atlanta twice, on a two-hitter by Craig Swan and a three-hitter by Kevin Kobel, and Shortstop Frank Taveras batted .333 for the week and clubbed a two-run double during a team-record 10-run inning that led to a 12-6 defeat of Cincinnati. Chicago Shortstop Ivan DeJesus, who had 14 hits in 26 at bats, batted safely in all six Cub games. Chicago relievers Willie Hernandez, Dick Tidrow and Bruce Sutter made a total of nine appearances and got three wins and three saves. In all they pitched 12⅖ scoreless innings and gave up just four hits. The most unyielding of the three was Sutter, who got win No. 2 and saves Nos. 13 and 14.
MONT 34-23 ST. L 32-25 PHIL 33-29 PITT 30-28 CHI 29-29 NY 25-33
"I'm taking over what I think is the finest young talent in baseball," said new Manager Anderson when he arrived in Detroit (4-3). "I see things on this club that I saw when we were starting out in Cincinnati." Meanwhile, the young talent was doing just fine: 22-year-old Pat Underwood gave up just six hits and struck out eight in defeating Oakland and was 2-0; 24-year-old Steve Kemp, a .348 hitter, rapped out eight hits in 24 at bats; and 24-year-old Jason Thompson cracked three home runs. Ron LeFlore, 27, the oldest Tiger regular, went 12 for 31 at the plate, raising his batting average to .309.
First-place Baltimore (4-1) got complete-game victories from Dennis Martinez and Scott McGregor and a win and a save from Reliever Tim Stoddard, who allowed just three hits and no runs in 7⅖ innings. Al Bumbry had eight hits in 18 at bats, including a two-run pinch single in McGregor's 6-0 win over Chicago and a tie-breaking two-run triple in the ninth inning of a 6-5 defeat of Minnesota. It was the third time in five games that Baltimore scored the winning run in its last at bat. "We just seem to come up with whatever it takes to win," said Bumbry.
Boston (4-2) fell 1½ games behind the Orioles, though Dennis Eckersley notched his sixth and seventh victories, including a four-hit shutout of Minnesota. He also defeated Chicago 11-5. Bolstering their bench, the Red Sox acquired Kansas City Outfielder Tom Poquette and Houston slugger Bob Watson, and sent George (Play-Me-Or-Trade-Me) Scott to the Royals. "I'm raring to go," said Watson. "Some people wrote me off, and I want to rectify a few things." Scott was happy, too. "Usually when you demand to be traded," he said, "you wind up at Oakland."
Milwaukee (3-3) General Manager Harry Dalton and New York (3-3) Owner George Steinbrenner both were steaming. The Brewers were shelled for 21 hits in a 13-3 loss to Chicago, and then pitchers Lary Sorensen and Jerry Augustine combined to turn a ninth-inning, 6-4 lead into a 7-6 loss. Two nights later Milwaukee blew an 11-2 lead over Kansas City and lost 14-11. Brewer Manager George Bamberger called it his worst experience in baseball. "What can I do?" he asked. "I can jump off a bridge or stand here. I'll stand here." Said Dalton, "I'm going to go to the clubhouse and borrow Bamberger's razor." A bright note for Bamberger and Dalton was Bill Travers, who went the distance in beating Texas 6-2; he has given up just six earned runs in his last 42 innings.
After Cy Young winner Ron Guidry suffered a severely strained back that will sideline him indefinitely, Steinbrenner showed up in Minnesota just in time to see the Yankees lose their second straight to the Twins. When he saw Texas beat his team the next night, he pressed the trade button and Cliff Johnson, a .266 hitter this season, was traded to Cleveland and Jay Johnstone, who was batting .208. was sent to San Diego. Then, returning to New York, Steinbrenner concluded that Bob Lemon would have to go, to be replaced by none other than Billy Martin. Amid the confusion, rookie Reliever Ron Davis got his fourth and fifth victories.
Champagne flowed in Cleveland (5-1) after the Indians beat Oakland 2-1 to reach .500. "The next hump is .600," said Jim Norris, whose ninth-inning triple drove home the tying and winning runs. For the week the Indians batted .302 as Bobby Bonds went 11 for 28, Toby Harrah 10 for 27 and Ron Pruitt 6 for 9. In one stretch the Indians won four games in their last at bat.
Pitchers Dave Lemanczyk and Tom Underwood of Toronto (4-4) had banner weeks. Lemanczyk shut out Seattle 2-0 and beat Oakland 3-2 to raise his record to 7-3. Underwood shut out Oakland 2-0 to raise his record to 1-9—and end a 15-game losing streak that dated to Aug. 8, 1978.
BALT 40-22 BOS 38-23 MIL 35-30 NY 34-30 CLEV 32-30 DET 29-29 TOR 20-46
Injuries continued to plague the Angels: Frank Tanana, nursing a sore arm, was removed from the starting rotation indefinitely; Pitcher Chris Knapp, sidelined since June 4 with a herniated disk, was declared out for the year; and Catcher Terry Humphrey tore a muscle in making a throw to second and ended up on the 21-day disabled list. Nonetheless, with California batters bashing out 96 hits in 294 at bats (.326) and scoring 66 runs, the Angels won five of seven games and stretched their divisional lead to five games. Hot bats belonged to Carney Lansford (12 for 37), Don Baylor (10 for 33) and Don Ford (15 for 32). Hotter still were Willie Mays Aikens (.413), Brian Downing (.517 and 14 RBIs) and Bobby Grich, who went .13 for 31 and hit three home runs. "We're just reaching back," said Grich in an understatement. "We're playing like a bunch of pros."
Chicago was only 3-3, but that was a welcome performance, because all the divisions' other teams, except the Angels, had losing records. Milt May and Chet Lemon cracked two-run homers in a 13-3 victory over Milwaukee, Lemon and Junior Moore hit two-run singles in a seven-run inning that doomed Baltimore 12-4, and Mike Squires singled, doubled and laid down a perfect suicide squeeze bunt for four RBIs that helped crush Boston 8-5.
Minnesota (2-3) and Texas (2-3) slipped to five games and 5½ games behind California. Hoping to shore up their pitching, the Rangers traded away Dock Ellis (1-5), sent Doyle Alexander, who was tagged by Milwaukee for eight hits and four runs in 3‚Äö√Ñ√∂‚àö√±‚àö¬® innings of a 6-2 loss, to the bullpen and traded for John Henry Johnson, Oakland's winningest pitcher in 1978. "Last year we kept saying we'd right ourselves, but we never did," said Outfielder Al Oliver. "We can't think that way now or we're going to come up short again." Minnesota took two of three games from New York, one on Dave Edwards' first big league home run and the other on Butch Wynegar's three-run double. A large delegation of fans from Waseca, Minn. was on hand to see Wynegar's hit. It was at a Lions Club meeting there last September that Twins owner Calvin Griffith ripped into Wynegar, saying that marriage had adversely affected his Play.
On June 15 Seattle (3-4) was walloped 13-3 by Cleveland, continuing a midmonth pattern of lopsided losses that is fast becoming an unhappy tradition. On the Ides of March the Mariners gave up eight runs in an exhibition win over San Diego; on April 15 they were beaten 18-6 by Minnesota; and on May 15 they yielded nine runs to Kansas City. That's 48 runs and 55 hits that Seattle has given up on the last four Fateful Fifteenths.
Kansas City (2-4) escaped a winless week by rallying in two games that appeared to be lost. Trailing Boston 6-4 with two out in the ninth inning, Willie Wilson popped a routine fly to left that fell between Jim Rice and Fred Lynn. Then Steve Braun homered to tie the game. In the 10th, Al Cowens drove in George Brett with a sacrifice fly to win it. Three nights later, the Royals trailed Milwaukee 11-2 in the fourth inning and were still losing 11-5 before scoring eight runs in the ninth for a 14-11 victory. The crusher was Wilson's three-run fly-ball inside-the-park home run, his fourth homer of the year. Three have been inside-the-park jobs. Dave Hamilton, a surprise starter, beat Toronto 12-1 for floundering Oakland (1-6), which has lost 13 of its last 14 games.
CAL 40-26 MINN 32-28 KC 34-30 TEX 33-30 CHI 30-32 SEA 26-40 OAK 19-46
PLAYER OF THE WEEK
WILLIE MAYS AIKENS: Batting .413, the Angel first baseman knocked in 14 runs and, on two consecutive days, hit bases-loaded homers—the first grand slams in back-to-back games by an American Leaguer since 1962.