San Diego's problems are not limited to those of fined owner Ray Kroc (page 13). As the Padres lost four of six, Gaylord Perry dropped his fifth straight decision, slugger Dave Win-field extended a batting slump to 6 for 55, and Rollie Fingers failed to preserve a ninth-inning lead in a game the Padres lost to Pittsburgh 10 innings later. Indeed, the team's best player was little-noted Outfielder Jim Wilhelm, who batted .450.
The Dodgers' best player was Third Baseman Ron Cey, who had a three-run homer in a 4-2 win over Chicago. No less a fielder than he is a hitter, Cey has only six errors in 115 games. "I'm making all the plays—barehanded pickups, hard grounders, bad hops, quick throws," he said, pleading his case for his first Gold Glove. "Oftentimes the award is based on a player's reputation rather than performance."
In the same game Don Sutton struck out six men and became only the 15th pitcher to reach 2,500 strikeouts, but the feat was soured by the familiar charge that he was throwing "doctored" baseballs. Home plate umpire Terry Tate examined Sutton's glove in the sixth inning and then asked him to "towel" down. "I had pine tar on my hands," said Sutton. "I got it batting. All us good hitters use pine tar."
September 2, 1979
Cincinnati (page 26) won five of six as Dave Collins batted .565, and Tom Seaver moved into fifth place on the career strikeout list with No. 2,856. The Reds advanced so close to Houston (3-3) that the Astros needed a Saturday night victory over Philadelphia to maintain the division lead. Pitcher Joe Niekro was up to the task, getting the winning hit and his 18th victory as Houston beat the Phillies 3-1.
The Giants (2-4) were again mired in turmoil. When Shortstop Roger Metzger criticized Pitcher Ed Whitson's poor bunting, Whitson responded by slugging Metzger over the eye. The San Francisco Chronicle added to the tumult by asking citizens in a telephone poll, "Should [Manager] Joe Altobelli Be Fired?" Fifty-six percent of the respondees said yes.
When Phil Niekro beat the Phillies 5-2 for his 16th win, Atlanta (3-2) Manager Bobby Cox was asked, "Can you remember the last time you guys won when Niekro wasn't the pitcher?"
"No, I can't," said Cox. "When was it?"
Answer: Two weeks before.
HOUS 73-56 CIN 73-57 LA 59-69 SF 59-70 SD 55-75 ATL 50-78
A team knows it is having a bad week when it loses five of six games and it has to "win" its sole victory three times to get credit for it. That's exactly what happened to New York. With two outs, nobody on and the Mets leading 5-0 in the ninth, Houston's Jeff Leonard flied out to center. But third base umpire Doug Harvey gave Leonard another swing, ruling that Met Shortstop Frank Taveras had called for time before the pitch. Given a second chance, Leonard singled, but that drew a protest from New York Manager Joe Torre. Torre argued that Leonard's at bat didn't count because the Mets didn't have nine players on the field. The missing man was First Baseman Ed Kranepool, who thought the game had ended on Leonard's fly ball and had retired to the clubhouse. When the umpires agreed with Torre, Houston manager Bill Virdon protested. He said it was the umpires' fault that the game had resumed with Kranepool absent, and that the Astros should not be punished for the umps' mistake. The umpires disagreed. In his third at bat Leonard again flied out to end the game for the second time.
Well, not really. National League President Chub Feeney, who had watched all this from the stands, upheld Virdon's protest and ordered the game resumed the following evening, with Leonard on first. The next batter, Jose Cruz, grounded out to end the game a third time. This time the result stuck. However, the Mets inserted second-game starter Kevin Kobel to pitch the final out, depriving Pete Falcone of a shutout.
Another one the Mets didn't let get away was Centerfielder Lee Mazzilli, who signed a four-year contract extension worth an estimated $2.5 million. The Mets also agreed to hear Mazzilli's advice on player deals. He thus may be the first big-leaguer to join the ranks of management while still a player.
Another unusual situation occurred during a game between St. Louis (5-1) and San Francisco. With his team leading 1-0, the Cards' Keith Hernandez doubled to open the sixth. One out later, Tony Scott grounded to Second Baseman Joe Strain, who threw to First Baseman Willie McCovey. Umpire Fred Brocklander called Scott out, but when Scott ran into McCovey's glove, the ball popped loose and Hernandez scored on McCovey's error. St. Louis went on to win 4-0. In their other victories, the Cardinals beat the Padres 6-3 on Silvio Martinez' complete game and 8-5 behind Hernandez' four hits, and the Dodgers 12-5 on Garry Templeton's four RBIs and 5-4 on Ken Reitz' sacrifice fly.
The durable Pirates (4-2) won two marathon games, defeating the Padres 4-3 in 19 innings and the Giants 6-5 in a rain-delayed game that took six hours. In the first victory, Tim Foli's game-winning single-atoned for the spotty performance of six Pirate pitchers, who yielded 14 walks. The week also featured Dave Parker's 1,000th major league base hit.
Bruce Sutter saved two games, including the 100th of his career, to give the Cubs a 3-3 week. They might have gone 4-2 had Ken Henderson not lost Mike Ivie's bases-loaded drive in the sun. The misplay gave the Giants a 5-2 victory. Thanks to Steve Carlton, the Phillies (2-4) avoided a winless week. Carlton beat the Astros 3-2 and 5-3, helping himself in the second game with two RBIs. In his last four starts, Carlton has pitched 36‚Äö√Ñ√∂‚àö√±‚àö¬® innings and allowed just 18 hits and 10 earned runs. But in between his two victories, the Phillies lost three straight to the lowly Braves. "When I get frustrated, I chop wood," said owner Ruly Carpenter. "That's the one good thing that's happened this year. Fuel costs are up, but at least I've got plenty of wood."
Montreal's Bill Lee was warmed by success. He beat the Braves 5-1 and 2-0, yielding nine hits in 13‚Äö√Ñ√∂‚àö√±‚àö¬® innings, to give the Expos a 3-2 week. Lee has a 3-0 record and an 0.96 ERA against Atlanta.
PITT 74-53 MONT 69-53 CHI 68-57 ST. L 67-59 PHIL 65-63 NY 51-73
A tornado was brewing in Kansas City, as the third-place Royals took four of six and began to look like the division's best team. The Royals had a couple of whirlwinds in Leftfielder Willie Wilson and rookie Pitcher Craig Chamberlain. Wilson, who's got all kinds of wheels, helped beat the Orioles 11-7 with a 10th inning, bases-loaded triple and then defeated the Red Sox singlehandedly with a first-inning, inside-the-park homer that accounted for the game's only run and a run-saving throw to the plate. The homer was Wilson's fifth of the year; four have been inside the park. In another win over Boston, Wilson scored two runs, both after stealing second. Chamberlain, 22, got his third victory in three major league starts, beating the Red Sox 4-2 by throwing fastballs 95% of the time. In fact, Royal Catcher Darrell Porter faulted himself for ordering up anything else. "They were hitting his curve early in the game," Porter said. "Then I thought, 'Darrell, you nut, this guy throws heat, so let's go back to the fastball.' He's uncanny. He knows when to take a little off his fastball and when to put a little more zip on it." Said Boston's Fred Lynn, "I can't remember a game when I struck out twice on fastballs."
The Royals had first-place California (3-3) and second-place Minnesota (3-3) running scared. The Angels' problems were obscured by the most one-sided game of the 1979 season—a 24-2 pasting of Toronto in which Don Baylor had a grand slam and a three-run homer. But there were problems. The pitching collapsed as the Angels lost to Cleveland 12-7 and 13-3. The latter was a particularly galling defeat because Nolan Ryan gave up five hits and six runs in 3‚Äö√Ñ√∂‚àö√±‚àö¬® innings. The Angels are 16-20 since the All-Star break and have blown leads in 13 of the losses. Minnesota's mediocre record overshadowed Ken Landreaux' .500 hitting, Jerry Koosman's 16th and 17th wins and Roger Erickson's first victory since last September.
The division's hottest team was Seattle (5-1), which swept three from Toronto and is eyeing a fifth-place finish. Mike Parrott had two complete-game victories, becoming the club's second 12-game winner ever, and Willie Horton batted .400. The only bad news was Floyd Bannister's 5-2 loss in Detroit. Bannister has not won on the road since Sept. 29, 1977. In fact, he has not won outdoors since then either, because Seattle, like Bannister's previous team, Houston, plays its home games under a dome. Anticipating Mr. Inside's next start in Cleveland, Manager Darrell Johnson said, "I'm thinking seriously of finding an old Barnum & Bailey circus tent to throw over the stadium and make Floyd think he's indoors."
Chicago (2-3) could use a tent, too. The umpires canceled two consecutive games with the Orioles because a combination of heavy rain and two rock concerts had made Comiskey Park unplayable. Baltimore General Manager Hank Peters blasted White Sox owner Bill Veeck for "lunacy" in scheduling the concerts. Outfielder Chet Lemon went AWOL before a doubleheader in Milwaukee for what seemed to be insufficient reasons. He was upset because two players were allowed to hit ahead of him during batting practice and because teammates had been ribbing him about his poor base running. After Veeck had a fatherly talk with him about his walkout and fined him a day's wages, Lemon returned to the lineup and singled home the winning run against the Brewers.
Oakland won three of seven, including a bizarre 8-6 game with Cleveland. Pitcher Rick Langford gave up six runs in the first third of an inning and seemed headed for an early shower, but Manager Jim Marshall left him in the game. After all, the A's had scored three runs in their half of the inning, and Langford is the club's best pitcher. He proved it by throwing one-hit shutout ball over the last 8⅖ innings.
Manager Pat Corrales of Texas (1-5) wasn't as lucky. The Rangers were leading Milwaukee 3-2 with one out in the ninth and the tying run on base. The batter was lefthanded Ben Oglivie. Corrales had three choices: leave in righthander Doc Medich, or summon either lefthanded Sparky Lyle (4-7, 3.50 ERA, 10 saves) or righthanded bullpen ace Jim Kern (10-4, 1.40 ERA, 20 saves). Corrales decided to go by the book, which says a lefthanded pitcher should always be brought in against a lefthanded batter. Corrales called for Lyle, who promptly gave up a game-losing homer to Oglivie.
CAL 71-58 MINN 67-60 KC 67-61 TEX 62-67 CHI 56-71 SEA 55-74 OAK 41-89
Boston (1-5) was getting squeezed—from above, from below and from within. The second-place Red Sox lost four of five at Minnesota and Kansas City to fall six behind league-leading Baltimore and only two ahead of third-place Milwaukee in the AILC (All-Important Loss Column). At various times the Sox were down to their fifth second baseman (Stan Papi) and sixth catcher (Larry Wolfe). Rookie Gary Allenson, who did most of the catching, made a costly mistake in a loss to the White Sox when he held on to the ball too long and allowed Ralph Garr to escape a rundown. Garr subsequently scored the winning run. Shortstop Rick Burleson wondered if first-string Catcher Carlton Fisk, out with elbow problems, was malingering. "Maybe he should go out there and try rolling the ball to second base," Burleson said. "We busted our butts for 125 games. If he can't play, why is he on the active list? What's going on?"
In Milwaukee, plenty was going on, and most of it was good. The Brewers won six of seven as Mike Caldwell pitched two complete-game victories and Ben Oglivie and Gorman Thomas each homered twice. "I feel we can win," said General Manager Harry Dalton. "We're playing every game as if there's a championship riding on it." The Brewers have won 12 of their last 14 and have gained five games on Baltimore. Nonetheless, the Orioles (2-2) were bubbling with goodwill. Ken Singleton homered during Mike Flanagan's 3-0 win over Texas. It was Singleton's 31st homer overall and 14th with Flanagan pitching. "I think if Mike was a short reliever and pitched in 65 games, I might challenge the Babe," Singleton said. Reliever Don Stanhouse had some nice words for Shortstop Mark Belanger. A late-inning defensive replacement, Belanger went into the hole to throw out the Rangers' Buddy Bell and preserve a 6-5 win. "He's my idol," said Stanhouse. Manager Earl Weaver deserved plaudits for knowing when to start Kiko Garcia. Despite being in a slump, Garcia played against Texas because he had two hits in three previous at bats against Ferguson Jenkins, who was pitching that night. Garcia doubled to highlight a two-run first inning and slugged a three-run homer in the second.
New York (4-2) got two wins from Ron Guidry and two saves from Goose Gossage. Cleveland found a lot to quarrel about even while winning four of seven. Pitcher Rick Waits claimed that some of his teammates didn't hustle during his 3-2 loss to Oakland. His teammates pointed out that no one complained when Waits went five weeks without a win. Moaned Outfielder Bobby Bonds, "I see us drifting apart." Toronto (1-5) drifted further apart. After Tom Buskey threw 2‚Äö√Ñ√∂‚àö√±‚àö¬® hitless innings to save a 6-4 win over California, he got an ovation from Toronto fans, but no outstretched hand from Manager Roy Hartsfield. Buskey had shaken up the team a week earlier by suggesting that Hartsfield should be fired because he didn't know how to handle the pitchers. Newcomer Craig Kusick came to Hartsfield's defense, calling the Blue Jays "a first-class organization," and comparing it favorably to his previous employer, Minnesota.
Ron LeFlore stole four bases, increasing his league-leading total to 62, as Detroit split six games.
BALT 81-43 BOS 76-50 MIL 78-52 NY 69-57 DET 67-61 CLEV 65-64 TOR 40-88
PLAYER OF THE WEEK
WILLIE WILSON: The Kansas City leftfielder batted .440, had two game-winning hits, scored nine runs and stole seven bases, running his season total to a club-record 59. He has a streak of 19 steals without being caught.