And so the National League beat the American League yet again, 4-2 in Los Angeles, its ninth win in a row and 17th of the last 18. The NL fell behind 2-0 in the fifth inning on Fred Lynn's two-run homer, but in the last of the fifth, Ken Griffey, who was named the game's Most Valuable Player, homered to break up a budding AL no-hitter. The Nationals took a 3-2 lead in the sixth on consecutive singles by Ray Knight, Phil Garner and George Hendrick and a Dave Winfield grounder to second that was misplayed by Willie Randolph. They added a fourth run in the seventh when Dave Concepcion scored from third base on a wild pitch.
Jerry Reuss, who struck out the side in his one inning of work got the win, and Bruce Sutter, the winning pitcher in 1978 and 1979, pitched hitless ball in the eighth and ninth to earn a save. In his three All-Star appearances, Sutter has fanned six batters in 5⅖ innings while yielding two hits and no runs.
Still, perhaps the best performance of all was that of the American League's starting pitcher, Steve Stone. On just 24 pitches in three innings, Stone struck out three Nationals and pitched perfect ball, the first starting pitcher to hold the Nationals hitless that long since Denny McLain in 1966.
Two aspects of the event were notable. First, the NL showed far superior depth. Both teams had seven hits, but while all the AL's were by starters, all the National's were by its reserves. Second, the game was seen by an estimated record 60 million TV viewers, surpassing the 55.8 million who watched the game in 1978.
"I feel like the guys are watching me and saying, 'Reggie's swinging good, man. C'mon let's watch Reggie,' " says—yup—Reggie Jackson of New York (2-2). In 26 games since June 10, Jackson has hit 11 homers, batted in 34 runs and raised his average to .298. Ominous, too, for the rest of the division was the return to the lineup of Ruppert Jones and Oscar Gamble, making the injury-prone Yankees completely intact in the field for the first time since May 10. It showed most in romps over Texas, 13-5, and Chicago, 8-0.
Cleveland (3-1) toppled New York 5-3 when Gary Alexander, a .196 hitter, pinch-hit a three-run homer. It was his second consecutive pinch home run, tying a league record. Alexander then crashed a pair of doubles to drive in three runs and beat Texas 9-8. Eddie Murray of Baltimore (2-2) broke out of an 0-for-21 slump in Chicago by blasting two home runs and a single, a double and a triple for six RBIs in two games. Then All-Star Game standout Steve Stone won his 11th straight, 3-1 over Kansas City.
Detroit (1-3) reached second place before the All-Star Game and then departed for 13 games on the road, which local papers were calling "The Big Trip." Manager Sparky Anderson was optimistic. "I'd like to go 8-5 on the trip," he said. "Then we play 47 out of 73 at home and it's up to us." Alas, when the season resumed, Detroit lost twice at Kansas City and once at Boston. "I thought the break would do us good," Anderson said. "But the opposite has happened."
Things were even worse for Tiger Outfielder Al Cowens, who is still wanted in Chicago on a battery charge for attacking White Sox Pitcher Ed Farmer on June 20. In a letter to Bowie Kuhn, Cook County State Attorney Bernard Carey wrote: "I strongly urge you...to arrange for Cowens to voluntarily surrender to the Circuit Court of Chicago."
Milwaukee (3-2) shifted Charlie Moore from last in the batting order to first, and he responded by banging out nine hits in 14 at bats (.643), including a 5-for-5 night against Boston, which Milwaukee won 7-6. The Red Sox (3-2) were ailing. With Carl Yastrzemski, Jim Rice, Chuck Rainey and Fred Lynn already out because of injuries, ace Reliever Tom Burgmeier developed tendinitis and Jerry Remy reinjured his left knee, requiring crutches. Fortunately, Lynn came back to belt two home runs in a 7-0 romp over Milwaukee. At Toronto (1-3), Otto Velez returned to the lineup after missing two weeks because of bruised ribs and cracked a game-winning two-run homer to beat Cleveland 6-3.
NY 53-28 MILW 46-35 BALT 44-37 DET 42-36 BOS 43-38 CLEV 39-40 TOR 34-45
When Whitey Herzog was managing Kansas City (2-2), he used to say, "George Brett could walk up to the plate Christmas Day and get a hit." Surely no one in Kansas City mistook the country's scorching weather last week for winter, but when Brett returned to the Royals lineup after being out since June 10 with an ankle injury, it wasn't unreasonable to think he might be rusty. He wasn't. In his first game back, versus Detroit, Brett singled and doubled. The next night he cracked doubles on each of his first three trips to the plate. The Royals won both games. In all, Brett had six hits in 12 at bats. How? "I just keep telling myself, 'You're hot, you haven't been gone at all,' " said Brett. "I don't feel like I've lost a thing."
Chicago (3-2) gave rookie Britt Burns his first-ever start against Baltimore, and Burns, whose 2.06 ERA led the league, was eager to show Earl Weaver that not selecting him for the All-Star Game was a mistake. But the Orioles singed Burns for five runs in the first inning, and he trailed 7-0 before departing after 1‚Äö√Ñ√∂‚àö√±‚àö¬® innings. Chicago lost 9-2. Earlier, the White Sox swept a doubleheader from Oakland, 2-0 on a five-hitter by Steve Trout and 5-4 when, with two out in the ninth. Pinch Hitter Greg Pryor—homerless in 197 at bats—hit one that just did carry into Row A of the leftfield seats.
In its best week of the season, Minnesota (4-0) was also uplifted by unexpected heroics. Jose Morales whacked two home runs—both three-run shots—for the first time in his career in a 12-4 defeat of Seattle. The next night Ken Landreaux' two-run blast beat the Mariners 6-3. It was only his fourth four-bagger of the year. And Fernando Arroyo, recently up from Toledo, pitched no-hit ball for 5⅖ innings and beat Texas 4-1, his first major league victory since 1977.
Far out West only Oakland (3-3) had much to cheer about. Unsure of his bullpen, Manager Billy Martin had let A's starters go the route in 10 of 14 games. But then, with the bases loaded in the eighth against California, Martin brought in Reliever Jeff Jones, who promptly snuffed the rally and ended up striking out four of the five batters he faced. The next night Jones was called upon again to quash a rally, and when he later got himself into a jam, Craig Minetto came out of the bullpen and preserved a 5-4 win.
California (2-3) dropped three straight at Oakland and was buoyed only by Ed Halicki's 8‚Äö√Ñ√∂‚àö√±‚àö¬® innings of two-hit pitching, which stopped Milwaukee 2-0, and by Frank Tanana, who beat the A's 5-1. For Seattle (1-3), a 5-3 victory over Kansas City was the only bright spot. In losing three straight to Minnesota, Mariner pitchers were tagged for 26 runs and 40 hits, including 20 hits in a 12-4 loss to Minnesota. Worse, much of the assault came against Seattle's top three starters—Rick Honeycutt, Glenn Abbott and Floyd Bannister.
Right after the All-Star break. Manager Pat Corrales of Texas (1-3) announced his plan for putting the struggling Rangers back into the pennant race. "We have to win 53 of our last 83 games," he said. "I think we're capable." Then, before a season-record crowd of 34,463 at Arlington Stadium, New York exploded for a 10-run first inning and cruised to a 13-5 win. O.K., so 53 out of 82.
KC 49-34 CHI 39-43 TEX 38-44 MINN 38-44 OAK 39-46 SEA 35-48 CAL 30-51
Philadelphia (4-0) went ahead of Montreal (3-2) as Steve Carlton recorded his 14th win and 2,833rd strikeout (page 22) and the Phils beat the Cardinals 8-3. "I've seen Lefty better." said Manager Dallas Green, "but basically he did what he usually does, get us a win when we needed it." Catcher Bob Boone delivered key hits in victories over the Cubs and Pirates. Against the Cubs he stroked three singles, one of them good for two runs in a 5-3 victory. And facing a five-man infield in the ninth inning against the Pirates—who had brought Dave Parker in from rightfield to second—Boone slapped a single to break a 4-4 tie.
The Expos fell half a game back despite the return of Ellis Valentine, who had missed 38 games because of a shattered cheekbone. Valentine was 5 for 11 with five RBIs in three games, two of which were wins over the Cardinals and Cubs. Also back, but less successful, was Bill Lee, who was pitching for the first time since June 6. The Expos staked him to an early 6-2 lead, but the Cubs rallied for an 8-6 win, with Reliever Stan Bahnsen taking the loss. Early in the week Montreal scored five runs in the 10th inning to beat the Mets.
Pittsburgh (2-2) went 20 innings with the Cubs before Omar Moreno singled in Ed Ott for a 5-4 win. The Pirates' other victory came against the Mets when part-time Leftfielder Mike Easier doubled and scored, then hit a three-run homer for a 4-2 triumph. Easler's 36 RBIs are second only to Parker's 43 on the Pirates.
New York (1-3) hung on to fourth place, although it twice missed chances to reach the .500 mark. Pat Zachry gave the Mets their lone win, shutting out the Pirates on three hits as Lee Mazzilli hit his fifth home run in eight games. But in the next two games, Mazzilli ran into double trouble: first his 18-game hitting streak came to an end, and then he misjudged a fly ball to help the Cardinals to an 8-6 win in 12 innings.
St. Louis (2-2) moved out of last place, and Chicago (1-4) moved in. The Cards got—glory be!—airtight relief pitching, especially from John Littlefield, who won his fourth game since coming up from Springfield. The Cubbies got one victory when Cliff Johnson hit a grand slam to beat the Expos, but otherwise all was gloom. Does Manager Preston Gomez fear for his job? "I can't even do my job if I worry about it," he replied.
PHIL 44-35 MONT 44-36 PITT 43-39 METS 39-42 ST.L 36-47 CHI 34-46
All Star Outfielder Dave Winfield is unsigned and playing out his option. Pitcher John Curtis, who agreed to a $1.75 million pact in the reentry draft last fall, is 3-7 and hasn't won since May 15. Utility infielder and top pinch-hitter Kurt Bevacqua has asked to be traded. Beset by growing troubles. President Ballard Smith of last-place San Diego (1-3) fired General Manager Bob Fontaine and issued an ultimatum to Padre players. "I hope they start worrying about their jobs," he said. "If they don't perform, they won't be around." After this admonishment, Von Joshua tripled in the 12th inning and scored on a wild pitch to beat Los Angeles 3-2 and end a seven-game losing streak.
Before that loss, the division-leading Dodgers (2-2) swept a two-game set from second-place Houston. In the opener, Bill Russell doubled home the tying run in the ninth and then Ron Cey scored the game-winner on Davey Lopes' tapper in front of the plate. Up to then, losing Pitcher Nolan Ryan had won 111 of the 113 games in which he was leading going into the eighth inning. "I have to say that's the toughest loss for me this year." he said. Next night, Jerry Reuss won 3-2, pitching a scoreless seven innings to lower his league-leading ERA to 1.83.
Houston (2-2) promoted Art Howe to starting shortstop, replacing Craig Reynolds, whose batting average plummeted to .173 after an 0-for-7 stretch. Joe Niekro got both Astro victories to up his record to 10-7. The Braves (1-3) feasted on a three-run homer by Gary Matthews and a two-run blast by Jeff Burroughs in a come-from-behind 6-5 defeat of San Diego, their seventh win in eight games. "Now people on other ball clubs are talking about us instead of us talking about them," said Pitcher Phil Niekro. But then-plop, Plop, fizz, fizz—came two losses to Cincinnati and a third to Houston.
They're still buzzing about George Foster and Johnny Bench in Cincinnati (2-3). Foster, frequently sidelined with a thigh bruise since mid-June, looked healthy again, batting .474 and rapping four home runs. Bench walloped four homers, raising his career total to 313 and tying Yogi Berra as baseball's all-time home-run-hitting catcher. But errors by Dave Collins and Junior Kennedy resulted in a loss to Houston, while the pitching staff gave up 25 hits and 16 walks and blew a doubleheader to San Francisco.
Rookie Rich Murray, the Giants' only first baseman now that Willie McCovey and Mike Ivie have retired, drilled a two-run triple in a 9-2 thrashing of San Diego. Alas, sliding into third, Murray badly damaged a finger on his throwing hand and probably will miss the rest of the season. A brighter note for San Francisco (5-0) was the play of rookie Third Baseman Joe Pettini, who got his chance when Darrell Evans had to be moved from third to first. Pettini went 1 for 3 in a game with San Diego and then 2 for 5 against Cincinnati. "Are the Reds doing me a favor, throwing all fastballs at me?" he asked a Red veteran. "Just keep hitting .800," the veteran joked, "and we'll find a better league for you."
LA 48-35 HOU 46-35 CIN 43-40 SF 41-43 ATL 37-43 SD 35-49
PLAYER OF THE WEEK
REGGIE JACKSON: In a four-game tear, the Yankee rightfielder batted .471, scored six runs and had 10 RBIs. Three of his hits were homers, raising his season total to 22 and tying him with Ben Oglivie for the league lead.