When Montreal (6-4) beat New York 11-5 for Dick Williams' 1,000th career victory as a manager, he said modestly, "I've either been around a long time or I've had good teams." When lefthanded Pitcher Bill Lee said he felt well enough to play despite hip, back and knee miseries and objected to being placed on the disabled list, Williams grumbled. "Everything's wrong with him," he said. "He got hit by a cab jogging last year, fell on an iron railing when he was jogging at 6 a.m. this year and then wrenched his knee when his spikes got caught in his shoelaces. He's just not right." Lee responded that Williams was looking for an excuse to replace him with a righthanded pitcher, Hal Dues. "They better have a lot of bats when I pitch batting practice," said Lee, "because I'm going to break a lot of them." When Umpire Bruce Froemming said the Cubs' Scot Thompson caught a ball that had plainly dropped in, Williams was furious. Understandably so, because the call deprived the Expos of a run that would have beaten Chicago. Instead, the Cubs won 8-4 on Cliff Johnson's 14th-inning grand slam.
For the week, Johnson had four homers and 10 runs batted in, all in home games at Wrigley Field. "I think I could have a serious love affair with this ball park," said Johnson, who was acquired by Chicago from Cleveland on June 23. Steve Carlton won his 17th game for Philadelphia (2-3), beating the Cardinals 3-2 and singling in what turned out to be the winning run. First Baseman Pete Rose made a diving catch of a foul pop, spiked the ball and got a standing ovation. During a delay in a Phillie game against St. Louis that was ultimately rained out, Cardinal pitchers Pete Vuckovich and Bob Sykes began making head-first slides on the field and were joined by several hundred fans.
St. Louis (3-2), Pittsburgh (5-3) and New York (3-5) all had typical weeks. The Cardinals either feasted (14-0 over Philadelphia, 9-6 over New York) or endured famines (3-2 losses to Philadelphia and New York). Only Silvio Martinez' 4-1 complete-game victory over Los Angeles failed to fit the pattern. The Cardinals were especially pleased by Sykes' three-hit shutout of the Phillies, even if they did score too many runs.
The streaky Pirates ended a six-game losing streak and ran off five straight wins, homering in each. Getting two wins and a save from Kent Tekulve and two saves from Enrique Romo, they beat Chicago 9-7, 2-0 and 11-3 and Philadelphia 6-5 and 4-1. Dave Parker had nine hits and Tim Foli two three-hit games as the Pirates stayed within a half a game of first-place Montreal.
The Mets' Neil (Hurricane) Allen had two saves and Ray Burris stopped Montreal 7-1 on six hits for his first nine-inning victory since April 12, 1978. In the Expo win, Elliott Maddox broke an 0-for-21 streak by going 3 for 4. Afterward Manager Joe Torre reiterated his favorite Panglossian rallying cry: "We're still in contention."
MONT 62-48 PITT 61-48 PHIL 55-50 NY 53-56 ST.L 48-59 CHI 45-63
Tom Lasorda's Happiness Boys have become the Controversy Kids. First Baseman Steve Garvey and his wife Cyndy filed an $11.2 million "civil suit against Inside Sports. On the field the Dodgers turned a 4-1 lead over the Braves into a 6-4 defeat. And in the clubhouse Lasorda and Centerfielder Derrel Thomas argued about whether Thomas had been correctly positioned in the outfield. The dispute and the loss so riled Reggie Smith that the rightfielder slammed his wrist against the metal lid of a beverage cooler, opening up a wound that took 60 stitches to close. L.A. bled Dodger blue all week, losing four of seven.
Another brouhaha raged in the San Diego (4-5) locker room. After talking to several players, Coach Bobby Tolan asked Manager Jerry Coleman to hold a postgame meeting. When the meeting finally took place the next afternoon, it turned into a grievance session lasting an hour and 40 minutes. "All 25 players had a chance to get things off their chest," said player representative Randy Jones. "We agreed things had been too negative on this club. Even our kidding is negative. With the trouble we've had scoring runs, when Dave Winfield or somebody comes up with runners on first and third, Rollie Fingers or someone on the bench would say, 'Here comes a 6-4-3.' We've decided to be more positive the rest of the way." Their play certainly was: the Padres beat Houston twice—5-1 behind Bob Shirley's four-hitter and 5-3 on Von Joshua's ninth-inning double. Despite the absence of J.R. Richard (page 12), the Astros continued to hold first place by winning four of seven. Ken Forsch strengthened the rotation by beating the Giants 1-0 for his first victory since June 20.
Cincinnati (5-2) rejoined the race as Dan Driessen batted .421, Tom Seaver came off the disabled list to beat the Padres 7-1, Tom Hume had two wins and a save and Johnny Bench socked his 10th career grand slam to beat the Dodgers 8-5. "I haven't thrown like that all year," said Seaver, who allowed four hits in six innings. "It was more an exercise in self-control and discipline than in facing hitters. I felt a little bit of pain, but I think it's more stretching pain, not impingement pain." Come again? Later in the week the Dodgers rocked Seaver for seven runs in 1⅖ innings, but Seaver's only problem, according to Catcher Bench, was an anxiety attack. "He was rushing the whole time," Bench said. "He never seemed to get totally relaxed."
Trailing 4-1 with two outs in the ninth, the Braves (3-4) rallied to beat Los Angeles 6-4 on an error by Third Baseman Ron Cey, a pinch walk, two pinch singles and Glenn Hubbard's three-run homer. "This game never ceases to amaze me," said Pitcher Phil Niekro. "One little ball goes by someone and five runs score." In a 6-2 loss to the Dodgers, Manager Bobby Cox was ejected for throwing his hat and reacted by spitting tobacco juice in the face of Umpire Jerry Dale. "A disgraceful, cowardly act," said Dale. After first denying it, Cox finally admitted he did intentionally spit at Dale, "but not until after he spit in my face first." The Braves wasted 14 hits and stranded 16 runners while losing 5-4 to the bumbling (2-5) Giants.
HOUS 60-49 LA 60-50 CIN 59-52 SF 53-57 ATL 49-60 SD 49-62
Suddenly there was a race. The Orioles (6-0) had taken four straight, the Yankees (2-4) had split four and New York's lead had dwindled to 5½ games, its narrowest margin since July 1. When Baltimore and New York squared off on Friday for the first of eight games in 11 days, the largest Yankee Stadium crowd of the season—54,130—was on hand.
As expected, the fans saw an excellent pitching duel between New York's Ron Guidry and Baltimore's Jim Palmer, but the 5-2 Oriole win hinged on mistakes, not good play. Centerfielder Ruppert Jones allowed one Oriole run to score when he misjudged Benny Ayala's ground-rule double, and Leftfielder Bobby Murcer set up Baltimore's game-winning hit with another miscue. With the score tied 2—all, a runner on first and two outs in the eighth, Murcer misjudged Doug DeCinces' fly, trapped the ball, the ump ruled, and threw late to the infield, allowing the runners to advance to second and third. Pinch hitter John Lowenstein scored both of them with a single. Owner George Steinbrenner and General Manager Gene Michael issued statements bitterly protesting the trap call on DeCinces' hit to left.
"It's a shame that in a crucial and emotional game in a pennant race...the outcome might be decided by a questionable call," said Steinbrenner, who listened to the game on the radio. "Baseball men who saw the play tell me the ball was cleanly caught. I just hate to think that the outcome of a pennant race might be decided by a questionable call." Michael released a detailed statement arguing that "You can't trap a ball when you come up with it on the end of the glove." Both statements ignored the fact that the ball should have been caught.
The next night, Yankee starter Tom Underwood threw two pitches on the outside of the plate, where Ken Singleton likes them, and Singleton doubled and tripled in a 4-2 Oriole win. It was the second victory of the week for Steve Stone, whose 18-4 record leads the majors, and the Orioles were only three games behind New York in the loss column.
The Oriole surge played tricks on the mind of Milwaukee (4-3) Manager George Bamberger. Early in the week, with the fourth-place Brewers 11 games out and their own fans posting CHOKE CITY signs in the County Stadium bleachers. Bamberger hinted he would retire at the end of the season. "I'd like to see the club finish second, five games out," he said wistfully. But as the Orioles kept winning, he decided the Brewers were already accomplishing that. "The way I look at it, we're only five games out now because that's all we're behind the Orioles and they're going to catch the Yankees," Bamberger said. Two complete-game victories by Moose Haas, who beat New York 2-0 and Cleveland 4-2, had Bambi's spirits soaring. Alas, Pitcher Reggie Cleveland brought them down to earth. "Neither Boston nor Milwaukee is going anywhere," he said. "We're just going through the motions."
In Boston (5-2), Manager Don Zimmer reached into his bag of tricks. He had Jim Rice sacrifice and used relievers Skip Lockwood, Bill Campbell and Bob Stanley for three innings apiece in place of a starter. Rice's sacrifice (which followed a surprise bunt single by Carl Yastrzemski) contributed to a 7-3, defeat of the Brewers, and the bullpen trio bested Chicago 4-1.
In another pitching novelty, Shortstop Bob Bailor threw 2‚Äö√Ñ√∂‚àö√±‚àö¬® innings of runless relief against Cleveland and Kansas City, allowing two hits and walking none for Toronto (2-6). The Indians (5-3) averaged seven runs and 10 hits while taking five straight against Oakland and Toronto, but lost twice to Milwaukee when production dropped to two runs and six hits a game. Detroit lost four of six as Pitcher Dan Schatzeder twice squandered leads. He was ahead of Kansas City 5-4 in the seventh but surrendered runs in the eighth and ninth to lose 6-5, and combined with Reliever Aurelio Lopez to blow a 3-0 ninth-inning lead over Texas. Lopez eventually lost the game 4-3 in the 10th.
NY 67-41 BALT 63-44 DET 57-48 MIL 58-51 BOS 56-52 CLEV 54-51 TOR 46-62
George Brett was paying the price for success. His .386 average and club-record 22-game hitting streak got him unwanted attention both from opposing pitchers and the press. In his first time at bat after hitting a three-run homer, Brett was decked twice by Detroit's Milt Wilcox. After flying out, Brett charged the mound, igniting a bench-clearing fight. "The scary thing about George going to the mound," said Catcher Darrell Porter, "was that on the line were a batting title and our chances of going to the World Series." Said Brett, "I used to come to the park early and fool around, maybe play a few games of hearts. But recently, when I've been getting there at three o'clock, there have been so many people waiting to interview me that I haven't had time to fool around. So now I'm not showing up until five." He continued: "I'm so hot now that going 2 for 5 seems like an off day. If I can throw in a few 3 for 5s or 4 for 5s, I'll be able to hit .400. I think I can do that."
Brett was by no means a one-man team. Kansas City (5-2) has the best record in either league, and the biggest lead—12½ games—thanks to, among others, Willie Mays Aikens, who hit .481 for the week, Dan Quisenberry, who had a win and two saves, Willie Wilson, who made a game-saving circus catch, and Rich Gale, who shut out Toronto 9-0 for his eighth straight victory. Gale lost six of his first seven decisions and suffers from tendinitis and bursitis, but hasn't been beaten since June 11. "When I pitched in Chicago last Saturday I felt like an arthritic old man," he said after defeating Toronto. "But after one or two innings tonight, I felt so good it was ridiculous."
Other teams were as bad as the Royals were good. Minnesota (0-7) averaged two runs and three pitchers a game. "We're hitting too many line drives to infielders with men on base," said Manager Gene Mauch. "The other teams have been blooping us to death." Seattle (1-5) couldn't earn a single win for new Manager Maury Wills; the Mariners were given one by A's Pitcher Matt Keough, who walked Bill Stein with the bases loaded in the 10th inning. "The frustration builds and builds," said Pitcher Steve Trout of Chicago (2-4). Trout lost 2-1 to Baltimore in part because failed to cover first. Frustration mounted for Texas (2-4), too, particularly when the Tigers stole six bases off pitchers Ed Figueroa and Dave Rajsich, both of whom have languorous motions, in an 8-0 defeat. "We don't run that much," said Detroit Manager Sparky Anderson, "but I'll run on anybody that will let me."
The A's Rick Langford beat Minnesota 3-2 for his seventh straight win and 15th consecutive complete game. Oakland (5-2) has already passed its 54-win total of 1979. The Angels took six of seven to escape the cellar, where they had been since June 7. Dan Ford came off the disabled list and got a homer, two singles and three RBIs in his first start, and Toronto castoff Dave Lemanczyk, who had a 5.47 ERA, threw 4⅖ strong innings to pick up a win.
KC 69-41 OAK 57-54 TEX 52-56 CHI 47-61 MINN 47-63 CAL 44-64 SEA 40-69
PLAYER OF THE WEEK
RON LeFLORE: While batting .364, the Expo leftfielder stole four bases in one game—eight for the week—and scored nine runs, three of them game-winners. He led the National League with 72 steals and 80 runs scored.