Who says there are no new strategies left in baseball? Certainly not Manager Earl Weaver of the Orioles (6-2). Baltimore's announced designated hitter for Thursday's game in Toronto was No. 23 on your scorecard, and hours later, when the game was over, there was old No. 23 sitting on a stool in front of his locker with a bucket over his head, ready to answer reporters' questions. But wait! The bucket was empty, the uniform stuffed. In fact, the real No. 23, Pitcher Tippy Martinez, was in Pueblo, Colo. visiting relatives. The previous night another starting DH, Pitcher Steve Stone, was in Chicago while the game was in Detroit. It was old master Weaver up to new tricks, waiting to see who was pitching for the other guys before committing himself to a real DH, who would then appear as a pinch hitter for the announced DH. And it was legal, although the league will seek to have the "games played" removed from the Oriole pitchers' offensive stats.
The Orioles swept four from the Tigers, one thanks to Pat Kelly, who finally made good on an old request by his manager. Last year, when Kelly, a born-again Christian, told Weaver he was walking with God, Weaver replied, "I'd rather you walk with the bases loaded." On Wednesday, Kelly did just that, to get his fifth RBI of an 8-4 win. His first four came on a pinch grand slam.
Even hotter than the Orioles were the Yankees (6-1), who, in beating the Red Sox three straight, the Blue Jays twice and the Angels once, got spectacular defense: in initiating one second-to-home double play in Boston, Willie Randolph made the play of the year, decade or century, depending on who was describing it. They also had timely hitting; Bob Watson hit a grand slam against his former Red Sox mates, and Bucky added another dent, hitting .667. The starting pitching was solid, too, with Tommy John (21-7) and Rudy May each winning twice. And the relieving was nothing short of superb. Rich Gossage, who had had just three days off in a nine-day span, got four saves and gave up one hit while striking out six in five innings.
September 21, 1980
Only the Yankees' owner failed to show class. After New York lost 6-4 to the Blue Jays (4-4), George Steinbrenner told League President Lee MacPhail that he hoped the Jays would also use their best pitchers against the Orioles, who were following the Yankees into Toronto. "Are they supposed to pitch with just two days' rest?" Manager Bobby Mattick asked angrily. No matter, Toronto's third-best pitcher, Joey McLaughlin, beat Baltimore 7-5 to give the Blue Jays their most season wins, 60, in their five-year history.
"The last three days have been as dull as you're going to see," lamented Detroit (2-5) skipper Sparky Anderson after his team lost to Minnesota 3-1. Not quite. The Tigers were even more soporific while losing their next four games—all to Baltimore—to extend their losing streak to six. By week's end Detroit was able to win twice—the second a 7-4, 13-inning victory—over Cleveland (1-5). The Indians, who just three weeks ago had closed to within 9½ games of first place, finished the week 18 behind.
NY 90-52 BALT 86-56 BOS 75-64 MIL 76-67 DET 73-68 CLEV 71-69 TOR 60-82
"When a team loses tour out of six, they say it's a slump," said Manager Jim Frey of Kansas City (2-5). "If it's a team that's challenging for the lead, they say you're trying too hard. When you have a big lead and do the same thing, it's a letdown." Whatever one calls it, the Royals were doing it, and in the process the Yankees passed K.C. and became baseball's winningest team. And baseball's best hitter had to sit and watch. George Brett, who had injured his right hand the previous Saturday, missed the entire week. But still, the Royals' magic number was down to four. The bright spots: Willie Wilson became the first player in the majors to get 200 hits; Willie Aikens went 12 for 28 (.429), scored seven runs, drove in 11 and had four homers; and Dennis Leonard won his 17th and 18th games.
Brett's replacement at third was Jamie Quirk. Oakland (5-1) Manager Billy Martin wasn't impressed. "I don't know what he is," said Martin, "but he ain't no third baseman." The A's got credit for five bunt singles in a 9-5 victory over the Royals, but two of them were misplayed into hits by Quirk. Meanwhile Martin was mightily impressed by his players. "Our guys are playing like the World Series is around the corner," he said after Oakland had beaten the Royals and Rangers twice each and the Orioles once. In winning his 16th, Rick Langford pitched his 22nd straight complete game; Mike Norris raised his record to 19-8 while lowering his league-leading ERA to 2.27; Mitchell Page hit four home runs, giving him 10 in a 19-game stretch; and Rickey Henderson stole his 79th base, a team record. The A's one loss was to Texas (2-4), and to righthander John Butcher, who learned just hours before the game that he would be making his major league debut in place of suspended Ferguson Jenkins. Butcher, 23, held the A's to two runs on six hits. Two nights later Mickey Rivers had his club-record hitting streak stopped at 24 by Norris.
The Twins gave interim Manager John Goryl his first winning week (3-2) since he replaced Gene Mauch on August 25. They battered five Milwaukee pitchers for 22 hits and 15 runs in a 15-2 win.
Rich Dotson of Chicago (3-4) had a no-hitter going into the eighth against Seattle (2-4) before giving up a bloop single, but Dotson's performance was little noted, because the game went 12 innings. Two Mariner players and Manager Maury Wills were ejected before the White Sox finally won 3-2. Wills had objected to a balk call made by first-year Umpire Mark Johnson. And objected and objected. "He kept hitting me on the nose with the beak of his cap," said Johnson. "He hit me two or three times." Wills should have known better. It takes a bit of big league experience before an umpire becomes hard-nosed.
KC 88-55 OAK 72-71 TEX 69-72 MINN 62-80 CHI 68-80 CAL 57-84 SEA 51-90
It was a week the Dodgers (3-2) aren't likely to forget. It started with a 6-0 three-hit defeat of Philadelphia to close out a 10-1 home stand, L.A.'s best since 1966. Having won 17 of their last 20, the Dodgers were in first by two games over Houston (4-1). But then it was on to the Astrodome, where the Dodgers committed six errors—one shy of the L.A. team record—in a 5-4 loss. And not one of those errors was committed by Shortstop Billy Russell, who had gone a record—for him—47 straight games without a miscue, partly because of the new Dodger infield dirt. The next night left Astros fans hoarse. Starters Burt Hooton and Nolan Ryan each gave up three runs in eight innings before Houston finally won in the 12th. Hooton said the Astros were "waving magic wands." But, no, it was just Jose Cruz waving a 36-inch, 34-ounce bat at Rick Sutcliffe's first pitch in the 12th and sending it over the rightfield fence for the 6-5 victory. With characteristic understatement, Houston Manager Bill Virdon said, "We always play the Dodgers close." Certainly the race was close; the Astro win left the teams in a tie for first place.
Then it was on to Cincinnati for the Dodgers. The Reds (3-3) were calling it the biggest series of the year. They had just won three straight from Atlanta, with Tom Seaver getting his first shutout of the year and Mario Soto striking out 15 batters, running his season's total to 154 in 157‚Äö√Ñ√∂‚àö√±‚àö¬® innings. And it looked like curtains for the Dodgers in the third inning of the first game when Pitcher Mike LaCoss threw a fastball that hit Russell's right hand, fracturing his index finger—oddly, the pitch was a strike, the umpire having determined that the ball hit Russell's bat before his hand—and sending him to the sidelines for the rest of the season. But in stepped utilityman Derrel Thomas, who singled and tripled and scored two runs as L.A. won 5-2. The next day he tripled in the top of the ninth, driving in pinch runner Gary Weiss to tie the score. One batter later, Thomas bluffed Soto into balking and trotted in with the winning run. "My head knows we won this game," said manager Tommy Lasorda in the clubhouse afterward, "but my stomach hasn't found out yet." Given the manager's dimensions, that could take the rest of the season.
The three losses to Cincinnati stopped the Braves' (3-3) winning streak at seven and gave them a 1-14 record against the Reds for the year, having been outscored 92-28 by Cincy. The Braves bounced back to break a seven-game Padre winning streak. Bob Horner hit a single, double and homer and drove in three runs in a 5-3 win the following evening. But the Padres (3-2) had a bright spot of their own. "It looks like we've got a lefthanded Rollie Fingers," said Catcher Gene Tenace of rookie Gary Lucas, who got two saves and had given up just one run in his last 16 relief appearances.
Giant (1-4) Manager Dave Bristol was desolate about his pitching: "We gave up 12 walks to San Diego on Tuesday, and I asked myself, 'Why are we pitching so fine? Are we facing the Bronx Bombers?' " And his hitting: "I get so darned mad. I'm pitching batting practice, and they can't even sting me."
HOUS 81-60 LA 81-60 CIN 77-65 ATL 73-68 SF 67-74 SD 62-80
A trail of blue towels greeted Bill Gullickson as he reached the clubhouse. It stretched to the showers. It was the Expos' version of the red-carpet treatment, and they were extending it to the 21-year-old for having struck out 18 Cubs, setting a team record and a major league mark for rookies. It also fell one short of the major league record for a nine-inning game, shared by Tom Seaver, Steve Carlton and Nolan Ryan. "I'm more excited about the win than the strikeouts," said Gullickson, who shared his joy with his parents and seven of his eight brothers and sisters, who were back home in Orland Park, Ill. watching the game over the Cubs' television network. The Expos (4-2) needed that win, as well as shutouts by Steve Rogers and Scott Sanderson, to stay in first place, a game ahead of Philadelphia and 3½ over the Pirates (page 18).
The Phillies (5-3) got help from a rookie of their own. In his first major league start, Marty Bystrom, 22, allowed only five hits while shutting out the Mets 5-0. And then there was the veteran Tug (Ya Gotta Relieve) McGraw, who, after 17 saves, got his first win of the year. Then he reminded everyone that it is September and that way back in '73, when he was pitching for the Mets and they won the pennant, he didn't get his first win until August. "There's an omen in there somewhere," said Tug, "even if I have to make it up."
The Phils could have taken over first place, but they lost twice to St. Louis (4-4) on Friday. The Cardinals had a child to lead them, too. Al Olmsted, 23, made his major league debut in the nightcap and shut out the Phils on six hits in 9‚Äö√Ñ√∂‚àö√±‚àö¬® innings before giving way to a reliever. After the 5-0 victory, Olmsted said simply, "I didn't want to embarrass myself." Yet another rookie, Leon (Bull) Durham, hit his first major league grand slam to help win the first game for the Redbirds.
Is there anything more boring than a game between the two worst teams in the league? How about one that goes 14 innings? The Cubs (3-4) and the Mets (1-5) did just that Friday night—and Saturday morning. When the game finally ended after 4½ hours, few fans left in Shea Stadium seemed to care that the Mets had lost their 13th straight. But 13 proved to be lucky as New York beat the Cubs the next day, 4-2. And it took them only 2½ hours to do it.
MONT 78-64 PHIL 77-65 PITT 75-68 ST.L 64-78 NY 60-82 CHI 55-86
PLAYER OF THE WEEK
RICH GOSSAGE: As the Yankees increased their lead to four games, their ace reliever picked up four saves in as many appearances, for a total of 27 with a 1.93 ERA, and increased his strikeouts to 86 in 84 innings.