Fernando Valenzuela, the Mexican southpaw who is built like an overstuffed taco, continued to fatten his reputation by keeping hitters on a starvation diet. First, the 20-year-old Dodger rookie muzzled the Giants 7-1 with a four-hit, 10-strikeout effort at bitterly cold Candlestick Park. About all the Giants could do was score the first earned run ever off Valenzuela, terminating a 34‚Äö√Ñ√∂‚àö√±‚àö¬®-inning streak that began last Sept. 15. Then, on a drizzly night in San Diego, Valenzuela fanned 10 Padres, gave up only five hits, singled twice and pared his ERA to 0.33 with a 2-0 triumph. Reliever Bobby Castillo picked up three saves. Burt Hooton helped keep Los Angeles (5-1) in first place by driving in two runs during a 4-2 victory at Candlestick, his 10th consecutive win there. That gave the Dodgers a 6-0 record, their best start since 1955.
San Diego (1-5) ended the L.A. streak 3-2 and broke its own five-game losing string when Broderick Perkins singled in the decisive run in the 10th. Singles were almost all the Padres had in their first five games last week; they batted .145 during that span and had just three doubles among 22 hits.
Atlanta's erstwhile sluggers also had difficulty laying on the lumber. While dropping four of their first five games, the Braves (2-4) produced only seven runs, and their lone homer was by Rufino Linares, a rookie outfielder. Linares' most vital hit, however, was a single in the 10th that knocked off the Astros 2-1. Biff Pocoroba also delivered a game-winning hit, singling in two runs in the ninth to topple the Giants 4-3.
April 26, 1981
Houston (2-4) got only two hits off Atlanta's Tommy Boggs, but defeated him 2-0 behind the four-hit pitching of Nolan Ryan and Frank LaCorte. The Astros' first hit was a single by Craig Reynolds in the seventh. A few minutes later, Boggs committed a three-base throwing error on a bunt and then fired a wild pitch. Ryan's nine Ks moved him into third place on the alltime list with 3,118.
Tom Seaver of Cincinnati (3-2) became the fifth pitcher to reach 3,000 strikeouts (Keith Hernandez, swinging in the fourth), a feat that lost some of its gloss when he was beaten by St. Louis 10-4. Three home runs helped Seaver to an earlier 7-1 triumph over the Padres. Rookie Bruce Berenyi, who pitched a two-hitter and won 4-0, and Mario Soto, who breezed 10-1 with a three-hitter, completed a sweep in San Diego.
Milt May batted .471 and Larry Herndon .409 for the Giants (2-4). Doyle Alexander will never be mistaken for Grover Cleveland, but he enhanced his standing as a master junkballer by stopping his former Atlanta teammates 6-2. Tom Griffin pitched his first complete game since 1976 when he dispatched the Braves 4-1 on four hits.
LA 8-1 CIN 5-4 ATL 4-5 SF 4-6 SD 3-7 HOUS 2-7
On the whole, the only ones glad to be in Philadelphia were the Phillies. All four umpires assigned to the Phillie-Pittsburgh series were hurt, starting with plate ump Joe West, who got his head bloodied in the opener when Lonnie Smith's bat slipped out of his hands as he was following through on a swinging strike. West went back to his hotel. His cohorts were late in joining him there, the three of them suffering minor injuries when their car was struck by another vehicle after the game. There was a fifth casualty: Pirate First Base Coach Al Monchak slipped in the dugout, pulled a muscle and had to be replaced.
The game? Ah yes, they did play some baseball, although for the first three innings it appeared the Bucs had a new game going called Throw the Ball Into the Schuylkill River. One miscue occurred when Shortstop Tim Foli forced Steve Carlton at second base for what he thought was the third out and then tossed the ball to the Phillie pitcher. That turned out to be Foli's Folly, because it was only the second out and a run scored. Everything went right that night for the Phillies (6-0): they were presented with their diamond-studded world-championship rings, 60,404 fans were on hand and the Pirates succumbed 5-1. Pete Rose, on the eve of his 40th birthday, banged out three hits in that game and batted .400 for the week. Even Gary Matthews was able to smile before the week ended. Matthews popped up in his first home at bat as a Phillie and received the time-honored Philadelphia welcome, spelled B-O-O. But Matthews heard cheers two nights later after homering in the 11th for a 4-3 victory over Pittsburgh. Philadelphia was one strike from losing 3-1 when it tied the score on Keith Moreland's two-run single. Manny Trillo slugged a clutch home run, too, beating Chicago 4-3 in the 10th. For the week, the division-leading Phillies hit a robust .316.
As for the Pirates (3-3), their next stop was Houston, where they won three in a row. Three hits by Foli plus three sacrifice flies by other Bucs beat the Astros 4-3. Lee Lacy's RBI double in the 11th the next day helped Pittsburgh win again, 6-3. Rod Scurry and Eddie Solomon then muffled Houston 2-0.
Wet weather forced a one-day delay in Montreal's home opener against Chicago, a game that got underway only after workmen used blowtorches to thaw a patch of ice behind home plate. The Cubs then let a 4-3 lead melt away in the eighth. Rodney Scott of the Expos (4-1) walked with one out, and when Chicago Reliever Bill Caudill tucked the ball in his glove and blew on his pitching hand to try to warm it up, Scott stole second. Dick Tidrow then came out of the Cub bullpen, gave up a score-tying single to Andre Dawson, threw the ball away trying to pick him off first base and allowed a decisive single by Gary Carter. Scott Sanderson and two relievers followed up with a 7-0 blanking of Chicago. Sanderson, who went to the Florida Instructional League during the offseason to try to improve last year's .078 batting average, showed that he had learned a few things by doubling twice and driving across four runs. Bill Gullickson was another pitcher demonstrating improvement at the plate. When not busy fanning 10 Mets, Gullickson, a . 175 batter last season, poked a double and single and drove in a run as he helped build a 5-3 victory for himself. Ray Burris, Bill Lee and Elias Sosa all had hits in Sunday's 4-3 victory in New York, giving Expo pitchers nine hits in 17 at bats so far this season.
St. Louis (3-1) also benefited from some pleasantly surprising performances and moved two games above the .500 level for the first time since the final day of the 1979 season. Venerable Reliever Jim Kaat, 42, drove in a run with a drag-bunt single in a 10-4 victory over the Reds. Joe Edelen, a third baseman when he was the club's No. 1 draft choice in 1973, is now a righthanded reliever. Edelen's conversion paid off as he put the finishing touches on the 10-4 win by retiring eight of the nine Reds he faced.
Another unexpected lift came after the Cardinal bus to New York's La Guardia Airport became mired in mud. Fearful that the team would miss its flight to Cincinnati, Trainer Gene Gieselmann and Traveling Secretary C.J. Cherre hustled off to a nearby bus dispatch terminal and for $24 hired transportation that whisked the team to La Guardia.
St. Louis was also well pleased with the deal it made last winter for Bruce Sutter. The former Cub picked up his second save when he gave up just one single in 2⅖ innings while preserving a 5-1 win in New York.
The Mets (2-3) got a lot of help from the Cardinals in a 5-3 win: eight bases on balls and five errors, two by Outfielder George Hendrick, which matched his total for all of 1980. Despite the loss, St. Louis players couldn't keep from laughing when the Shea Stadium message board flashed a sign that said LET'S GO MUTS. Pat Zachry ran his record to 3-0 when he beat Montreal 7-2.
The Cubs (0-5) played as if their name should have been Scrubs. Chicago pitchers walked nine batters in one game. Cub fielders committed nine errors. Defending batting champion Bill Buckner was at .188 for the season. And Leon Durham, a key man in the trade for Sutter, was batting .192.
PHIL 7-2 MONT 5-2 ST.L 4-2 NY 4-4 PITT 4-4 CHI 1-7
It wasn't The Bird. It wasn't a plane. It was Dave Rozema who had Tiger fans looking up. Rozema, who had been on the trading block through spring training, celebrated his 4-0 defeat of the Royals by jumping around on the mound the way Mark Fidrych used to. Front-running Detroit (5-1) got a second shutout in a row when Milt Wilcox, Kevin Saucier and Aurelio Lopez combined for a 2-0 victory in Toronto. Lopez earned his second save of the week by locking up a 4-3 victory over the Blue Jays. The win went to Dan Schatzeder, who allowed only one hit in 5⅖ innings of relief. In another fine relief job, Saucier didn't allow a hit in 2‚Äö√Ñ√∂‚àö√±‚àö¬® innings of rookie Howard Bailey's 8-5 defeat of Toronto. Kirk Gibson, who has made a remarkably swift recovery from an operation on his left wrist, homered in that game for his sixth successive hit over a two-day span.
It was easy to see why the Blue Jays (2-4) were last: they were batting .201 for the season. In keeping with their tradition, though, the Jaybirds won their fifth home opener in five years by beating the Yankees 5-1. They did it when Manager Bobby Mattick went against the percentages in the eighth, bringing in righthander Roy Lee Jackson with the bases loaded, one out and three lefty swingers coming up. Mattick was gambling that Jackson would come through with his specialty—a double-play grounder—and he did. Mark Bomback's pitching and Al Woods' three RBIs downed Detroit 9-1 on Sunday.
New York (2-3) defeated Texas 2-1, thanks to a move that losing Manager Don Zimmer didn't make. With men on second and third in the first inning and Reggie Jackson up, Zimmer shunned an intentional walk and let Danny Darwin pitch to him. Popeye's move seemed to make sense; after all, this was Jackson's first at bat this season after missing five games because of an injured leg. Jackson doubled in two runs.
Another lefthanded-hitting veteran, Carl Yastrzemski of the Red Sox (3-2), also made an auspicious 1981 debut. Though hampered by back trouble, Yaz returned from three days in traction and had three RBIs in a 7-2 victory over Baltimore. Bob Stanley notched two wins with 10⅖ innings of scoreless relief.
Late rallies enabled Baltimore (2-2) to win twice. A pinch RBI single in the ninth by Jose Morales broke open a 1-1 game in Boston, Gary Roenicke stole home on the front end of a delayed double steal and the Orioles won 5-1. When the Birds triumphed 3-2 in Kansas City. Rich Dauer's two-run double highlighted a three-run eighth.
Milwaukee fans, who expect to hoist many a toast to their offense, were left staring at empty mugs as the Brewers (0-4) hit. 177.
Cleveland pitchers bamboozled Milwaukee, Wayne Garland winning 1-0 and Bert Blyleven 5-0. Garland threw only 86 pitches, 64 of them strikes, and Blyleven fanned eight while tossing a four-hitter. For the Indians (3-1), they were the first back-to-back shutouts since September 1976.
DET 7-2 BOS 4-3 NY 4-4 CLEV 3-3 BALT 3-3 MIL 2-4 TOR 3-6
There were some ominous signs for the Royals (1-3). Just as the team's 1980 championship pennant was being raised before what was to have been K.C.'s home opener against the Tigers, a violent storm struck, and it couldn't be run up to the top of the pole. Then, as George Brett held aloft the silver bat he had just received for winning last season's batting title with a .390 average, a bolt of lightning seared the sky. "Even God is mad at me for not having batted .400," said Brett. Rain washed out that game, and when the teams played the next night, the Royals lost 6-5 as Reliever Dan Quisenberry was hit hard. Quisenberry was again ineffective during a 3-2 loss to the Orioles. While the A's (page 18) gamboled, Kansas City Manager Jim Frey gambled. In an effort to end a three-game skid, Frey inserted two 38-year-olds in Sunday's lineup: First Baseman Lee May and Catcher Jerry Grote. Both came through as the Royals beat the Orioles 3-2. May had three hits and two RBIs, and Grote, who sat out the last two seasons, doubled in another run.
Twins owner Calvin Griffith was disenchanted with the weak hitting of Ron Jackson, but Manager Johnny Goryl convinced Griffith the first baseman should play. Jackson responded with two homers that helped defeat Seattle 5-4, the first win of the year for Minnesota (2-2). Roy Smalley also homered in that game, and his third round-tripper of the week, a grand slam, decked California 6-4.
A club-record Opening Day crowd of 51,560 saw Carlton Fisk of Chicago (3-2)slug a grand slam to help knock off the Brewers 9-3. Two other new While Sox contributed to that victory, Ron LeFlore with three hits and a stolen base, Greg Luzinski with two hits. Fisk then beat his former Boston teammates for the second time in nine days, walloping a two-run homer in a 2-1 victory.
Three new Mariners (2-4) collaborated to beat the Twins 6-5. Richie Zisk drove in two runs and Jerry Don Gleaton picked up the win with relief from Bryan Clark. A homer by Zisk and more fine pitching by Clark gave the A's their first loss, 3-2.
Another player who changed uniforms this season, ex-Astro Ken Forsch, pitched the best game the Angels (1-5) have had so far. Forsch whitewashed Minnesota 4-0 on six hits.
"I don't plan on waiting until May like I usually do," said Al Oliver of Texas (3-2) about his determination to end another early-season slump. True to his word, Oliver homered and drove in three runs during an 8-0 defeat of the Indians. Doc Medich hurled 7‚Äö√Ñ√∂‚àö√±‚àö¬® strong innings in that game, and Steve Comer gave up one harmless hit in six innings of relief while beating New York 6-4. RBI hits in the seventh by Buddy Bell, who batted .500 for the week, and Jim Sundberg concluded the Rangers' comeback from a 4-0 deficit. On Sunday, Jon Matlack beat New York 4-0.
OAK 11-1 CHI 4-3 TEX 4-4 CAL 4-6 KC 2-4 SEA 3-7 MINN 2-6
PLAYER OF THE WEEK
TONY ARMAS: Oakland's 27-year-old outfielder from Venezuela batted .375, slugged four home runs and four doubles, had 14 RBIs, three game-winning hits and scored five times as the A's won six of seven games.