It seemed all too familiar—the Green Monster, the Jimmy Fund billboard, the booing fans. Don Zimmer was back in Fenway Park, but in the visitors' dugout. "I didn't know where to stand," said Zim, who had-spent seven years as a coach and manager in the other dugout and was making his Fenway debut in a Texas uniform that day. But the Rangers (2-3) let him down, losing 4-2, and 10-4 the following night, before allowing him to leave Boston with his head held high after a 16-8, 18-hit slugfest in which every Texas batter except Mickey Rivers had at least two hits. The Rangers got 22 more hits and 11 runs in splitting two games in Cleveland.
As the Oakland (6-0) onslaught continued, the bullpen got its first save; the team had a day off (it had played 15 games over 14 consecutive days since the season opened); and—horrors—the A's allowed Seattle to score four runs on two consecutive days. But the pitchers added five more complete-game victories.
The Mariners (1-5), the only team to beat the A's this year, lost three straight to Oakland despite home runs by Richie Zisk in each game. Seattle's win came on Floyd Bannister's two-hit 3-0 shutout of the Angels for Seattle's first complete game of the season.
The Twins (2-5) were looking forward to not having Billy Martin to kick them around anymore. They had lost seven straight to the CG squad. California (4-3) beat the Mariners and Twins twice each, rookie Mike Witt two-hitting Minnesota 7-1.
While Martin's A's were getting most of the attention, Tony LaRussa's White Sox (6-0) kept winning—to the tune of .769—but were still 4½ games back. After their shelling of the Orioles, Manager Earl Weaver marveled, "They sure got a lot of hits, didn't they? They hit 'em up the middle, down the line, under our gloves, in front of us and over us." LaRussa admitted to a touch of worry over his staff. "They've got to learn how to pitch when they're ahead," he said.
The Royals (1-5) wish they had that problem. The American League champions are off to the worst start in the history of the franchise. The club that hit .286 last year is at .248. The Royals scored just 26 runs in their first 12 games, and when they did get a lead, their pitchers couldn't hold it. George Brett was hitting .205; Willie Wilson was getting thrown out on attempted steals (twice in just three attempts); and the team ERA was 3.86. Manager Jim Frey first tried extra batting practice, then canceled a scheduled batting session. He closed the clubhouse and gave a pep talk. But the players professed not to care about Oakland's big lead. They beat the Yankees in the playoffs last year, remember?
OAK 17-1 CHI 10-3 CAL 8-9 TEX 6-7 KC 3-9 MINN 4-11 SEA 4-12
It was an omen. Superstitious Manager Sparky Anderson should have known that. His Tigers (0-6) were batting .281, had a 7-2 record and were in first place. They came to New York to face the third-place Yankees. A 27-mph wind chilled the 44° temperature to 19°, and then it happened. The hibachi in the runway, used to warm the Tiger bats, died. And so did the Tigers. They lost three games to the Yankees and three more to the White Sox. Their bats never did warm up, producing just 10 runs in those six games.
It was a typical week for the Yankees (4-2). Reggie Jackson hit a home run in his first at bat at Yankee Stadium and George Steinbrenner had a deal canceled by Bowie Kuhn. But even negatives seem to work in George's favor. When Steinbrenner couldn't bring up one minor-leaguer, the one he did bring up, Steve (Bye-Bye) Balboni, hit a triple in his first at bat and drew a bases-loaded walk to force in the winning run. The Yankees' two losses were to the Blue Jays (2-4).
After going 23 innings without a run and hitting a paltry .193 as a team, the "big bats" of Milwaukee (5-1) finally uncorked a few. They scored 19 runs in a three-game sweep of the Blue Jays and another 19 in beating the Royals two of three games.
It was supposed to be Cleveland's (4-1) bats that would lead them, but Indian fans were being dazzled by the Tribe's arms. Through their first nine games, the staff had three shutouts and an ERA of 2.14, and swept a three-game series from the Royals.
There was some joy in Beanville—for a change. The Red Sox (3-2) were in second place, and the new guys were making the fans forget about the old guys. Well, almost. Third Baseman Carney Lansford led the league with a .422 batting average and had a .480 on-base percentage, and Mark Clear had 10 strikeouts in 6 1/3 innings. Baltimore (1-4) had a week for the Birds. Eddie Murray was sidelined by a virus, and Pitcher Dennis Martinez needed four stitches in Chicago after being hit in the head by a fan's beer bottle. The Orioles gave up 26 hits—the most ever allowed by a Baltimore staff in one game—in an 18-5 loss to the White Sox. After a 2-5 road trip during which their ERA climbed to 4.74 and their batting average fell to .215, they were more than happy to come home to Earl Weaver's tomato patch.
CLEV 7-4 BOS 7-5 MIL 7-5 NY 8-6 DET 7-8 BALT 4-7 TOR 5-10
Things can't get much worse for the Houston Astros (2-5). The 1980 divisional champs are the 1981 chumps, tied for the second-poorest record in baseball. They've lost six of their eight one-run games; they failed to score in 60 of 66 innings; five starters are hitting below .204. Manager Bill Virdon tried 11 different lineups in 16 games—to no avail. They got Mike Ivie from San Francisco for "punch." He went 1 for 14. The players even rejected a call for a clubhouse meeting, a tactic that worked last year when Joe Morgan convened the troops and they went on to win the division. He is now with the Giants. An ex-Giant decided to take matters into his own hands. Bob Knepper pitched a three-hitter, doubled and scored the only run to beat the Dodgers 1-0 and then shut out Cincinnati by the same score.
Not that the Giants (3-5) are doing much better. After trouncing San Diego 9-0 on Monday, San Francisco scored just five runs in its next five games, losing twice to the Padres and three times to the Braves before taking a Sunday doubleheader from Atlanta.
The Padres (3-4) did something few other teams seem capable of when they beat the Dodgers for the second time this year. "This is a team of no-names," said Tim Dollar, after picking up the save, "and we're trying to show we belong in the majors." The Los Angeles Names were 5 and 2 for the week, led by a name to remember, Pitcher Fernando Valenzuela (page 22).
Explaining a season-long slump that had produced no RBIs, Bob Horner said, "It's just not getting no hits." But then he started. He homered and hit a sacrifice fly for four ribbies and singled, doubled and homered the next day for four more as Atlanta (5-2) won twice, 10-1 and 7-3 over the Reds. Atlanta lost 16 of 18 to the Reds last year but is 4-1 against them for 1981. After their second defeat by Atlanta, the Reds complained bitterly about Gaylord Perry's puffball, which materializes out of a cloud of resin and helped the veteran to his 290th career win. The Reds (3-3) displayed a little wizardry of their own, beating the Astros three games out of four. In a 3-0 victory, Frank Pastore allowed four hits, struck out five and singled home a run.
LA 13-3 ATL 9-7 CIN 8-7 SF 7-11 SD 6-11 HOUS 4-12
With a light snow falling and temperatures hovering at the zero (Celsius) mark, pinch hitter Jerry White was in a runway under a heater keeping warm. When Expos (6-0) Manager Dick Williams summoned him in the eighth inning, White was red hot, belting a three-run homer to beat the Phillies 9-8. Expo regulars couldn't duck inside, so they chased the chilblains away by running—a lot. Montreal tied a team record by stealing seven bases—four by rookie sensation Tim Raines—to beat the Phils 10-3 and then completed a sweep with a 4-3, 11-inning victory. Said Philadelphia (3-3) Manager Dallas Green, "This weather isn't conducive to anything but ice hockey." With 10 of the Phils nursing colds, the team flew to Chicago, where they swept three from the Cubs.
The Mets (0-3) were also victimized by the weather; by Saturday they hadn't played one official game. Two games had been postponed and a third was called in the ninth inning after a one-hour, 29-minute rain delay in Pittsburgh. "Layoff's like that hurt pitching more than they affect hitting," said Manager Joe Torre. As if to illustrate the point, the Mets had 11 hits against the Expos on Saturday, and Pitcher Randy Jones gave up six walks, including four in the second inning, one to Pitcher Steve Rogers. The latter forced in a run, and a wild pitch brought in another as the Mets eventually lost 4-2.
The Pirates (0-2) also lost three games to rain and another two to the Cardinals (5-0), who had their best start since 1946, when they won the pennant and World Series. Forty-five of their 108 hits this season have been for extra bases. "We're not a one-base club anymore," said Manager Whitey Herzog. Indeed. Keith Hernandez smacked three doubles in one win over the Cubs, and Second Baseman Tommy Herr hit triples in four consecutive games. The defensive specialist is now known as Boomer.
Having dropped 12 straight games, the Cubs (0-6) were one shy of the 1944 team record for consecutive losses. In 24 innings against the Cardinals, the team failed to score or even advance a runner. What's wrong with the usually quick-starting Cubbies? Manager Joey Amalfitano knows precisely: "We aren't hitting. When you don't hit, you don't score. And when you don't score, you don't win."
MONT 11-2 ST.L 9-2 PHIL 10-5 PITT 4-6 NY 4-7 CHI 1-13
PLAYER OF THE WEEK
TOMMY HERR: The Cardinal second baseman tripled in four consecutive games and had four other hits on the week to bat .421 and drive in eight runs as St. Louis won five games in a row and took possession of second place.