Little things mean a lot. The Padres (4-1) didn't believe this was the case in spring training when Manager Dick Williams insisted, "We'll be successful if we get the runner from second to third with none out, and if we take the extra base. Individual statistics mean nothing." Now, more than a fourth of the way through the season, many San Diego players have stats worse than their career figures, but the team is one of only two in the West above .500. One of the little things the Padres have done has been to cut down on bases on balls. Last year the staff led the majors with an average of 3.72 walks a game; now the rate is 2.86. Williams charts how his players perform in numerous categories; last week he jotted down that Sixto Lezcano, who batted .368, had for the 13th time driven in a run with two outs—a tie-breaking single that led to a 5-4 victory in Pittsburgh. Juan Eichelberger held the Cubs to just one disputed infield single while beating them 3-1.
Excellent pitching also buoyed Atlanta, Cincinnati and San Francisco. Phil Niekro of the Braves (3-2) kept the Mets hitless for seven innings and won 3-1. Mario Soto of the Reds (3-3) increased his major league-leading strikeout total to 102 by fanning eight Mets as he won 6-2. Dan Driessen batted .577 and drove in nine runs. Greg Minton of the Giants (4-2) chalked up three saves and a win with 6‚Öì innings of scoreless relief.
Houston (2-2), which has had outstanding pitching for several seasons, continued to have troubles in that department this year, especially from the bullpen. Astro relievers have a 3.95 ERA and a 3-8 record.
An 8-7 loss in Pittsburgh enraged Los Angeles Manager Tom Lasorda, but Steve Garvey and Fernando Valenzuela put him in a better mood when they led the Dodgers (3-3) past St. Louis 6-2. Lasorda batted the slumping Garvey second, and he had two singles, a home run and a steal. That eased the way for Valenzuela, who won his eighth game.
ATL 30-21 SD 28-22 LA 27-27 SF 25-30 HOUS 24-29 CIN 22-30
A pitch that hit Mario Soto of the Reds on the rump helped give the Phillies (3-2) a kick in the pants. Ron Reed admitted he deliberately plunked Soto, who hadn't walked anyone for 30 innings but who that night had drilled Mike Schmidt and Bob Dernier with pitches. During the seventh-inning brawl that followed Reed's retaliatory action, the reliever suffered a cracked rib, and that is expected to sideline him for at least two weeks. Cincinnati's Cesar Cedeno suffered an injured shoulder. Dave Concepcion of the Reds, Soto and Reed were all ejected. Soto had been working on a one-hitter and was in front 4-0. The Phillies didn't get their second hit of the game until there were two out in the ninth. That hit set off a four-run rally. In the 15th, Dernier singled and came around on a sacrifice, a fly out and an error. Sparky Lyle, who has shed some 30 pounds since last season and is down to 200, won 5-3 in Houston. The slimmed-down Lyle singled in a run and lowered his ERA to 2.05 with three scoreless innings against the Astros.
Bob Forsch and Keith Hernandez helped keep the Cardinals (3-3) in first by teaming up to beat the Dodgers 5-2. Hernandez singled, tripled, stole a base and scored twice in support of Forsch, who ran his record to 7-1. Joaquin Andujar, who was obtained from Houston last season, blanked the Giants 1-0 and then paid tribute to Pitching Coach Hub Kittle. "He changed my windup. He changed everything. I'm a smart guy, but I had trouble using my ideas because I didn't speak that good in English."
"If you're in a rainstorm, you've got to keep driving until you see some sunshine," Manager Chuck Tanner told his Pirates (4-2) after a 5-4 loss to the Dodgers. So the Bucs kept driving and, sure enough, they found some sunshine in the form of three consecutive wins. But there was no sunshine for the Cubs (0-6).
Four hits by Ellis Valentine and three runs batted in by John Stearns propelled the Mets (2-4) past the Braves 10-4. Charlie Lea, who had a 1.43 ERA in May, and Tim Wallach, who hit .367 for that month, gave Montreal (2-3) a 10-0 win over Houston. Lea stretched his scoreless-inning string to 26 and Wallach had two homers and four RBIs.
ST.L 33-21 MONT 26-23 PHIL 27-24 NY 28-25 PITT 22-28 CHI 21-33
"I don't like it when a new guy takes a ball club. It changes a lot of attitudes." That was the appraisal of Oakland Manager Billy Martin after Buck Rodgers had been fired as the Milwaukee skipper and was replaced on an interim basis by Harvey Kuenn, who was in his 11th season as a coach with the Brewers. Martin had reason to be concerned. Keen on Kuenn, Milwaukee (5-1) ripped off four consecutive victories, including 10-1 and 11-3 wipeouts of the A's. The second of those wins in Oakland was built around five home runs, three in a row in the seventh inning by Robin Yount, Cecil Cooper and Ben Oglivie. For Cooper, it was his fourth homer in a .476 week. A tip from a couple of bartenders didn't hurt, either. Bob McClure, who was born in Oakland and who lives nearby, mentioned the advice he got before going the distance and striking out eight A's during the 11-3 romp. "Two of my bartender friends from Pacifica phoned and told me to throw more fastballs," McClure said. "I took their advice."
Boston (4-2) had a tough trip, but it was worth it. The players didn't get to their Anaheim hotel until the wee hours of Thursday morning because of a delayed flight, and because the bus driver who met them at the airport was an hour late and then turned what should have been a 35-minute ride into an 80-minute ordeal. The driver was going in the wrong direction until former Angel Jerry Remy copiloted him down the right roads. Although Remy had three hits and three RBIs the next night as Boston defeated California 11-4, it was Carl Yastrzemski who turned the team around with a 4-for-4 performance. Yaz, who had to hit the deck in the ninth to escape a head-high delivery from Angel Moreno, singled in two runs on the very next pitch to tie the score at 4-4. The Red Sox then broke loose for seven runs in the 11th.
Three one-run victories in California put Detroit (4-1) percentage points ahead of Boston in the East. The first was a 4-3 win in which the Tigers, who trailed 3-1 in the ninth with two down and no one on, scored three times on a walk and four seeing-eye hits.
Two weeks after being in seventh place and 11 games out, the Indians (5-1) were third and only 514 back. Cleveland ran its winning streak, the team's longest since 1954, to 11 games before losing and got three home runs and seven RBIs from Andre Thornton.
For the first time ever, the Blue Jays (4-3) took a four-game series from the Yanks, winning three times. Among other troubles for New York (1-5) was an apparent single by Hal McRae of the Royals that became a two-run inside-the-park homer when it bounced past Centerfielder Dave Collins and rolled to the wall. That led to a 4-3 New York loss.
Cal Ripken's steal of home in the sixth inning helped the Orioles (3-2) build an 8-3 lead over the Rangers. But Tippy Martinez had to come in from the bullpen to get the final two outs to preserve an 8-7 win.
DET 32-18 BOS 33-19 CLEV 27-24 MIL 27-24 NY 25-25 BALT 25-26 TOR 24-27
With Chicago runners on first and third and his team leading 4-3 in the seventh, Reliever Dan Quisenberry of Kansas City (5-0) faked a pickoff throw to third, then wheeled and fired to first. Quisenberry's move caught Ron Le-Flore off the bag and helped Quiz pick up his 13th save. Hal McRae batted .444 for the Royals and Amos Otis stroked his ninth game-winning hit, a single in the 11th that beat the White Sox 7-6. By drubbing New York 14-1 with 22 hits, five by Willie Aikens, K.C. moved into first place Sunday.
Despite being advised to go on the disabled list because of tendinitis in his right wrist, Rod Carew of the Angels (0-6) played on and during his last 12 games batted .477, essentially swinging with one hand. Of his 53 hits this season, 11 have been bunts. Chicago (1-5) dropped four one-run games, but ended a seven-game losing streak by knocking off Texas 2-1 behind a two-run dinger by Harold Baines. The victory went to Britt Burns, his seventh, and the save to Salome Barojas, his 12th. Texas (3-2) won two low-hit games: Charlie Hough, with last-out relief from Paul Mirabella, limited Chicago to three hits and won 4-3; and Frank Tanana's four-hitter took care of Baltimore 4-1.
"I had an exceptional fastball, and later my curve kept 'em off balance," said Mike Norris of the A's (2-3) after defeating the Red Sox 5-0. "The word around the league was that 'Norris' screwball is flat.' "
Jim Beattie of Seattle (2-3), who had dropped his first four decisions, hurled his second straight complete-game victory when he handed Detroit its first shutout of the season, 4-0. Minnesota (1-5) ended its club-record losing streak at 14 games by beating Baltimore 6-0. Brad Havens earned the win and Terry Felton, who struck out six and gave up only one hit in 3‚Öì innings of relief, saved it for him.
KC 29-21 CAL 31-23 CHI 29-22 SEA 26-29 OAK 25-30 TEX 17-30 MINN 13-43
BALL PARK FIGURES
An SI poll of major league players reveals these catchers as the gabbiest—and most distracting—in the game today:
1. Gary Carter, Montreal
2. Steve Yeager, Los Angeles
3. John Stearns, New York
4. Terry Kennedy, San Diego
5. Tony Pena, Pittsburgh.
1. Rick Dempsey, Baltimore
2. Carlton Fisk, Chicago
3. Mike Heath, Oakland
4. Jim Essian, Seattle
5. Ernie Whitt, Toronto
PLAYER OF THE WEEK
TONY PENA: The Pirate catcher batted .429 and stroked three game-winning hits. He beat Los Angeles with a two-run single in the ninth, then toppled Montreal 5-4 and San Diego 2-1 with last-inning hits.