Seeking a few chuckles amid the anguish caused by the decline and fall of the Reds (2-6), The Cincinnati Enquirer announced a contest to guess the date the team will be eliminated from the divisional race. First prize is two tickets to Cincinnati's final home game; second prize is four tickets. Not only did the Reds lose, but they lost with flair as well. A six-run ninth put Cincy ahead 8-4 in Pittsburgh, but by the end of the inning, the Pirates had won 9-8. Then came successive 12-0 and 1-0 humiliations in Chicago that left the Reds with the worst record in the league. Bruce Berenyi pitched well enough to win the latter game, only to be done in by vintage bungling. Despite a pitchout, Leon Durham of the Cubs stole second and scooted to third when Catcher Alex Trevino's throw sailed into center. Durham scored when Centerfielder Cesar Cedeno and Rightfielder Duane Walker let an easy fly ball drop between them for a double. There was one moment of ecstasy: a five-run ninth that beat the Pirates 6-3. Wayne Krenchicki hit a three-run homer in that inning as Cincinnati ended its longest losing streak—nine games—in 16 years.
The Padres (6-2) enjoyed happier times. They stole 18 bases in 20 tries, with Gene Richards leading the way with five thefts. Even Terry Kennedy stole a base, his first in 305 games in the bigs. San Diego's bullpen got two wins and five saves. Sinkerballer Luis DeLeon had three of the saves. Against the Expos, Padre batters erased a 6-0 deficit in the fourth en route to an 8-6 victory. Then San Diego had three straight 5-3 wins, two in Philadelphia, one in New York. Padre lefty Tim Lollar, who hit his third homer of the season while beating the Mets 6-2 for his 10th victory against two losses, was dismayed about not making the All-Star team, as was Reliever Gene Garber of the front-running Braves (3-4). Garber picked up his 15th and 16th saves while trimming his ERA to 1.96. Bob Horner hit his seventh home run in 25 at bats over an eight-game span. Atlanta's 6-4 defeat of Pittsburgh was the 26th time the Braves had come from behind to win so far this year.
"The chase is on. We're in the hunt and they'll be hearing our footsteps before the race is over." That was the considered opinion of Manager Tom Lasorda of the Dodgers (4-3). Dave Stewart stepped up the pursuit by winning both as a starter (one run in six innings in a 9-3 defeat of the Mets) and as a reliever (three scoreless innings in Philly gave him a 6-4 victory). Ron Roenicke, who was in a 2-for-30 slump, beat the Phillies with a two-run double in the 11 th as the Dodgers won for only the second time in 30 games in which they trailed after six innings.
The Giants (5-2) weren't exactly stomping at the heels of the Braves, but they did leave some big footprints. Though Bill Laskey gave up eight hits and five walks, he stranded 12 runners and won 3-1 before the largest regular-season crowd—63,501—ever to see the Phillies play at home. Another rookie, Chili Davis, batted .387, and Greg Minton gained his 13th, 14th and 15th saves.
Lusty hitting by Jose Cruz carried Joe Niekro of the Astros (4-3) to a pair of victories. Cruz's three RBIs did in Pittsburgh 6-4, and his two-run blast in the ninth beat St. Louis 4-2—both on Niekro's behalf.
ATL 51-33 SD 50-36 LA 46-42 SF 42-46 HOUS 37-48 CIN 33-53
"Can I find a bright note?" asked Manager George Bamberger after his Mets (2-6) lost for the 13th time in 17 games. "No. Each day it's something worse." Following three more losses, though, New York beat San Diego 6-3 and 9-7 as Dave Kingman homered twice.
St. Louis (4-3) regained first place briefly as rookie starters John Stuper and Dave La-Point both won. Stuper beat Atlanta 5-2, and LaPoint defeated Houston 3-2. With Bruce Sutter out with a strained groin muscle, Doug Bair became the team's No. 1 short reliever and responded with a pair of saves. Bo Diaz helped the Phillies (3-4) move back on top with two game-winning hits. Diaz' eighth-inning single beat the Giants 3-2. He then made Dick Ruthven a 4-2 winner over L.A. with a three-run homer.
Pittsburgh (4-3) moved into third place as Larry McWilliams shut out Houston 1-0 and Don Robinson beat Atlanta 6-1 for his 10th win. The Pirates rallied in the last of the ninth to defeat the Reds 9-8 behind Willie Stargell's two-run pinch homer and Jason Thompson's three-run double.
The Expos (3-4) outscored their opponents 18-7 through the first five innings of six of their games but were outscored 19-7 in the final four innings. Ferguson Jenkins of the Cubs (5-3) cut his ERA to 2.87 by defeating the Reds 12-0, and Dickie Noles's four-hitter beat Cincy 1-0.
PHIL 47-38 ST.L 48-39 PITT 44-40 MONT 43-42 NY 40-47 CHI 36-53
"I'll never take another victory in stride the way I used to," said Manager Sparky Anderson of Detroit (3-6). "After what we've been through, I'll treasure them all." What the Tigers went through last week included losses in two games in which they had the lead in the bottom of the ninth. Homers were responsible for both those defeats. Since June 11, Detroit has given up 45 home runs while losing 23 of 31 games and falling from first place to fourth. Two home runs by Lance Parrish helped Jack Morris struggle past Minnesota 11-6. Morris, who had a 13.09 ERA in his last six starts, got back in the groove by defeating Texas 6-0.
Opponents no longer shy away from starting southpaw pitchers in Fenway Park. Doing so now usually forces the Red Sox (4-4) to bench Carl Yastrzemski, Rick Miller and Rich Gedman, each of whom bats lefthanded. It also crimps Jerry Remy, a lefty hitter with a .225 career average against southpaws. One unfettered lefthanded batter has been rookie Wade Boggs, who hit better than .300 in five consecutive seasons in the minors. Last week Boggs hit .385 to lift his average to .351.
Although they stopped knocking the stitches off the ball, the Brewers (4-2) did get in their licks. They had 15 hits in a 10-4 defeat of Chicago and 19 in Randy Lerch's 7-0 victory over K.C. For the week, Robin Yount slugged three home runs and hit .423, and Ted Simmons hit .400 with two dingers to help put Milwaukee in first.
Overworked Reliever Tippy Martinez of the Orioles (4-3) found that his weariness spawned an effective new pitch, a sort of hesitant curve. "About halfway to the plate, it seemed to just give up and then it would break again," said Martinez. Using this deceptive pitch, Martinez struck out the three Angels he faced in picking up two saves.
Home runs brought the Yankees (2-5) their only victories. Bobby Murcer's 12th-inning homer, New York's fourth of the night, lifted the Yanks to an 8-7 win at Seattle. The next night, Dave Winfield stroked a three-run homer against the A's for the third time this season as New York won 5-3.
Dan Spillner's two saves and Rick Sutcliffe's 7-1 triumph in Seattle gave Cleveland (4-3) a boost. Toronto (3-4) was rescued by relievers, Dale Murray coming out of the bullpen to earn two wins and Joey McLaughlin getting two saves.
MIL 48-35 BOS 49-36 BALT 44-38 DET 42-41 CLEV 41-41 NY 39-42 TOR 37-47
When Manager Rene Lachemann of the Mariners (3-4) returned to his hotel suite in Chicago one night two weeks ago he found that someone—he called him "Mr. Jell-O"—had been there. Mr. Jell-O had heaped all the furniture into a corner, pulled all the plugs from the sockets, removed the inside of the phone and put lots of Jell-O and ice cubes in the toilets. "They were thorough," said Lachemann, who thought Mr. Jell-O might have had a helper. He offered a $250 reward for clues leading to the vandal's identity. Bill (The Inspector) Caudill was unable to solve that mystery, as well as the one about why he wasn't named to the All-Star squad. Caudill's two saves gave him a team-record 17, and an 8-7 victory over Baltimore left him at 8-3. That effort, which included his striking out the side in the ninth, gave Caudill a total of 25 wins and saves, one fewer than major league leader Dan Quisenberry of the Royals. Other Caudill stats: 66 strikeouts in 56 innings, a 2.09 ERA and the highest save percentage—17 saves in 18 chances for 94%—in either league. Bruce Bochte's .400 hitting and five steals each by Bobby Brown and Julio Cruz kept Seattle rolling.
Fred Lynn and Reggie Jackson powered the Angels (4-3) into first with four home runs apiece. Jackson homered twice in a 12-6 defeat of New York, a bases-empty first-inning blast off Ron Guidry and a two-run shot off George Frazier during a 10-run third. And Geoff Zahn continued to baffle the Yankees with a 4-1, two-hit win that left him at 3-0 this season against the defused Bombers.
Larry Gura of Kansas City (3-5) continued to excel against Toronto. By stopping the Blue Jays 3-1 on four hits, Gura improved his career record against them to 10-0 and a 2.25 ERA. John Wathan became the 10th Royal to go on the disabled list when a foul off his bat fractured his left ankle, putting him out of commission for at least six weeks.
Steve Comer of Texas (4-5) sustained a similar injury, but not in the line of duty. While walking from the bullpen to the clubhouse at Arlington Stadium after a game, he stepped on a water drain. The result: a hairline fracture of his right foot. Larry Parrish walloped his second and third grand slams in seven days to equal the major league mark. Lou Gehrig and Jim Northrup hit three grand slams in a week in 1931 and 1968, respectively. Game-winning, ninth-inning homers by Buddy Bell and Lee Mazzilli stunned the Tigers. Bell's two-run shot gave the Rangers a 3-2 win; Mazzilli's made them 6-5 victors.
Home runs by Chicago (4-2) added to Detroit's woes. Jerry Hairston's two-out, two-run shot in the bottom of the ninth beat the Tigers 3-2, and Harold Baines had three homers in a 7-0 White Sox triumph in which Dennis Lamp turned out the Detroit batters' lights with a five-hitter.
Oakland (4-3) defeated Cleveland 2-0 and Baltimore 3-1. In both games Reliever Dave Beard came on in the eighth inning to secure victory for Tom Underwood. Tony Armas' first of four homers in as many games helped Mike Norris beat the Yankees 6-3. The victory was Billy Martin's 1000th as a manager. Only 35 other managers have ever won that many games.
The last-place Twins (5-2) played major league baseball for a change, combining good pitching with solid hitting. Kent Hrbek, who batted .438, had four hits in a 3-0 defeat of Milwaukee. In that game starter Jack O'Connor and Reliever Ron Davis, who appeared in the eighth inning, combined to hand the Brewers their first shutout in 137 games. Minnesota then took two of three in Boston, with rookie lefthander Frank Viola beating the Red Sox 4-1 to raise his record to 3-0.
CAL 49-37 KC 47-37 CHI 45-37 SEA 45-41 TEX 35-46 OAK 38-50 MINN 28-59
PLAYER OF THE WEEK
HAROLD BAINES: The White Sox outfielder hit five home runs (three in one game), drove across 14 runs, batted .500 and stole a pair of bases. Two of his home runs came while the bases were loaded.
BALL PARK FIGURES
According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the following pitchers are allowing the fewest base runners—on hits, walks, hit batsmen—per nine innings:
1. Dennis Eckersley, Bos
2. Len Barker, Clev
3. LaMarr Hoyt, Chi
4. Ken Forsch, Cal
5. Geoff Zahn, Cal
1. Joaquin Andujar, St.L
2. Mario Soto, Cin
3. Charlie Lea, Mont
4. Don Sutton, Hous
5. Joe Niekro, Hous