For three days Manager Don Zimmer of Texas (3-3) must have felt like the loneliest Ranger. On Monday he was fired—then promptly told to manage the team's next three games until a successor was found. "Very strange," said Zim. "Shabby," said Third Baseman Buddy Bell. Ultimately, Darrell Johnson, the Rangers' dugout coach, was named interim manager; in 1976 it was Zimmer who replaced the canned Johnson as manager of the Red Sox. Said Owner Eddie Chiles of Texas' managerial bungling: "I think we came across looking inept." Charlie Hough, who gave Zimmer his last Ranger victory by beating the Brewers 3-1, also gave Johnson his first win when he and Danny Darwin held off New York 3-2.
Meanwhile, Tony LaRussa of the White Sox (3-4) seemed on the verge of losing his job, but two saves by Salome Barojas, .435 hitting by Carlton Fisk and three straight defeats of Boston bought him some time.
With the Royals (6-1) leading the Orioles 3-2, George Brett led off the eighth with a double. Up stepped Hal McRae, who leads the majors with 91 RBIs. Everyone knew McRae would swing away. Except McRae. On his own, he dropped down a bunt that moved Brett to third, and a sacrifice fly scored Brett with the run that secured a 4-3 K.C. victory. Said McRae of his bunt, "The runner had to get to third. I didn't just get off the last vegetable truck into town." Nor did Vida Blue, who went seven innings to defeat Cleveland 8-1 and then blanked Baltimore 2-0. Blue, dissatisfied with his inconsistent pitching, stopped throwing in the bullpen between starts and pitched batting practice instead. "I get a better idea of what my pitches are doing when I pitch to live hitters," he explained.
The Mariners (3-4), who had lost 15 of 17 previous games in Anaheim and had scored only seven runs in their last 60 innings there, scored six runs in the fourth inning to jolt the Angels 9-3. Dave Edler's two homers—one a grand slam—beat Minnesota 9-7.
Gary Gaetti also homered with the bases full, leading the Twins (2-5) past the Mariners 10-4. But a pair of one-run losses in Oakland left Minnesota with 18 such setbacks this year. The A's (4-3), who were one out away from losing the first of those games to the Twins, tied the score on a homer by Jeff Burroughs and won in the 10th on a double by Rickey Henderson and a single by Dan Meyer. During an 11-8 defeat of California, Henderson stole two bases, had a single, double, homer, two RBIs and scored three times. Said Angel Reggie Jackson of Henderson: "I'm tied for the league lead in home runs [with Gorman Thomas of Milwaukee], but I'd fear him more than me." Altogether, Henderson hit .481 and stole seven bases, raising his total to 99. But he was gunned down three times by Angel Catcher Bob Boone, who has caught 42 of 72 would-be stealers.
Manager Gene Mauch of the division-leading Angels (5-2) regularly insists that his team has the best defense extant. And he said that before Brian Downing, a converted catcher, improved his glove work in the outfield. Downing's full-speed, wall-jarring catch in the leftfield corner took a home run away from Seattle's Dave Henderson. That catch, plus one by Third Baseman Doug DeCinces that turned a sure double into an out, enabled Ken Forsch to win 2-0. Steve Renko, who at age 37 is having his finest season, upped his record to 9-2 by stopping Seattle 3-1.
CAL 59-44 KC 57-44 CHI 52-49 SEA 52-51 OAK 44-61 TEX 40-59 MINN 35-69
"If we work hard, we I can get back to mediocrity," said disenchanted Toby Harrah of the Indians (4-4). There was, though, nothing mediocre about making three throwing errors on one play. It all began when Second Baseman Larry Milbourne grabbed a liner and made an errant throw to first trying to double up Milwaukee's Gorman Thomas. First Baseman Mike Hargrove ran down the ball and threw it past home plate when he tried to nail Robin Yount coming in from third. After Catcher Chris Bando retrieved the ball, he attempted to gun down Thomas, who was steaming toward third. Bando's throw sailed into leftfield. Thomas scored and the Brewers prevailed 4-2. Those weren't the only gaffes—or the worst ones. During a rain delay in Cleveland the grounds crew accidentally rolled the tarp over one of its workers, who required minor medical attention. The bright spots were three wins over Milwaukee, one by a 5-1 score when Andre Thornton walloped a grand slam in the 12th inning.
The Tigers (2-4) were also no strangers to adversity, losing four one-run games. Detroit even lost when its starter pitched a shutout. Jerry Ujdur was lifted after nine scoreless innings, and the Blue Jays won 1-0 in the 10th. In that game Jim Gott went all the way for Toronto (3-3), which won when Damaso Garcia doubled and Jesse Barfield singled. Garcia hit .409, with five doubles, and stole five bases to give him 33; he's No. 2 in the league, 66 behind Rickey Henderson.
New York (3-3) beat Detroit 8-7 when Bobby Murcer, pinch-hitting for Lou Piniella, who was pinch-hitting for Oscar Gamble, hit a three-run homer off righthanded Reliever Bob James. No sooner had owner George Steinbrenner said-oh, no, not again—that Graig Nettles was "in the twilight of his career" than Nettles responded by walloping a pair of home runs.
Rollie Fingers' 22nd and 23rd saves enabled the Brewers (4-4) to stay in first. So did Jim Slaton (8-2), who beat Cleveland 7-2. Boston (3-4), down 7-1 in the third inning against Toronto, rallied for a 9-7 win, in which Dwight Evans homered twice.
Baltimore (3-4), which was 5-1 during Manager Earl Weaver's suspension for roughing up an umpire, was 2-4 with Earl back in command. Four minutes before a 1 a.m. curfew would have suspended a 3-3 tie with Chicago in Weaver's first game back, Cal Ripken Jr. slugged a two-run homer.
MIL 59-43 BOS 58-44 BALT 54-45 NY 50-48 DET 51-49 CLEV 50-50 TOR 48-53
"I was pretty tired after six, but Russ made me feel like I wasn't tired," said Bruce Berenyi of the Reds (2-6), referring to Manager Russ Nixon. Berenyi ended up going the route, pitching a five-hitter and driving in two runs to beat the Padres 4-2. When a pitcher needs serious talking to, Nixon prefers visiting the mound himself. "I think I convey the message better," explains Nixon, who replaced John McNamara as manager on July 21. "Bill [Pitching Coach Fischer] goes out for mechanics, I go out to raise hell." Nixon may raise hell, but evidenced by the boost he gave Berenyi, he can also raise pitchers' spirits. That gift will be more necessary than ever for the rest of the season, because Nixon probably will have to get along without bullpen stalwart Tom Hume, who underwent surgery for torn cartilage in his right knee.
Vicente Romo of the Dodgers (5-2) also had surgery to repair a cartilage tear in his left knee. After Romo was hurt in the second inning of a game against the Giants, Joe Beck-with, who replaced him, fired 5‚Öî innings of hitless ball and won 7-3. It was Beckwith's first appearance for Los Angeles since he was 3-3 with a 1.95 ERA in 60 innings in 1980. The hard-throwing righthander missed all of last season after suffering a freak accident during spring training. While pitching batting practice, Beckwith jerked his head out of the way of a line drive. The quick movement caused an eye muscle to weaken, leaving him with double vision and necessitating two operations. The Dodgers kept alive their flickering hopes of catching Atlanta (page 14) by sweeping four games there.
Bill Laskey of the Giants (4-3) bolstered his chances of becoming the league's rookie pitcher of the year by winning twice. In a matchup with Fernando Valenzuela, Laskey tossed a three-hitter and came out on top 6-1. Four of the Giants' runs were driven in by a rookie with a name that has an L.A. ring to it—Third Baseman Tom O'Malley (no relation to Walter or Peter). Greg Minton's 17th save locked up Laskey's ninth triumph of the year, a 5-4 decision in Houston.
San Diego (3-5) ended a five-game losing streak by beating Cincinnati 5-4 and 6-2 in a doubleheader. Tim Lollar and Eric Show were the winners, each benefiting from 2‚Öì innings of fine relief—by Dave Dravecky in the opener and Gary Lucas in the nightcap.
Fine pitching and timely home-run hitting gave the Astros (5-2) their best week of the season. Phil Garner's dinger beat the Reds 4-3, and his three-run blast made Don Sutton a 3-1 victor over the Giants. And Nolan Ryan's 200th career triumph was a five-hit, 13-strikeout 3-2 verdict over Cincinnati.
ATL 61-41 SD 56-48 LA 56-49 SF 50-54 HOUS 46-56 CIN 38-66
The latest report on the hitters' grapevine was enough to cause an epidemic of the yips: Steve Carlton of the Phillies (4-2) has a new pitch. "Basically, it's a changeup that he turns over a little," says Manager Pat Corrales. Carlton mixed in the new creation with his wicked slider and popping fastball while beating Chicago 3-1 for his 14th victory. Something else new: Manny Trillo made an error, his first after 479 chances and 89 consecutive games in one season—major league marks for a second baseman. George Vuckovich batted .421 and Mike Schmidt homered four days in a row, giving him nine in 14 games.
Efforts by the Cardinals (3-3) to overhaul Darrell Porter's swing began to pay off. With improved mechanics and a more level stroke, Porter, who was hitting .237 at the week's start, homered twice and hit .333.
A stiff back forced John Candelaria of the Pirates (4-2) to leave the mound after five innings against the Mets. In came Manny Sarmiento, who went four scoreless innings to seal a 5-1 triumph. But the Bucs, winners of 27 of their last 40 games, will be without Dave Parker for at least three weeks; he had surgery to repair a ruptured ligament at the base of his left thumb.
Andre Dawson of Montreal (5-1) did it all. During a 5-3 win in Chicago he made a spectacular catch to prevent a certain extra-base hit and easily doubled a runner off first. Then, in the 10th inning of a game in St. Louis, he ran a double into a triple after Centerfielder Willie McGee threw behind him to second base. A moment later, Dawson scored the winning run on a sacrifice fly. On Friday, he made another remarkable catch in deepest center, and after Tim Raines had walked and stolen second in the 11th inning, Dawson doubled him home for a 5-4 victory over the Cardinals.
While extending their losing streak to eight games, the Cubs (1-6) batted .215. But on Sunday they beat Philly 7-2. Before the Mets (1-5) faced the Cardinals, Manager George Bamberger addressed his sorry squad. "I told them they have two months to prove to me they aren't losers," he said. "If two months from now I think a guy is a loser, I'm going to do everything in my power to get him off this club. I suspect we have some losers."
PHIL 58-43 ST.L 58-45 PITT 54-46 MONT 54-47 NY 45-57 CHI 41-65
BALL PARK FIGURES
The best ball-and-strike umpires, according to an SI poll of pitchers who have been in the same league since at least 1980:
1. Harry Wendelstedt (16 years of service)
2. Doug Harvey (20)
3. Dutch Rennert (6)
4. Bruce Froemming (11)
5. Ed Vargo (22)
1. Steve Palermo (6)
2. Bill Haller (20)
3. Rich Garcia (8)
4. Ken Kaiser (8)
5. Mike Reilly (5)
PLAYER OF THE WEEK
SIXTO LEZCANO: The San Diego Padres outfielder batted .519 and drove across a dozen runs. His 14 hits in 27 trips to the plate included nine extra-base blows—five round-trippers and four doubles.