Baltimore's Jim Palmer, who maintained a low profile during his first three starts after coming off a 50-day stint on the disabled list last month, spoke up last week after going 7‚Öì strong innings during an 8-1 victory over Boston. "I feel better every game," Palmer said. "I just have to get to the point where I'm confident of going seven or eight innings in a close game. I think that I'm just about there. Now I have to go out and do it." And what better time for the Orioles than during the heat of the race?
Montreal's Andre Dawson became a 100-RBI man for the first time in his eight-year career when on Sept. 6 he hit his first homer in 14 days. Dawson missed the Expos' next game after fluid was drained from his left knee for the fourth time this year.... Leon Durham's disappointing season for the Cubs ended when he suffered his third injury of the year, a broken thumb. Durham, who batted .312 last season, finished 1983 at .258.... "Bob Lillis has to be the manager of the century for the job he's done with Houston this season," says St. Louis skipper Whitey Herzog.... Since becoming the Astros' leadoff hitter following the trade of Omar Moreno to the Yankees, rookie Bill Doran has raised his average from .247 to .273.... After Montreal teammate Al Oliver had hit his second grand slam in nine days, Warren Cromartie said, "That's seven or eight RBIs." ...Johnny Bench of the Reds passed up a chance to be traded to the Cardinals earlier this season. "I wouldn't sacrifice my association with Cincinnati to go to St. Louis for two or three months," Bench explained.
The Angels' drop to fifth place this season sustains a team pattern that dates back to California's entry into the American League in 1961. During their 23 years the Angels have had successive .500-or-better records only once (1978-79). After finishing atop the American League West for the first time in '79, California had a 44-game won-lost swing, from 88-74 to 65-95. The Angels, who wound up first again last year, are in the throes of another flip-flop, a 39-game turnaround, from 93-69 to 64-79.
For Reggie Jackson, it's likely to be the first time since his rookie season with the Kansas City A's in 1967 that his team has finished at less than .500 and only the fourth time in 17 years that he has been on a club lower than second.
After Shortstop Jerry Dybzinski of the White Sox took a throw from Pitcher Richard Dotson to pick Boston's Carl Yastrzemski off second, he said, "I wouldn't have done it to a legend like that if it was spring training, but we needed the out." ...One of the youngest players in the Class A Midwest League, 18-year-old Milwaukee farmhand Juan Nieves (SI, May 9), overwhelmed opposing batters this past season. Nieves, who didn't join the Beloit (Wis.) Brewers until July 2, was 7-1 (the loss was 1-0), gave up only 43 hits and 15 walks in 69‚Öî innings, struck out 89 hitters and had a 1.29 ERA.... The White Sox, who have virtually locked up the American League West race, have invited a former owner of the club and the grandson and son of two others to throw out the first balls during championship series games at Comiskey Park: Bill Veeck, Chuck Comiskey and John Allyn Jr.
An apparent blunder by Mike Schmidt of the Phillies last week turned out to be one of the headiest plays of the season. It all began when Schmidt was on first base and Reliever Willie Hernandez was on second with two out in the top of the 10th of a 3-3 game against the Pirates. When Pittsburgh Reliever Jim Bibby, a righthander, threw a wild pitch, Hernandez scampered to third, but Schmidt stayed at first. Schmidt's rationale was that if he'd advanced, too, the Bucs might have intentionally walked the batter, Joe Lefebvre, whom Schmidt wanted to keep at bat. Lefebvre, after all, is a lefthanded hitter, and the man on deck, Garry Maddox, was a righty. Lefebvre made Schmidt look good by singling in Hernandez with the run that put the Phillies briefly into first place.
While Willie Wilson was on the disabled list with a broken knuckle, the Royals were 8-14 and fell from eight games out to 14 back.... When talk surfaced that the Mets might want to ask K.C. for permission to talk to Manager Dick Howser about being their skipper next year. Royals General Manager John Schuerholz said, "I wouldn't give it. We fully intend to have him back."
The success of underhanders Kent Tekulve of the Pirates and Dan Quisenberry of the Royals has prompted San Diego's Gary Lucas to experiment with a submarine delivery in the hope that he might become the first lefthanded reliever to successfully use that motion.
During the early innings of a 5-2 loss to Los Angeles, Cincinnati Pitcher Mario Soto was at odds with home-plate Umpire Bruce Froemming about many ball-strike calls. In the sixth inning, Soto took a throw at first base to retire Rick Monday, who had grounded the ball to Cincy First Baseman Dan Driessen. On the play, Greg Brock of the Dodgers advanced from second to third. Soto then lingered at first base to badger Umpire Harry Wendelstedt about Froemming's calls. While Soto held the ball and argued, Brock strolled from third to home. Froemming ruled that the run counted because time had not been called, and the official scorer ruled that Brock had scored on a fielder's choice.
PLAYER OF THE WEEK
RUDY LAW: The White Sox centerfielder went 15 for 33 (.455), had three doubles, one triple, one home run and six stolen bases, drove in three runs and scored 12 as Chicago won seven straight games.
BALL PARK FIGURES
Here are the pitchers to watch in what's turning out to be unusually close competition for the Cy Young Awards:
Richard Dotson, Chi.
Ron Guidry, N.Y.
LaMarr Hoyt, Chi.
Scott McGregor, Balt.
Jack Morris, Det.
Dan Quiscnberry, K.C.
1.94 38 S
John Denny, Phil.
Jesse Orosco, N.Y.
1.37 16 S
Steve Rogers, Mont.
Nolan Ryan, Hous.