Despite his anemic .197 batting average, skinny Shortstop Eddie Brinkman remained Mr. Indispensable in the Detroit lineup. Besides setting a major league fielding record when he handled his 298th consecutive chance without committing an error, Brinkman also won a game with his puny bat. The Tigers had stunned Milwaukee in the first game of a doubleheader on Norm Cash's three-run homer with two out in the ninth, then Brinkman won the second game with a two-run single in the eighth.
"Maybe they'll call us Mr. Outside and Mr. Inside," Cash cracked. "Brinkman is the most underrated player in the league," said Mickey Stanley. "If we win it, he should be the MVP." Brinkman now has won five games for the Tigers with clutch stickwork—hits or bunts—in late innings.
Although they lost their next two games to the Brewers, who got a strong pitching job from Jim Lonborg, the Tigers still led Baltimore by 1� games. The Orioles, who had dropped only 24 home games in each of the last two seasons, lost Nos. 21 and 22 for 1972 as Cleveland beat both Pat Dobson and Dave McNally. Tom McCraw's pinch-hit home run with a man on in the ninth ruined Dobson, and Gaylord Perry's squeeze bunt in the 10th beat McNally.
Losing in such sudden, late-inning fashion obviously nettled Manager Earl Weaver. He asked the umpires to check Perry for the lubrication that all the hitters claim he carries. "Our guys saw Perry getting his slickum from his left wrist," Weaver said. "When the umpire went out, Perry rubbed it on his pants and let them inspect him." Mr. Clean now has a 17-8 record and a 1.69 earned run average, while the other Indian pitchers have a combined 21-44 record.
The Yankees stalled the recent Red Sox surge by taking three of four in New York. Sparky Lyle saved his 20th game, but then lost his third when substitute Boston Catcher Bob Montgomery hit an opposite-field, ninth-inning, three-run homer. Regular Catcher Carlton Fisk also hit a home run for Boston, but the heart of the batting order—Carl Yastrzemski, Reggie Smith and Rick Petrocelli—failed to drive in a single run in New York.
DET 53-39 BALT 51-40 BOST 46-44 NY 45-44 CLEV 38-52 MIL 37-54
Flying into Oakland, the Minnesota Twins figured they were ready to make a pennant charge against the Athletics. For one thing, Harmon Killebrew was unhappy at being omitted from the All-Star team, and when Harmon gets mad he usually vents his anger on baseballs. Also, the Twins still had 13 games left to play against the A's, and, as Manager Frank Quilici said, if they won 10 of the 13, Minnehaha.
But Vida Blue was mad, too. At himself. And at his 2-5 record. "My attitude has changed, believe me," Blue said before pitching the opener against the Twins. "The fans are going to see a new Vida. I'm going to equal last year's first half [17-3] in this year's second half." Blue shut out the Twins for eight innings, then Killebrew smashed a two-run homer in the ninth. Exit Blue. Enter Rollie Fingers. And the A's held on to win 4-3. Few knew it was Vida's birthday because league records mistakenly show he was born June 28th—instead of July 28th. Killebrew hit another homer the next night to beat Ken Holtzman, but the A's took the third game of the series and sent the Twins home talking about next year.