On July 20 the Oakland A's had an 8�-game lead and it appeared that their only worry would be deciding where to hold the victory party. Oh, the Chicago White Sox were back there in second place somewhere but the Sox had shown what they were made of by losing on the road (20-31). It was road games, too, that suddenly caught up with the A's and, when they did, so did the Sox. The A's stopped off in Minnesota and Kansas City and lost six of seven, the worst trip since Dick Williams took over as manager in 1971. In Kansas City, where the A's lost three in a row, they hit .175 and played ragged defense. Williams was proud of his pitchers but confused by his team's errors and failure to drive runs in from second and third.
Chicago's Wilbur Wood moved smoothly to his second consecutive 20-game season when he two-hit the A's in 11 innings on Saturday following a 1-0 six-hitter over the California Angels earlier in the week. Wood got the one run for himself with a seventh-inning single off Nolan Ryan. The White Sox have not been in contention this late in a season since 1967, and their three top pitchers, Wood, Stan Bahnsen and Tom Bradley, have now won 47 games.
The Minnesota Twins were again inconsistent and for one game bypassed Bert Blylevan (10-14) in the starting rotation, replacing him with rookie Dave Goltz, who ran his record to 3-0 and lowered his earned run average to 1.24. Contributing to the inconsistency as much as anyone has been Jim Perry (11-10). Perry has been brilliant in day games, winning 10 and losing one, but has had the daylights kicked out of him at night (1-9).
Not long ago Kansas City's Bob Lemon was so down in the dumps that he rendered a soliloquy that all who manage can sympathize with: "I'm only a couple of years from retirement," Lemon said, "and I'm going to get out as fast as I can run. I'm going to get away from everything. I'm going to take my wife and settle down on some remote island. I'll buy a little bar and just sit there and think. I'll hope we don't have any customers."
It all seemed to have a salubrious effect on the Royals, who started to get some pitching to go with an offense that has them at the top of the American League in team batting (.257) although ranking 11th in homers. Richie Scheinblum hit one home run for the Royals to beat Texas and said of it, "It felt like it was 872 feet but in that Texas wind it ended up clearing the fence by only half an inch." It was Scheinblum's ninth game-winning hit of the season.
Nolan Ryan finally gave up his first earned run in 45 innings at Anaheim Stadium and it cost him his 10th loss against a dozen wins. The Angels continued to pitch well but their batting remained anemic. Clyde Wright drove in the go-ahead run in a five-hit victory over the Twins to become the team's top winner with 13. Wright explained his pitching performance away lightly: "The hard ones were caught, the soft ones were hits."
Pete Broberg was stuck in the Texas bullpen after failing to win his sixth game for the 12th time. Broberg and Ted Williams don't seem to agree on the pitches Williams is calling from the bench, but that worry may not last too long. "This," said Williams, "is going to be a good young club for the next manager. I'm not saying I'm quitting, but I know what I'm going to do."
CHI 62-45 OAK 63-46 MINN 54-50 KC 51-55 CAL 49-59 TEX 43-65