When the Brewers took over first place two weeks ago, Tiger Manager Billy Martin yapped, "If they can win with that club I'm a Chinese aviator." So when Detroit came to Milwaukee last week they were greeted accordingly. Said one banner: FLY THE FRIENDLY SKIES OF CHINA WITH BILLY MARTIN. Martin had no answer for that, but he did see to it that the organist was stopped from playing (one of his favorite tunes was Chinatown) while Joe Coleman pitched. Coleman, who earlier had blanked the Yankees 8-0, beat the Brewers 4-2 when Ed Brinkman tripled in two runs in the ninth. After losing their opening game the Tigers won five straight and, with Pilot Martin at the controls, flew to the top of the East.
Milwaukee's Dave May had 16 hits, three of them game-winners. Against the Tigers he homered twice, once in the 10th inning for a 6-5 win. He also downed the Indians 2-1 with a 17th-inning homer and the Yankees 6-5 with a two-run single in the ninth. But when May wasn't hitting the Brewers dropped four games.
"You're the Sultan of Squat because you spend so much time on the bench," said Merv Rettenmund to Oriole teammate Larry Brown, who in a rare start had just homered in a 9-6 win over the Yankees. The Orioles were shut out for the fourth and fifth times in three weeks, but prevailed in their other four outings. Jim Palmer, who came within two outs of his third straight shutout as he beat the Indians 4-1, still took batting practice despite designated hitters. "I have to be ready to hit in the World Series," Palmer explained in a burst of optimism.
New York experienced lofty highs and sultry lows. With two out in the ninth and the Brewers ahead 2-0, Bobby Murcer homered, Ron Blomberg doubled and Graig Nettles tied the score with a single. Nettles then finished off the Brewers 4-2 with a homer in the 11th. But then the Yankees blew a two-run lead to the Brewers in the ninth to fall 6-5, and followed that by losing to the Indians 6-4. A 6 p.m. starting time for some Cleveland games displeased both the Indians and their rivals. Most provoked were the hitters, who had difficulty seeing the ball in the twilight. All except Dave Duncan, that is, who hit four home runs.
"I've been telling him for two years his hands were too high, his right foot pointed in too much," Boston Coach Eddie Popowski said of Carl Yastrzemski and his batting stance. "He was all tied up and it made him swing in too much of an arc. It took all of us to get him to listen, but he finally yelled for help. He listened and look what happened." What happened was that Yaz dropped his exaggerated style and promptly hit three homers. Carlton Fisk also lowered his bat after films showed he had picked up Yaz' habit. Fisk's average was .348 for the week and he hit two home runs. But opponents also hit with oomph; after 33 games Boston pitchers had been flogged for 40 round-trippers. Last week the Red Sox served up five to the Tigers in three games and lost them all by one run.
DET 19-17 BALT 17-17 MIL 16-18 NY 16-19 CLEV 16-21 BOST 14-19
While the price of gold fluctuated wildly last week, Angel pitching was steady and priceless: Rudy May's fourth shutout in three weeks and two wins each by Nolan Ryan and Bill Singer. Ryan hurled a no-hitter against the Royals and ran his hitless streak to 14 innings before Mike Epstein of the Rangers doubled. In their six games May, Ryan and Singer yielded eight runs and 31 hits (only seven extra bases) and struck out 59. Even Clyde Wright won—for the first time—stopping the A's 7-2 on six hits. The Angels' 6-1 week was marred only when .302-hitting Bobby Valentine broke his leg. The only other winning team in the West was Minnesota (6-2). Seven homers, two victories by Dick Woodson and Jim Kaat's shutout of the White Sox buoyed the Twins.
Terry Forster of Chicago gave up his first home run since August of 1971. Deron Johnson of the A's hit it, but Pat Kelly won the game for the Sox with a 12th-inning double. Chicago's only other victory in seven games came when Wilbur Wood notched his ninth victory by downing the Twins 5-4.