Kansas City set a club record by winning seven straight games and thereby streaked past the old K.C. franchise, Oakland, into first place. The rampaging Royals had taken 14 of their last 17 games. In six of the victories the bullpen—Gene Garber, Doug Bird and Joe Hoerner—picked up either a victory or a save, and Manager Jack McKeon claimed, "This club has a new hero every day." So it did. Rick Reichardt drove in the winning runs Tuesday. Wednesday it was Hal McRae with a two-run triple and a home run. Garber sparkled in relief Thursday, and so on. Second Baseman Cookie Rojas, weary but refusing to take a day off, said, "We can do it, we can win it. If we get another starting pitcher we'll do it." And he said that early in the week.
The A's didn't seem overly worried, but perhaps Owner Charlie Finley was, for he took out his bankroll and bought Jesus Alou, Vic Davalillo and Mike Andrews for help in the run for another pennant. All three Alou brothers—Felipe, Matty and Jesus—started in the Bay Area with San Francisco, and all three have played across the Bay at one time or another (Felipe and Matty are now with the Yankees; will Jesus follow?). "I hope I stay in Oakland forever," said Reggie Jackson. "I'll get to meet all the famous players in baseball as they pass through our clubhouse." Big Jim Bibby, 6'5", 230 pounds, gave Texas a much-needed lift by throwing a no-hitter against the A's, keeping the batters trembling with his conveniently wild fastball. "Damn, he was quick," said A's Manager Dick Williams. "The 3-2 pitch I missed in the ninth might have been the fastest pitch I've ever seen," said Jackson. The Rangers' second big boost came when Jeff Burroughs hit his third grand-slam home run in 10 days. If he keeps that up he might get into the Oakland clubhouse someday.
Minnesota followed a five-game winning streak by riding the roller coaster downward, losing six out of seven to its top rivals in the division, Chicago, Oakland and K.C. But there were some happy notes. Bobby Darwin, using a heavier bat, hit his first homer since July 7. "I was overswinging," he said. "I thought a little extra weight might help." And Second Baseman Rod Carew continued to lead the league in hitting. The Angels (2-5) were only slightly better. One of their wins came when Nolan Ryan beat Texas 3-2 with an eight-hitter. It was his first win since he no-hit Detroit in mid-July. "As long as we get pitching like that we've got a chance," said Manager Bobby Winkles. They did get pitching like that from Bill Singer against Oakland—he went 11 innings despite a bad cold—but still lost 2-1 when Bert Campaneris blooped a heartbreaking broken-bat double into shallow center field with two out. "That's as tough a loss as there is," moaned Winkles.
Chicago (3-4) reactivated slugger Dick Allen, the American League MVP last season. Allen had been sidelined since June 28, when he suffered a hairline fracture in his left leg. He hit well, but his leg still bothered him. Speaking of numerous White Sox injuries, Manager Chuck Tanner said, "The job this team has done this season is greater than last year when we fought Oakland right down to the wire."
KC 64-48 OAK 62-48 MINN 54-53 CHI 53-56 CAL 51-56 TEX 41-66
Baltimore despite injury problems, eased past New York into first place, but Manager Earl Weaver wasn't about to order the champagne just yet. For one thing, a Yankee slump had more to do with it than a triumphant Oriole week (4-4). Still, first place was nothing to sniff at. "The biggest thing is that we're hitting 30 points higher," said Weaver. "Our defense is the same—the best. Our bullpen is doing just as good as they have since 1969, except that they are getting more chances to work." Jim Palmer credited the Cleveland twilight with a 5-1, three-hit win. "I think any fastball pitcher has to have an advantage at six o'clock," he said. "And the Indians play a lot of six o'clock games. Their own schedule has to be tough on them." Of course, it would help if Cleveland had better fastballers of its own.
Once soaring but now just sore, New York had a miserable 2-6 week. Manager Ralph Houk shoved a sportswriter out of his office, Sparky Lyle lost his fifth straight game to his old Boston teammates, Thurman Munson and Gene Michael got into a brawl with Boston's Carlton Fisk, and Centerfielder Bobby Murcer was hit on the right forearm by a Mickey Lolich pitch. Murcer missed Saturday's 3-2 victory over Detroit ( Horace Clarke won it with a homer in the 14th), not because of the sore forearm or a sore ankle sustained earlier, but because of a sore throat and dizziness. Oh, yes, sore fans, Steve Kline, who had the Yanks' best won-lost record last year (16-9), was put on the 2l-day disabled list because of a sore right elbow.
Detroit (6-2) had sliced its deficit from six games to just half a game before the extra-inning loss to New York. A big reason for the surge was Outfielder Jim Northrup, who since the All-Star break has hit 14 for 27 with eight RBIs, but he starts only against right-handed pitching. After he went 11 for 24 in five games, Manager Billy Martin benched him for the first two games against the Yankees. " Northrup can't hit lefthanders," said Martin. "I can hit lefthanders," said Northrup. Mickey Lolich won twice to improve his record to 11-10. "A record like mine is all right for a pitcher earning $30,000," he said, "but people expect more from one making $100,000." Boston (4-5) sought help from Pawtucket, bringing up Pitcher Dick Pole, who then got poleaxed Friday in Baltimore. The rock and sock four-game series against the Yanks in Fenway Park drew 125,839 fans in lousy weather and what with the Fisk-Munson-Michael brawl and the intense play, the people got their money's worth. For instance, Bobby Murcer hit Red Sox Shortstop Luis Aparicio with a tough takeout slide. Aparicio lost his hat, glove and half his leg but held on to the ball.