In the opinion of Texas Manager Whitey Herzog, pitchers ought to pay for the pleasure of pitching for Baltimore, specifically because the Oriole defense is so larcenous. The night Baltimore dispatched Texas 6-1, stretching the American League's longest winning streak in 13 years to 14 games, Herzog was dazed with admiration. "They only took five doubles and a single away from us," he said. "I hate to get my butt beat, but I enjoyed watching that game."
The Baltimore win streak ended the next night when Ranger batters discovered an Oriole who could not field. Reliever Bob Reynolds. He bungled two bunts to set up the Rangers' insurance run in their 5-3 victory.
While the Orioles flew swiftly off toward a division championship, sagging Boston received most of its excitement from Pitcher Bill Lee. Incensed that League President Joe Cronin fined Texas Pitcher Jim Merritt for admitting that he throws a spitter, Lee charged Cronin with hypocrisy. "This is absolutely ridiculous," he fumed. "More than half the pitchers in the league throw spitters. Me, too. I threw one to Tony Taylor in Detroit and he hit it into the upper deck."
Of the East's six teams, all but Baltimore and surprising Milwaukee floundered. The Brewers moved back within one game of the .500 mark and passed one million in attendance for the first time in their four-year existence. New York dropped eight straight before Mel Stottlemyre defeated Baltimore 5-2. Detroit lost six of seven games, and Manager Billy Martin. Martin was suspended for three days by Cronin for ordering his pitchers to throw wet ones—and then fired. Cleveland stayed right where it was, wallowing in last place and red ink. A $1 million loss is projected for the Indians this year.
BALT 76-54 BOST 72-62 DET 71-64 NY 69-66 MIL 66-67 CLEV 57-58
Oakland headed for a weekend visit to Kansas City with a streak of 14 wins in 17 games and a near lock on the division championship. Kansas City certainly did not appear to have any key of its own. The Royals were returning home from a depressing road trip in which even their lone win in five games was a 3-2 gift from Cleveland. Manager Jack McKeon was forced to reach back to Greenville, Ala. in 1949, his first year in organized baseball, for winning inspiration. "We were six games out of first with 12 to play that year. We won all 12 and then took the pennant in a playoff," he recalled wistfully.
California is not going anywhere either, but Angel Pitcher Nolan Ryan might be. In one game last week he came within inches of becoming the first pitcher ever to throw three no-hitters in one season. In the first inning of his one-hit, 5-0 victory over New York, Ryan jammed Yankee Catcher Thurman Munson with an inside pitch. Munson looped a feeble pop fly into short center that fell in for the Yanks' only hit of the game.
Chicago won five of six games and inched up on third-place Minnesota, even though the Twins had a solid 4-2 record. In one game against last-place Texas, the Twins bombed four Ranger pitchers for 11 runs and 19 hits, three of them by Rod Carew, who raised his league-leading average to .354.