"If you can't handle it, stay out of the kitchen," was New York Manager Bill Virdon's word on the pennant scramble. His Yankees indicated they wanted to be in it, starting off the week by defeating Detroit 10-2 and building their lead over Baltimore to 2� games. But then the Orioles put the Yankees in a stew as Jim Palmer beat them 4-0, Mike Cuellar won his 20th victory, 10-4, and Dave McNally shut them out 7-0, using just 88 pitches for his eighth win in his last 10 decisions. Baltimore led by half a game. Said Manager Earl Weaver, "We all know Boston had it won and we all know the Yanks had it won. Let's see how we do now that we're on top." Virdon warned, "A good team bounces back."
Moving on to Fenway, Baltimore held off Boston 2-1 as Ross Grimsley won for the 18th time. Meanwhile the Yankees proved to be as resilient as Virdon had hoped by taking a doubleheader from the Indians—5-4 on Bobby Murcer's RBI in the ninth and 3-0 behind Larry Gura's six-hitter. That left the Orioles and Yankees deadlocked and prompted Virdon to say, "Today we start all over."
The next day Cleveland built a 7-2 lead against New York, but the Yankees rebounded with a 19-hit, 14-7 win in which Roy White stole home and drove in five runs and Murcer at long last slugged his first homer in Shea Stadium. Up in Boston the Orioles engaged in one of the most implausible tussles of the season, one that lasted six hours, 36 minutes because of rain delays totaling 3� hours. Baltimore led 5-1, only to have Boston tie in the ninth (three of the runs came on Dwight Evans' homer) and then win in the 10th on a single by Deron Johnson. When the kitchen had cleared, the Yankees were one game ahead of the Orioles and four in front of the Red Sox.
Boston's hopes were diminished by the loss of Rico Petrocelli for the rest of the season because of inner-ear damage from a beaning. But the Sox were heartened by the hitting of Centerfielder Fred Lynn, who came up from their Pawtucket, R.I. farm club and last week hit .550 and drove in eight runs.
"I'm the first and only pitcher who has won 20 games wet and 20 dry," said Cleveland's Gaylord Perry. The reformed spitballer got No. 20 for 1974 over the Orioles 1-0.
Milwaukee, 3-2, moved to within half a game of fourth-place Cleveland as newcomers provided punch. Gorman Thomas drove across four runs in a 9-5 trouncing of Boston and Sixto Lezcano homered twice.
Newsmakers for Detroit, 3-3, were the oldest Tiger, Al Kaline, and one of the newest, Pitcher Vernon Ruhle. Kaline had seven hits, leaving him just two short of his goal of 3,000. Ruhle, with relief help from John Hiller, beat Boston 3-1.
NY 83-70 BALT 82-71 BOS 78-73 CLEV 73-78 MIL 73-79 DET 70-82