The A's have two excellent starters in lefthanders Vida Blue and Ken Holtz-man, and a number of lesser lights named Bahnsen (Stan), Bosman (Dick), Abbott (Glenn) and Siebert (Sonny) to complete what passes for a starting rotation. Blue and Holtzman can go the distance when Manager Alvin Dark permits them; they have 21 of the team's 31 complete games. The other fellows seemingly cannot. That is where—usually about the sixth inning—Fingers, Lindblad and Todd come in. In Friday's 6-1 loss to the Red Sox, for example, Bahnsen lasted but two inglorious innings. Lindblad went four and Todd and Fingers one each. The latter two were in merely for the exercise. Much more frequently they are game savers.
On Wednesday Fingers entered in relief of Blue in the ninth inning with one out and two men on and the A's leading 3-2. He promptly struck out the dangerous Bobby Bonds, mesmerizing him with two straight fastballs. Bonds had been anticipating curves. Then Fingers induced Sandy Alomar to fly to center field to conclude the game. It was Rollie's 59th appearance of the season and his 18th save. Friday night he showed up for the 60th time, Lindblad for the 54th and Todd for the 48th. Todd and Fingers were back again on Saturday in a victory that fairly typified their season. After Abbott gave up five runs in an inning and two-thirds, Todd pitched 6? nearly flawless innings, allowing but one run in a game the A's eventually won in the 10th inning 7-6. Fingers pitched the final two scoreless innings, getting his ninth win against six defeats. On Sunday he won his 10th. Lindblad has won eight, lost nary a one and has six saves; Todd is 5-3 with 10 saves. All three have now pitched in more than 100 innings. Without Todd, though, Fingers and Lindblad would be grossly overworked.
"When I heard we lost Catfish I saw me pitching 95 games," says Fingers, who retains his handlebar mustache despite his own joshing threats to shave it off. "Without him, we were losing about 25 complete games. Todd has been the key. He's given Paul and me a big break."
"We wouldn't be where we are now without the bullpen," says Catcher Gene Tenace. "Rollie may be the best reliever in either league and Paul is certainly one of the best. I'd never seen Todd before, but he has done what we've asked him to do. He's stepped right in."
Todd is a rangy man with a proper A's mustache. His amiable manner and a slightly high-pitched voice belie what has become an ominous presence on the mound. Todd is not afraid to intimidate a hitter, and when he beaned the Angels' Bruce Bochte earlier this season an uncommonly fierce brawl ensued. When the A's acquired him from the Cubs for a minor league player—pity poor Claiborne—and cash, Todd expected to be placed immediately on the roster. Instead he was advised that 1) he was being sent to the Tucson farm club and 2) he must pitch that very day in an A's intrasquad game. At first he was inclined to reject both propositions and enter a vigorous protest with the owner. Then he had a sobering thought: "Finley is the kind of guy you can get off on the wrong side of. I decided to pitch." He did well in the intrasquad match and pitched a shutout in an opening-day start for Tucson. By April 17 he was in the A's bullpen. He knows why he is there. "If Catfish were here," he says, "I wouldn't be."
With Todd the A's cope even better with misfortune. Coping is what they do best. In the game Fingers saved on Wednesday the winning run was scored by Matt (the Scat) Alexander, Finley's surviving designated runner. This is a position Finley more or less invented, although only a team as rich in talent as the A's can afford the luxury. At one time this year the A's had not one but three runners. Herb Washington, the incumbent last season, was released and Don Hopkins was farmed out. Hopkins reportedly is now on his way back. Finley shamelessly gloats when a runner wins a game. And that is what Alexander did Wednesday. With the score 2-2 in the top of the ninth, Designated Hitter Billy Williams led off with a single. The Scat ran for him. He stole second on Doc Medich's second pitch to Tenace and scurried to third when Yankee Catcher Thurman Munson's hasty throw went into the outfield. Tenace then lofted a fly ball to right field that traveled perhaps 230 feet. Somewhat to his surprise the Scat heard Third Base Coach Bobby Winkles instruct him to "tag up and go hard." He did, sliding in for the winning run.
"I won't even say I'm the fastest on this team," said the Scat, a sad-eyed young man who, like Todd, knows his place. "We got some really fast guys here."
Speed also contributed to the 10-inning 7-6 thriller in damp and cold Fenway Park Saturday night. With two outs in the 10th Claudell Washington walked, stole second and scored the winning run on a suddenly revived Bando's single to right field. It was the A's first win in five tries in Boston this year, and it served, as Centerfielder Billy North so eloquently put it, to "psychologically enlighten" the Red Sox, the A's probable opponents in the playoffs.
The A's were in for some psychological enlightenment of their own when their ordinarily meek and pious manager behaved as crazily as any of them while protesting Umpire Rich Garcia's decision that Boston's Jim Rice had stolen second base in the ninth inning. Dark, the devout Baptist, raised such holy heaven with Garcia that the umpire ejected him from the game. On his return to the dugout Dark unexpectedly reached down and snatched up third base, carried it to the stands and pitched it into the box seats as umpires, players and fans alike watched in paralyzed astonishment. Rice had stolen second; now Dark had quite literally stolen third. At first his players were stunned by their ministerial manager's larceny—does not the Bible say, "Thou shalt not steal"? Then they cheered him.
"We came to life after he did that," said Bando, who certainly did come to life. "It was like a pep talk at halftime."