Oakland (6-2) crept above .500 for the first time in two months and much of the credit went to Vida Blue and Rollie Fingers, the two pitchers Owner Charlie Finley tried to sell in June. Blue was superb in a six-hit, 2-0 win over Baltimore while Fingers recorded a pair of saves and a win. The A's were also burning opponents on the base paths. In two straight wins over Cleveland, Oakland stole 12 bases.
Last year Mike Cubbage was 0 for 17 as a major-leaguer with Texas when he got his first hit, a grand slam off Bill Singer, who was then pitching for California. This year both play for Minnesota (5-4) and this week Cubbage helped Singer to his eighth win, against three losses, when he broke out of an 0 for 24 slump with another grand slam. "I owed Billy one," said Cubbage.
Chicago (3-6) has been hitting so poorly that Manager Paul Richards allowed Pitcher Ken Brett, a good hitter, to bat for himself, the first time an American League manager had not used the designated hitter in a meaningful game since the DH was introduced in 1973. ( Oakland used pitchers as hitters in 1973 and 1975 after clinching divisional titles to ready pitchers for the World Series.) Brett hit three balls hard, but at fielders, and went hitless as Chicago lost to Boston 4-0. In his next outing he stuck to pitching and six-hit the Yankees 4-1 to give the White Sox their first win over New York in nine games this season.
California dropped five of eight games to remain in the cellar. Bobby Bonds decided to take the All-Star break to have X rays made of his right hand, which was fractured early in the season. "I don't shake hands with anybody," says Bonds. "You could put me down on my knees with just a normal handshake." Bonds still managed to hit his 10th home run last week.
KC 51-30 TEX 44-36 OAK 43-41 MINN 39-43 CHI 37-44 CAL 35-51
A microcosm of Montreal's 1-7 week might have been a pop fly hit by Houston's Leon Roberts. Expo First Baseman Andre Thornton successfully called everybody off the ball, then tripped on the pitching rubber giving Roberts a double. Montreal made 15 errors during the week, which meant that 13 of the 54 runs scored against them were unearned, which in turn prompted a newspaper headline reading, TO ERR IS HUMAN—BUT ALL THE TIME? Matters were no better offensively as Montreal hitters set a new standard of ineptitude when they were no-hit for the first time in the club's 1,200-game history, by Larry Dierker of the Astros.
At the opposite end of the standings Philadelphia also took its lumps, losing four in a row. Three of the defeats were at the hands of Los Angeles before big Bicentennial week hometown crowds, but the Phillies rebounded to win three straight from San Diego and finish the week with a 5-4 mark. Steve Carlton struck out his 2,000th batter in his ninth win, prompting a 25-second standing ovation. "I took my hat off," said Carlton. "You can't overdo it. Fidrych, or whatever his name is, he'd probably have done cartwheels. I have to keep up my conservative image."
Pittsburgh (3-6) fell 10 games behind the Phillies when it played giveaway, blowing a 6-1 lead in losing to Atlanta 8-6 and a two-run 10th-inning lead in losing to Cincinnati 12-11.
New York (5-4) ran its winning streak to 10 before dropping three in a row. Dave Kingman hit three more homers to make his major league leading total 30. The Mets' winning streak was stopped by Chicago (6-3), which broke a nine-game losing streak. The Cubs did a remarkable turnabout, going on to make it four in a row and getting three straight shutouts from their supposedly ineffectual pitching staff. Chicago's skein was broken after a local radio station, hoping to prolong the team's success, hired a "witch" to rub the Cubs with magic potions before the game. The juices of magnolia, cypress and cinnamon only made the Cubs stink.