Boston's new Manager Don Zimmer, signed for 1977, is not waiting until next year. He has replaced veteran Third Baseman Rico Petrocelli with rookie Butch Hobson and has had Hobson and Outfielder Jim Rice taking extra bunting practice. "Why wait?" Zimmer asks. "We could win four games or so the rest of the way just by getting a few bunts down."
The Red Sox have been taking advantage of every opportunity lately, winning eight of their last nine and six of seven during the week. One of the victories, 4-1 over Detroit, went to Ferguson Jenkins, his sixth straight. The best news, though, was that holdouts Carlton Fisk, Rick Burleson and Fred Lynn had finally signed. Expressing the relief of players, management and fans, Fisk said, "I'm very glad it's over. The whole thing has really bothered me. We've been booed this year and it affects your concentration. You can't do your best under those conditions."
New York was still 10 games ahead of the pack, despite a 3-4 week and nine losses in the last 13 games. Two of the wins came against the Tigers, when Doyle Alexander had his weekly brush with a no-hitter, allowing just two hits in a 1-0 victory, and when Roy White and Oscar Gamble crashed two-run homers to beat Mark Fidrych 4-3.
Baltimore (3-3) was not gaining much ground because of its continuing problems with Milwaukee. The Brewers (4-4) beat the Orioles twice, giving them six straight wins over the Birds in less than two weeks. They also took two of three from the Yankees, one on Bill Travers' five-hitter.
The Tigers were perilously close to last place after losing five straight games, but victories over Cleveland by Dave Roberts and Fidrych ended the slide. Fidrych's 6-1 victory was his first in three weeks following two losses. "I feel so good I'm getting a little cocky," the Bird crowed.
The Indians (4-3) had better success against Boston and Baltimore, Dennis Eckersley and Rick Waits pitching consecutive shutouts. Second Baseman Duane Kuiper, who was batting .230 at the All-Star break, went 4 for 4 against Jim Palmer in the win over Baltimore and by week's end had added 46 points to his average.
NY 64-42 BALT 54-52 CLEV 52-54 BOS 52-55 DET 50-56 MIL 47-58
Things are worse than Chicago Manager Paul Richards thought. "We seem helpless against the better pitchers in the league," he said early last week. "We seldom beat a pitcher with a winning record." Alas, Richards spoke too soon, for a few nights later his White Sox (2-4) were just as helpless against Kansas City's Andy Hassler, who had lost 18 straight games since April 29, 1975. Hassler went seven innings in the 9-2 victory, giving him a 1-7 record and stopping him one short of tying the American League mark for consecutive defeats. "I'm relieved," he said. And thanks to Hal McRae, he had champagne to honor the occasion. After KC put the game away with five runs in the sixth inning, the designated hitter slipped away long enough to order champagne for the expected celebration.