After being shelled for five runs and 10 hits in six innings by the Indians in his second start, Mark Fidrych of Detroit (3-4) said, "Some small thing I've got to find. I'm going to find it. My slider's not working. I'm getting behind hitters. When we win, everybody in here smiles. When we lose, it's dead. It stinks when it's dead." A day later the Tiger clubhouse was alive, thanks to 20-year-old rookie Dave Rozema, who, with relief help from Steve Foucault, cooled off the Indians 4-2 for his fifth win. "Rozema has the makings of a 30-game winner," Frank Robinson said. John Hiller pulled off a unique double by winning as both a starter and reliever. With Foucault's aid, Hiller beat Oakland 5-2, and then back in his usual fireman's role he tossed 3? innings of one-hit relief as Detroit downed California 9-6. Rookie Outfielder Tim Corcoran's three-run homer off Nolan Ryan in the eighth inning settled that contest.
Baltimore has finished in first place five times in the last eight seasons, and the Orioles were in first place all last week—in spite of themselves. Mike Flanagan might well have beaten Minnesota, if it had not been for Left-fielder Pat Kelly and Manager Earl Weaver, both of whom felt they had done the right thing—only to discover they had not. Kelly thought he had caught a long drive by Roy Smalley, but when he looked in his glove the ball was not there. It was on the other side of the fence, where it landed after plopping out of Kelly's glove. Still, the Birds trailed only 2-0 in the eighth. But then Weaver did some deep thinking. With Twins on second and third and two out, Weaver ordered Flanagan, a left-handed pitcher, to walk Dan Ford. After Flanagan threw two wide pitches, Weaver realized his mistake: he thought Ford was Larry Hisle, the league's RBI leader and the next Twin up after Ford. Weaver told Flanagan not to finish the intentional pass to Ford, but the Oriole hurler walked him unintentionally. Hisle then singled home the eventual winning run, and the Orioles lost 3-2.
Weaver committed another gaffe in Chicago, bringing in left-handed Pitcher Scott McGregor to face Jim Essian, a righty hitter, with the bases jammed. "I thought first base was open," Weaver later explained. "I was going to have Scottie walk Essian and pitch to the lefty [ Ralph Garr]." Essian, taking advantage of Weaver's boo-boo, hit a three-run double that gave the White Sox a 7-0 lead, and Chicago held on to win 7-4. Weaver later apologized to his players. The Orioles (4-5) did salvage four narrow victories, including Jim Palmer's seventh win, a 3-1 decision over Minnesota. Lee May, who had hit just two homers all season, socked two in a 9-7 defeat of the Twins. By week's end May had walloped four more and driven in 16 runs. May homered in a 7-6 squeaker over Kansas City, a game that ended with Baltimore executing an unusual triple play. With the bases loaded and none out in the ninth, John Wathan hit a sacrifice fly to Kelly. Dave Nelson advanced from second to third after the catch, but Fred Patek was caught trying to go from first to second. Shortstop Mark Belanger tagged Patek for the second out, spied Nelson streaking for home and chased him down for the third out. A three-run homer by Catcher Rick Dempsey, his first of the year, enabled the Orioles to beat the Royals 5-4 the next day.
Catfish Hunter of New York (4-4) lost again, but this time it was only a pregame cow-milking contest against Minnesota Second Baseman Bob Randall. Ed Figueroa (7-3) won twice, Sparky Lyle picked up his 10th save and Graig Nettles slugged three homers to raise his total to 12.
It took superb individual efforts to keep Boston (4-4) in third place. Reggie Cleveland came out of the bullpen to start against the Yankees and stopped them 5-1 on 97 pitches. Bill Lee needed only 78 pitches to beat Minnesota 5-2. Fred Lynn, limping on a bad ankle, drove home two runs in that game and deprived Dan Ford of a home run by leaping up and reaching over the center-field wall to glove the ball.
Milwaukee (3-3) stopped Texas 3-2 in 10 innings on Sixto Lezcano's 10th homer. Toronto (2-4) lengthened its home run-less streak to 10 games, but managed to beat Oakland 4-2 on a bases-loaded single in the eighth inning by Otto Velez. Catcher Alan Ashby gunned down seven of nine would-be base stealers and now has thrown out 31 of 55.
BALT 28-21 NY 28-23 BOS 26-23 MIL 26-26 CLEV 22-24 DET 20-27 TOR 19-30
A 14-13 Royal win over the Orioles in Kansas City had all of the following: a wild pitch, a passed ball, a sacrifice, two errors, two triples, three sacrifice flies, four doubles, five homers, six stolen bases and 32 hits. Kansas City (4-3) led 10-4 after two innings, but Baltimore tied the score 11-11 in the seventh and 13-13 in the ninth. Al Cowens opened the 10th for the Royals with a single, went to third on a double by Hal McRae and scored the winning run on a sacrifice fly by Joe Zdeb (pronounced Zdeb). John May-berry, who had been in a 21-month slump and had started the week batting only .218, belted five home runs and had seven hits in his last 20 at bats. He attributed his resurgence to a new stance, one that Manager Whitey Herzog suggested. "It's more open," Mayberry said. "I'm closer to the plate, and it allows me a more free-swinging style."
There was an abundance of free swinging throughout the division as teams scored six or more runs 33 times in 52 games. Chicago (5-3) did it five times, beating New York 9-4 and 9-5, Baltimore 7-4 and Milwaukee 8-3. Oddly, half of the White Sox' eight homers came in an 8-6 loss to the Yankees. In that defeat, Richie Zisk became the 18th player to hit a ball out of Comiskey Park, blasting his 15th home run, tops in the majors.