When the season began, American League batters were itching to get at Oakland's five-man starting rotation, which had a combined 10-24 record in the majors last year. But those five—Rick Langford (8-19 in 1977), Matt Keough (1-3), Pete Broberg (1-2 with the Cubs) and a pair of rookies from the Giant organization, Johnny Johnson and Alan Wirth—are 5-2 so far. Together with a superlative bullpen, they have teamed up for a 1.44 staff ERA and have left those itchy batters scratching their heads. Broberg beat Minnesota 7-2, Keough disposed of Seattle 5-3 and Wirth was a 3-0 victor over the Mariners. They all got airtight relief from former Giant Elias Sosa. Another ex-San Franciscan, Gary Alexander, slugged his third and fourth homers for the A's (4-1). And Tony Armas drove in the decisive run in the 11th to knock off Minnesota 6-5.
Staying percentage points in front of the A's were the Royals (4-1). Dennis Leonard held off Cleveland 2-1, Paul Splittorff defeated Toronto 5-0 and Baltimore 5-3, and Reliever AI Hrabosky saved two games. Splittorff's wins were his 10th and 11th in a row since early last season.
Near-perfect relief work by Dave LaRoche and Paul Hartzell highlighted California's 5-1 week. LaRoche gave up just one hit in 5? innings, saved one game and won another, while Hartzell yielded two hits in 6? innings and had three saves. Frank Tanana, relying on an off-speed curve and changeup because he is still not fully recovered from last season's sore arm, ran his record to 4-0 with two wins. Don Baylor hit his third, fourth and fifth home runs, Ron Jackson batted .500 and Lyman Bostock finally contributed to the offense.
The $450,000-a-year outfielder explained his early-season slump by saying that when he was at the plate he had been "hallucinating" and that he felt himself "standing outside my body." He added, "If I don't do well the rest of April, I'm not going to take any pay for the month." That said (the offer was declined by owner Gene Autry), Bostock broke out of his .051 doldrums with three hits in an 11-2 rout of the Mariners.
Five hits and five RBIs by Bob Stinson helped Seattle (3-4) break an eight-game losing streak by sweeping a doubleheader from Minnesota 8-5 and 7-2. Tom House put in a gritty performance to earn the second victory, a 13-hitter in which he went all the way despite suffering a dislocated finger when struck by a batted ball in the first inning.
Home runs by Bill Nahorodny, Chet Lemon and Eric Soderholm enabled Chicago (1-3) to rout Toronto 11-2.
Minnesota, which stranded 59 runners, and Texas were winless. Dave Goltz, who had 20 victories for the Twins last year, lost for the third time and maintained his record of never having won in April during five-plus big league seasons. The April blues also infected Ranger fastballer Len Barker, who uncorked a truly wild pitch with the bases loaded in Boston. The heave landed halfway up the screen behind home plate.
KC 9-2 OAK 10-3 CAL 10-4 CHI 5-6 MINN 6-11 SEA 5-13 TEX 2-8