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As the Eastern leaders battled on one coast (page 26), Kansas City (5-2) and California (5-3) fought it out on the other. Before arriving in Anaheim, K.C. was enjoying another late-season drive. In 1977 the Royals won 15 straight and 23 of 24 in September, finishing with a divisional title and the best record in baseball. This September they had moved 3½ games in front with six wins in a row. Early in the week Larry Gura beat Detroit 6-2 on five hits, Al Hrabosky survived a bases-loaded, no-outs situation to preserve Rich Gale's 5-3 win over Oakland, and Dennis Leonard whipped the A's 3-0 on a two-hitter. The Royals also overcame a seven-run deficit to beat Oakland 11-8. "Without a doubt, our best comeback of the season," said Manager Whitey Herzog.
Meanwhile, the Angels had been under fire for losing to Texas by scores of 11-5 and 9-2. "Sometimes I think the manager has more desire than the 25 players put together," said California Executive Vice-President Buzzy Bavasi referring to the enthusiasm of his skipper, Jim Fregosi. Added veteran Ron Fairly, "This is a very unemotional ball club. It's very frustrating to a person like myself. I feel the more involved I become in the game, the easier it is to play."
The Royals opened the critical California series with a 9-7 win. In a five-run eighth inning, little-used sub Jerry Terrell made the key play, scoring the winning run from second on an infield hit. Leading now by five games in the loss column, the Royals were in position to all but wrap up their third straight title by sweeping a Saturday night double-header. Instead, California won 3-2 and 4-2. Joe Rudi and Don Baylor had timely hits, and Don Aase and Dave Frost outdueled Gale and Leonard. Now it was time for some Royal gripes. The team's happy-family image took a beating when teammates accused Shortstop Freddie Patek, who has missed 20 games with illness and injury, of malingering.
But front-runner dissension was nothing compared to the bleating of the division's also-rans. In Texas (2-4), the Rangers were taking shots at their heretofore popular manager, Billy Hunter. Quoted anonymously in the Dallas Times Herald, one player said, "If Hunter were managing Kansas City, we'd be as far ahead as we are behind." Another said, "The man's a dummy, and I think 95% of the players who have been around agree with me." The story divided the Rangers into two cliques—a small one questioning the manager's ability, a larger one questioning the manager's ability to deal with the small one. The players themselves were not above reproach. On three consecutive pitches to Angel batters, Reggie Cleveland served up a two-run homer, a single and another two-run homer. And Richie Zisk and Bobby Bonds nearly came to blows—over nothing, they both agreed.
The worst news in Oakland (1-4) occurred on the night of a victory. Civic leaders attempted to stage a "Save the A's" night. Unfortunately, it coincided with the annual Lions Night. Finally, both sides agreed on a joint promotion, but only 9,841 fans showed up to watch the A's demolish Texas 11-4. Lamented owner Charlie Finley, who had hoped for 50,000, "You can't ballyhoo a funeral."
Chicago won four of seven as Lerrin LaGrow got a win and a save and Ken Kravec and Rich Wortham threw complete-game victories. The week went sour when Manager Larry Doby accused Umpire Joe Brinkman of making a racial slur in the heat of an argument.
Minnesota (3-4) was shut out a club-record three straight times. Even more embarrassing was a slipup by Dan Ford, who stopped between third and home to tell trailing runner Joe Morales not to slide when he scored. Ford then neglected to touch the plate and was passed by Morales. Said Manager Gene Mauch, "I've never seen anything like that in 19 years of big league managing, and I never expect to again."
Seattle (3-3) got one of its wins in a game in which Lee Stanton, a .181 hitter, drove in the winning run and Glenn Abbott used his "rope-a-dope" tactics to startle the Brewers. "I wore them out with my fastball, and then got 'em with a bunch of breaking stuff," he said.
KC 77-63 CAL 77-66 TEX 68-70 OAK 65-76 MINN 62-80 CHI 60-82 SEA 53-86