- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
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The Yankees (4-2) had their first fight of the season, and it was costly. The fracas started in the clubhouse bathroom when 210-pound ace Reliever Goose Gossage and 217-pound reserve Catcher Cliff Johnson began kidding each other. On the way to the showers, friendly pushing turned into not-so-friendly punching. Gossage landed the most damaging—to himself—blow, suffering a torn ligament in the thumb of his pitching hand. He is expected to be out of action at least two months. Meanwhile, the Yankees frequently acted as if they didn't need relief. Ed Figueroa threw five no-hit innings en route to beating Texas 5-3; Ron Guidry won his first game, stopping Baltimore 5-1 on three hits and 10 strikeouts; and Tommy John won his third, setting down the Orioles 3-1. Lest Gossage's absence become too costly, John, a team man if there ever was one, volunteered to take up the slack in the bullpen. He will remain in the rotation, while Dick Tidrow attempts to replace Gossage.
The woes—and wins—of injury-plagued Boston also piled up. Pitcher Dennis Eckersley was the latest casualty, taking a line drive on the elbow. He will miss a turn. Still, the Red Sox won five of seven and moved into first place. Fred Lynn had four homers to take the major league lead with seven but wasn't pleased. "I'm actually kind of disgusted with my hitting right now," said Lynn, who had just one two-hit game. "I've missed a few balls that I should have hit. My job is to get on base." The best on-base man was Carl Yastrzemski, who is hitting .375. Yaz clubbed his 386th career homer and his 542nd double, which tied Harry Heilmann for 10th on the alltime list.
By keeping his cool, Pitcher Jim Palmer prevented Baltimore (3-3) from going win-less on a six-game road trip. After his teammates committed two costly errors, Palmer was trailing the Yankees 3-1 in the second inning, with one out, the bases loaded and a 2-0 count on Reggie Jackson. Bitterly critical of his teammates' fielding in the past, Palmer stayed calm, got Jackson to hit into a double play and thereafter allowed just three hits. The Orioles won 6-3. Less cool was Palmer's teammate Mike Flanagan when he gave up a homer to Jackson in a 5-1 loss. "I got on top of my windup, ready to throw a curveball," said Flanagan, "then I thought better of it. It was a bastard curveball, a hanger. What I should have done was step off the mound." Manager Earl Weaver was about ready to step on his hitters. "We have some guys in the lineup with no concept of the strike zone," he said. "They're swinging at balls over their head and in the dirt." Only Gary Roenicke's 9-for-16 hitting, including two three-hit games, kept the Birds' batting respectable.
Toronto was in no way respectable. The Blue Jays not only lost five of six but also infuriated their fans. An exhibition with Montreal was called off with the score tied 4-4 in the 11th inning. No inning could start after 7:15 because the Expos had to catch a flight to Chicago for a real game with the Cubs the next day, but no announcement of the deadline was made to the crowd of 21,564 until extra innings began. Then the teams disgraced themselves. With the Blue Jays about to bat at 7:11, Montreal Manager Dick Williams engaged the plate umpire in a long conversation. When the crowd hooted, Catcher Duffy Dyer threw the ball into centerfield. The Blue Jays stood by without protesting. By the time the ball reached Pitcher David Palmer it was 7:15, and the game was called. Booing drowned out the postgame ceremonies, and Toronto riot police were needed to disperse the fans.
Led by Steve Kemp (.444) and Lou Whitaker (.500), Detroit (4-1) hit .320. "My job is to pick it," said Whitaker, who nonetheless hit his first homer of the season. "You know, field. When I'm going good out there, that's when you see me smiling. When I'm not smiling, I'm still going good." That's why they call him Sweet Lou.
Early season sweetness behind them, the Brewers lost four of six and dropped out of the lead. The Milwaukee defense and slugging came up short, and Mike Caldwell's team-record string ended at 25 scoreless innings, even though he beat the Orioles 4-2. Then Caldwell lost his first game of the season, 6-3, to Baltimore. Despite a 2-4 week, Cleveland's habitual gloom was brightened by the end of several dismal streaks. Toby Harrah clubbed the team's first homer of the year in its eighth game, enabling the Indians to beat Boston 4-3. Two games later Gary Alexander's three-run shot beat Texas for the first time in 14 games. Finally, Pitcher Wayne Garland, whose career had been threatened by an injured rotator cuff that required surgery, pitched his first regular-season game in 11½ months. Garland took the loss, giving up three runs and seven hits in six innings but was pleased with his performance. "I don't see how I could have pitched any better," he said.
BOS 8-4 NY 8-6 MIL 7-6 DET 5-5 BALT 6-8 TOR 5-8 CLEV 3-9
On the surface it looked like a jolly homecoming for Minnesota. The Twins had won seven of their first nine games, all on the road, and an opening-day record crowd of 37,529 gave a standing ovation to Rod Carew. Just one problem: Carew was playing for the other guys. Having joined California after 12 seasons in Minnesota, Carew looked on with pleasure as new teammate Nolan Ryan set down the Twins 6-0 on four hits. Ryan later ended the Angels' 6-0 week with seven no-hit innings while beating Oakland 13-1. For his part, Carew had two four-hit games, one three-hit game and a .560 average. Minnesota owed its only wins in a 2-3 week to Jerry Koosman, who beat Seattle 18-6 and 6-5. "You're the only pitcher I know," teammate Roy Smalley told Koosman, "who needs touchdowns instead of runs."