- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
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- Faces in the CrowdJune 11, 2001
Once again, as twilight descended on Southern California on a Friday night, Nolan Ryan took the mound. Exactly two weeks earlier he had thrown a near no-hitter. Not this time. There were no fans and there was no opposing team, only an anxious manager, team doctor and trainer. The usually hard-throwing Ryan lobbed four or five pitches in a 90-second test that was to have lasted 10 minutes. He stopped, walked over to Jim Fregosi and Dr. Lewis Yocum and together they disappeared into the clubhouse tunnel. And with them, perhaps, should his injury linger, went the pennant hopes of the California Angels (3-4). Ryan had felt his elbow pop on an 0-2 pitch to Reggie Jackson in the second inning of a game at Yankee Stadium. The injury was diagnosed as a possible strained muscle. Whatever it was, Ryan joined fellow starters Frank Tanana and Chris Knapp on the sidelines. No one knew exactly when any of them would return. Without them it is doubtful that even the Angel bats, which have produced 564 runs—the most in either league—can compensate. There were two bright notes, however: Don Baylor raised his RBI total to 96 and Joe Rudi hit his third grand slam of the year.
Geoff Zahn and Mike Marshall of Minnesota (3-4) stood watching Baylor, Rudi and the rest of the Angel lineup take batting practice before a matchup between the first- and second-place teams. It must have helped. The pair pitched a five-hitter, Marshall picking up his 20th save and Zahn getting his ninth win. But the Twins scored just seven runs in five games after getting 20 in their first two games.
The Rangers (1-5) continued their slide, losing two games each to Kansas City and last-place Toronto, and beating only Boston, 11-2, Steve Comer pitching a five-hitter for his 11th win. "We're always able to play super against contending clubs," said Centerfielder Al Oliver. "We just don't play consistently against the non-contending teams."
One of those "non-contenders" threatened to shed that status. Having lost 16 of 19 games, the Royals (5-2) started to play like the defending champions they are. They took two from the Rangers, two from the White Sox and handed Baltimore a rare defeat. Third Baseman George Brett hit four homers—three in one game—batted .379, drove in 11 runs and scored seven. Even Freddie Patek had a homer, his first of the year. "The midget smoked him," said Manager Whitey Herzog after the 5'4" shortstop's belt off Chicago's Ross Baumgarten. The White Sox (2-5) lost that game 6-1 despite a sensational play by Shortstop Greg Pryor, who dived to intercept a smash by First Baseman George Scott. Pryor caught the ball, rolled over, and, while on his back, threw a strike to first to beat Scott. "It's the best play I've ever seen by a shortstop," said Scott, who has spent 13� years in the majors. "It's probably the best play I've ever seen," said an amazed Brett.
For the first time since joining the league in 1977, Seattle (2-6) beat Baltimore at home in Memorial Stadium, ending the Orioles' win streak at seven and giving Byron McLaughlin his eighth save. Two days later he picked up his ninth, when the Mariners shut out Oakland 1-0. The A's won the next night, though, to make it a 2-5 week. The other win came against the Red Sox, 8-6.
CAL 59-45 MIN 54-46 TEX 54-47 KC 50-51 CHI 46-56 SEA 44-61 OAK 28-76
It happens time and again. When the manager of a losing team is fired, his team responds by winning for his replacement. It happened to Jeff Torborg of Cleveland two years ago when he took over for Frank Robinson—the Indians winning seven straight—and it happened again last week. After months of rumors, Torborg was released following a doubleheader loss to Milwaukee. Third Base Coach Dave Garcia moved in and Cleveland (6-2) won six straight. Mindful that such good fortune was unlikely to last and that President Gabe Paul had talked with Bob Lemon, Garcia said, "I like to coach third base."
But, for now, Garcia is helping the Indians play the role of spoiler. They beat Milwaukee 5-4, snapping the Brewers' 10-game winning streak; they allowed Minnesota only four runs in three games while sweeping that series; and they took Chicago twice. But they still were 18� games behind Baltimore. However, the Indians had the distinction of being the only team in the division not to lose ground to the Orioles, the Birds having also gone 6-2 to bring their record to .667. And Baltimore showed no sign of letting up.