"This has been the screwiest season I've ever seen," said Manager Whitey Herzog. His Royals had entered the week in second place, three games behind California. The two teams were to meet for the division title—four games in K.C. that would decide it all. "They hit more home runs. We've got more speed and steal more bases," said Herzog. "The key will be who gets the best pitching." Angels' pitching gave up 32 runs on 56 hits, and the Royals' 25 on 38. Each team won two of the head-to-head contests, and each had a 3-4 record for the week. They'll try again to settle the championship this week.
While the Angels and Royals battled, Gene Mauch sat back and smiled as his Twins (5-2) put together their best week since the All-Star break. In a 10-3 rout of Chicago, Minnesota scored five times on one hit in a fifth-inning rally that included a bases-loaded walk, a wild pitch and a sacrifice fly. Down 2-0 in the ninth to the Brewers in Milwaukee, the Twins got back-to-back homers from Ken Landreaux and Butch Wynegar for a 3-2 win. Rookie John Castino drove in all three Minnesota runs in a 3-1 victory over the Yankees. "Everybody is loving every minute of it," said Mauch. "Optimum expectancy is a beautiful thing."
Although Texas (4-2) gained a game and a half on the Angels, there was no "optimum expectancy" and few players were loving any of it. "I don't know if I can take this for another year," said Outfielder Al Oliver. Ferguson Jenkins was mad at Shortstop Nelson Norman because he muffed a grounder. But Norman may not have noticed, because he was busy being mad at Willie Montanez for not scoring on Norman's fly ball. That cost Norman an RBI arid a point in his batting average. "When something like that happens, I lose all my concentration and don't give a damn," he proclaimed.
Perhaps they should all take a lesson from Matt Keough of Oakland (1-5). Pitching for one of the worst teams in A's history, Keough, 2-16, has been the victim of poor defense and even poorer offense, all the while maintaining his poise and good humor. Last week Keough got a reward for his good behavior, a seven-hit, 2-0 win over K.C.
The White Sox (4-2) received sparkling performances from two young pitchers, who held the .277-hitting Twins scoreless for 18 innings. Ross Baumgarten won 6-0, on four hits, to bring his record to 13-8 despite missing six weeks with a virus, and Ken Kravec had a no-hitter for seven innings before allowing three hits.
It was just a year ago that Willie Horton was clubbed over the head by a Royal Canadian Mountie in a bizarre parking-lot scuffle. He began experiencing dizzy spells and was told by a doctor that he was "lucky to be alive." The Blue Jays let him go. The Mariners (2-4) thought there were still some homers in Horton's 35-year-old body, and they knew there's nothing like clean Northwest air to clear a man's head. So they signed Horton, who responded with one of his most productive seasons ever—club records of 28 home runs and 103 RBIs. Horton hasn't had that many homers in a season since 1969, or as many RBIs since 1966. No other major league player has ever gone more than eight seasons between 100-RBI performances. To honor their very own comeback player of the year, the Seattle writers gave Horton the Mariners' MVP award on Fan Appreciation Night. To thank the Mariners and the fans, Willie stepped to the plate in his first at bat and drove in a run.
CAL 84-71 KC 81-74 MINN 81-74 TEX 78-77 CHI 68-85 SEA 64-91 OAK 53-102
There was little left for players on non-contending teams to do but pursue personal goals and honors. With Rose threatening to surge right into the batting title, Keith Hernandez of the Cardinals (5-4) dug in. He went 10 for 24 and raised his average three points. "I'm not that selective a hitter," said Hernandez. "If it's over the plate, I'll hit it." And he has, to the tune of 202 hits. His average—.346—is nearly 100 points higher than it was last year. With his seven errors, 103 RBIs and 111 runs scored, he is a leading candidate for MVP.
Hernandez' teammate, Garry Templeton, took dead aim at a record; he wants to become the first player to get 100 base hits from each side of the plate in one season. To help, Manager Kenny Boyer is letting Temp bat righty for the rest of the year, because he already has 111 hits lefty, but only 91 as a righthander. Lou Brock, who already has the modern career stolen-base record, stole his 20th of the year to tie "Sliding" Billy Hamilton's all-time mark of 937, most of them gotten between 1888 and 1898 when stolen bases were credited to runners going from first to third on a single. No. 937 came on Lou Brock Day at Shea Stadium, during which the Mets (1-8) presented Brock with a rocking chair as a retirement present.