Cincinnati (5-2) rejoined the race as Dan Driessen batted .421, Tom Seaver came off the disabled list to beat the Padres 7-1, Tom Hume had two wins and a save and Johnny Bench socked his 10th career grand slam to beat the Dodgers 8-5. "I haven't thrown like that all year," said Seaver, who allowed four hits in six innings. "It was more an exercise in self-control and discipline than in facing hitters. I felt a little bit of pain, but I think it's more stretching pain, not impingement pain." Come again? Later in the week the Dodgers rocked Seaver for seven runs in 1⅔ innings, but Seaver's only problem, according to Catcher Bench, was an anxiety attack. "He was rushing the whole time," Bench said. "He never seemed to get totally relaxed."
Trailing 4-1 with two outs in the ninth, the Braves (3-4) rallied to beat Los Angeles 6-4 on an error by Third Baseman Ron Cey, a pinch walk, two pinch singles and Glenn Hubbard's three-run homer. "This game never ceases to amaze me," said Pitcher Phil Niekro. "One little ball goes by someone and five runs score." In a 6-2 loss to the Dodgers, Manager Bobby Cox was ejected for throwing his hat and reacted by spitting tobacco juice in the face of Umpire Jerry Dale. "A disgraceful, cowardly act," said Dale. After first denying it, Cox finally admitted he did intentionally spit at Dale, "but not until after he spit in my face first." The Braves wasted 14 hits and stranded 16 runners while losing 5-4 to the bumbling (2-5) Giants.
HOUS 60-49 LA 60-50 CIN 59-52 SF 53-57 ATL 49-60 SD 49-62
Suddenly there was a race. The Orioles (6-0) had taken four straight, the Yankees (2-4) had split four and New York's lead had dwindled to 5½ games, its narrowest margin since July 1. When Baltimore and New York squared off on Friday for the first of eight games in 11 days, the largest Yankee Stadium crowd of the season—54,130—was on hand.
As expected, the fans saw an excellent pitching duel between New York's Ron Guidry and Baltimore's Jim Palmer, but the 5-2 Oriole win hinged on mistakes, not good play. Centerfielder Ruppert Jones allowed one Oriole run to score when he misjudged Benny Ayala's ground-rule double, and Leftfielder Bobby Murcer set up Baltimore's game-winning hit with another miscue. With the score tied 2—all, a runner on first and two outs in the eighth, Murcer misjudged Doug DeCinces' fly, trapped the ball, the ump ruled, and threw late to the infield, allowing the runners to advance to second and third. Pinch hitter John Lowenstein scored both of them with a single. Owner George Steinbrenner and General Manager Gene Michael issued statements bitterly protesting the trap call on DeCinces' hit to left.
"It's a shame that in a crucial and emotional game in a pennant race...the outcome might be decided by a questionable call," said Steinbrenner, who listened to the game on the radio. "Baseball men who saw the play tell me the ball was cleanly caught. I just hate to think that the outcome of a pennant race might be decided by a questionable call." Michael released a detailed statement arguing that "You can't trap a ball when you come up with it on the end of the glove." Both statements ignored the fact that the ball should have been caught.
The next night, Yankee starter Tom Underwood threw two pitches on the outside of the plate, where Ken Singleton likes them, and Singleton doubled and tripled in a 4-2 Oriole win. It was the second victory of the week for Steve Stone, whose 18-4 record leads the majors, and the Orioles were only three games behind New York in the loss column.
The Oriole surge played tricks on the mind of Milwaukee (4-3) Manager George Bamberger. Early in the week, with the fourth-place Brewers 11 games out and their own fans posting CHOKE CITY signs in the County Stadium bleachers. Bamberger hinted he would retire at the end of the season. "I'd like to see the club finish second, five games out," he said wistfully. But as the Orioles kept winning, he decided the Brewers were already accomplishing that. "The way I look at it, we're only five games out now because that's all we're behind the Orioles and they're going to catch the Yankees," Bamberger said. Two complete-game victories by Moose Haas, who beat New York 2-0 and Cleveland 4-2, had Bambi's spirits soaring. Alas, Pitcher Reggie Cleveland brought them down to earth. "Neither Boston nor Milwaukee is going anywhere," he said. "We're just going through the motions."
In Boston (5-2), Manager Don Zimmer reached into his bag of tricks. He had Jim Rice sacrifice and used relievers Skip Lockwood, Bill Campbell and Bob Stanley for three innings apiece in place of a starter. Rice's sacrifice (which followed a surprise bunt single by Carl Yastrzemski) contributed to a 7-3, defeat of the Brewers, and the bullpen trio bested Chicago 4-1.