Fernando Valenzuela of the Dodgers (3-4) also hurled a shutout, 2-0 against the Braves, to equal the modern big league rookie record of eight set in 1913 by Ewell Russell of the White Sox. En route to his 13th triumph, Valenzuela yielded only three hits.
One, two, three, four, five, six, seven. That's how many pitches Johnny Bench of Cincinnati (6-1) fouled off before slamming a dramatic two-run pinch homer in the ninth for a 5-4 victory in L.A. Other clutch performers for Cincy: Charlie Leibrandt, who pitched a 4-0 win over the Astros; Joe Edelen, who provided six innings of one-hit relief in a 7-3 victory against the Dodgers; and Dave Concepcion, whose RBI single in the 10th gave Tom Seaver a 1-0 triumph over the Giants.
No, they weren't filming a Bela Lugosi chiller at Candlestick Park; it was merely one of the foggiest and eeriest nights ever there—which is saying something—as the Giants (4-3) beat the Astros 5-2. During the game Johnnie Lemaster's inside-the-park homer became a ground-rule double because, as an umpire correctly saw it, Houston Rightfielder Terry Puhl had trouble prying the ball out of a paper cup that had blown onto the field. The week's deftest bit of batwork, though, was Dave Bergman's perfect suicide bunt in the ninth that defeated the Braves 6-5.
Atlanta (2-5) also lost 4-2 in San Francisco, as bungled-up base running put two Braves on third. Giant First Baseman Enos Cabell dashed to third with the ball and tagged out Claudell Washington, who had run there from first. When the ump hollered "Out!" Brett Butler, the other Brave at third, thought the call was meant for him. So he came off the bag, and Cabell tagged him to complete a double play. Larry McWilliams ended Atlanta's five-game losing streak by beating San Diego 3-0 on two singles.
For a change, the Padres (2-5) stole some bases—four—as they beat the Braves 6-3.
HOUS 26-14 CIN 23-16 LA 22-18 SF 21-18 ATL 20-19 SD 12-29
"There's no friction between players and between players and manager," said Dan Quisenberry of the Royals (4-2). When asked how Dick Howser had brought about such harmony in just three weeks as the Kansas City skipper, Quisenberry replied, "He flew in Ann Landers." George Brett, meanwhile, was flying off the handle. Brett got into his second scuffle of the year with members of the media, a minor tiff with two reporters. Dennis Leonard didn't throw any punches, but on the night Sugar Ray Leonard pummeled Thomas Hearns, Dennis KO'd the Angels 3-1. As for Quisenberry, he earned two saves.
Although weakened by a virus, roommates Dwayne Murphy and Steve McCatty helped boost the A's (4-2) above .500. Murphy hit three home runs: a two-run drive in the eighth to give Mike Norris a 2-1 victory in Texas; a grand slam to help McCatty defeat the White Sox 10-5; and a 445-foot blast in Chicago as Rick Langford won 2-1. Dave McKay lent Murphy a hand by going on a .450 tear.
Minnesota (3-3) clung to third, thanks to two saves by Doug Corbett and clutch hits by newcomers Ron Washington and Dave Engle in 6-3 wins. Washington's two-run single highlighted a three-run eighth that beat Toronto, and Engle had four RBIs against Texas.