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Well on his way to being named the American League's Most Valuable Player, Boston's Jim Rice blasted three more homers to reach 33 for the year and strengthen his bid for the Triple Crown. Rice is comfortably ahead in home runs ( Milwaukee's Larry Hisle is next with 29) and runs batted in (he has 109 to Rusty Staub's 102). Minnesota's Rod Carew leads in the batting race with a .338 mark, but Rice is second at .326. All of which may explain why Rice bristled at criticism leveled at the Red Sox offense by Pitcher Mike Torrez, who had just been beaten 5-3 by last-place Seattle. "We've got to stop going for home runs and get back to bunts, hit-and-runs and the little things it takes to win games," said Torrez. To which Rice, speaking for the hitters, replied, "Hey, we're losing games because Torrez is nibbling at the corners and giving up base hits to a bunch of Punch-and-Judy hitters." By week's end all seemed smoothed over as Boston (3-2) throttled California 6-0 and 7-1. Pitcher Dennis Eckersley (15-5) went all the way twice for victories, and is now 8-0 at Fenway Park as a Red Sox. Even with Butch Hobson, Jerry Remy and Bill Lee bothered by injuries, Boston's 7�-game lead over the Yankees and Brewers seemed reasonably secure. "If they don't go into a slump," said New York's Graig Nettles, "there's no way we can catch them."
The Yanks (3-2) appear to have righted the ship a trifle too late. Catfish Hunter continued his amazing comeback with a route-going six-hitter against California. The 6-2 win gave Hunter (8-4) a 5-0 record and an ERA of 1.46 for the month of August. Ron Guidry, whose only real competition for the Cy Young award could come from Eckersley, beat Oakland 7-1 to go 18-2. The game was close until Reggie Jackson lined a grand-slam home run that hit the rightfield foul pole at Yankee Stadium. However, having been relegated to the seventh spot in the batting order, Reggie was hardly elated. "People make a fool out of me," he said. "I like New York and the people, but I'm projected as a bad fella. It's hell."
By winning 10 of 11 games the Brewers (5-2) had cut the Red Sox lead to six games at one point last week, but the Milwaukee pitchers gave up nine walks in a 9-8 loss to Cleveland, and staff ace Mike Caldwell (16-8) was knocked around in a 6-3 defeat by Detroit.
The Tigers' Ron LeFlore broke Mitchell Page's one-year-old American League record for consecutive stolen bases when he swiped his 27th in a row without being thrown out. But when Toronto Catcher Rick Cerone cut him down trying for No. 28, Dodger Davey Lopes' major league mark of 38 straight thefts was safe. Besides his antics on the base paths, LeFlore had a dozen hits for the Tigers (4-4) and helped beat Milwaukee 6-3 with a three-run homer.
A visit to Oakland in August can be very healthful. At least it was for the Orioles (5-1), who came to town on a four-game losing streak and left with a three-game winning streak. The outcome of the series had less to do with the cool Bay Area breezes than with the general ineptitude of the A's. The Orioles have now won 12 in a row at Oakland Coliseum.
The Indians (3-4) won back-to-back games for the first time in more than three weeks, edging Milwaukee 9-8 on Andre Thornton's 11th-inning homer and the White Sox 2-1. Seventeen of the Tribe's last 27 games have been decided by one run, with Cleveland winning only five of them.
BOS 80-47 NY 72-54 MIL 73-55 DET 71-57 BALT 69-58 CLEV 56-72 TOR 53-77
The squabbling Dodgers (page 24) came from behind twice to defeat Philadelphia and retain their one-game lead in the West, but San Francisco (4-2) scarcely missed a beat behind them. The Giants swept a three-game series from New York, including a 2-1 decision that was their 35th one-run victory this season. The major league record is 41, shared by Cincinnati and, of all people, the 1969 Mets. Jack Clark, now second in the league in hitting at .311, was 8 for 13 against New York and at one point had strung together five consecutive games with at least two hits in each.