Who says there are no new strategies left in baseball? Certainly not Manager Earl Weaver of the Orioles (6-2). Baltimore's announced designated hitter for Thursday's game in Toronto was No. 23 on your scorecard, and hours later, when the game was over, there was old No. 23 sitting on a stool in front of his locker with a bucket over his head, ready to answer reporters' questions. But wait! The bucket was empty, the uniform stuffed. In fact, the real No. 23, Pitcher Tippy Martinez, was in Pueblo, Colo. visiting relatives. The previous night another starting DH, Pitcher Steve Stone, was in Chicago while the game was in Detroit. It was old master Weaver up to new tricks, waiting to see who was pitching for the other guys before committing himself to a real DH, who would then appear as a pinch hitter for the announced DH. And it was legal, although the league will seek to have the "games played" removed from the Oriole pitchers' offensive stats.
The Orioles swept four from the Tigers, one thanks to Pat Kelly, who finally made good on an old request by his manager. Last year, when Kelly, a born-again Christian, told Weaver he was walking with God, Weaver replied, "I'd rather you walk with the bases loaded." On Wednesday, Kelly did just that, to get his fifth RBI of an 8-4 win. His first four came on a pinch grand slam.
Even hotter than the Orioles were the Yankees (6-1), who, in beating the Red Sox three straight, the Blue Jays twice and the Angels once, got spectacular defense: in initiating one second-to-home double play in Boston, Willie Randolph made the play of the year, decade or century, depending on who was describing it. They also had timely hitting; Bob Watson hit a grand slam against his former Red Sox mates, and Bucky added another dent, hitting .667. The starting pitching was solid, too, with Tommy John (21-7) and Rudy May each winning twice. And the relieving was nothing short of superb. Rich Gossage, who had had just three days off in a nine-day span, got four saves and gave up one hit while striking out six in five innings.
Only the Yankees' owner failed to show class. After New York lost 6-4 to the Blue Jays (4-4), George Steinbrenner told League President Lee MacPhail that he hoped the Jays would also use their best pitchers against the Orioles, who were following the Yankees into Toronto. "Are they supposed to pitch with just two days' rest?" Manager Bobby Mattick asked angrily. No matter, Toronto's third-best pitcher, Joey McLaughlin, beat Baltimore 7-5 to give the Blue Jays their most season wins, 60, in their five-year history.
"The last three days have been as dull as you're going to see," lamented Detroit (2-5) skipper Sparky Anderson after his team lost to Minnesota 3-1. Not quite. The Tigers were even more soporific while losing their next four games—all to Baltimore—to extend their losing streak to six. By week's end Detroit was able to win twice—the second a 7-4, 13-inning victory—over Cleveland (1-5). The Indians, who just three weeks ago had closed to within 9½ games of first place, finished the week 18 behind.
NY 90-52 BALT 86-56 BOS 75-64 MIL 76-67 DET 73-68 CLEV 71-69 TOR 60-82
"When a team loses tour out of six, they say it's a slump," said Manager Jim Frey of Kansas City (2-5). "If it's a team that's challenging for the lead, they say you're trying too hard. When you have a big lead and do the same thing, it's a letdown." Whatever one calls it, the Royals were doing it, and in the process the Yankees passed K.C. and became baseball's winningest team. And baseball's best hitter had to sit and watch. George Brett, who had injured his right hand the previous Saturday, missed the entire week. But still, the Royals' magic number was down to four. The bright spots: Willie Wilson became the first player in the majors to get 200 hits; Willie Aikens went 12 for 28 (.429), scored seven runs, drove in 11 and had four homers; and Dennis Leonard won his 17th and 18th games.
Brett's replacement at third was Jamie Quirk. Oakland (5-1) Manager Billy Martin wasn't impressed. "I don't know what he is," said Martin, "but he ain't no third baseman." The A's got credit for five bunt singles in a 9-5 victory over the Royals, but two of them were misplayed into hits by Quirk. Meanwhile Martin was mightily impressed by his players. "Our guys are playing like the World Series is around the corner," he said after Oakland had beaten the Royals and Rangers twice each and the Orioles once. In winning his 16th, Rick Langford pitched his 22nd straight complete game; Mike Norris raised his record to 19-8 while lowering his league-leading ERA to 2.27; Mitchell Page hit four home runs, giving him 10 in a 19-game stretch; and Rickey Henderson stole his 79th base, a team record. The A's one loss was to Texas (2-4), and to righthander John Butcher, who learned just hours before the game that he would be making his major league debut in place of suspended Ferguson Jenkins. Butcher, 23, held the A's to two runs on six hits. Two nights later Mickey Rivers had his club-record hitting streak stopped at 24 by Norris.