“This game makes no sense,” Dennis Leonard said to no one in particular. It was the top of the eighth, two out, none on, Boston leading, 3-1. “(John) Tudor has a five-hitter, I’ve got a 14-hitter, and I’ve got a chance to win this damn thing,” said Leonard. “I’ve always said this game was strange justice.”
“Justice,” Tudor said afterwards, “is making good pitches when you have to make them.”
What happened to Tudor right about the time justice entered the picture yesterday makes him sound like Rousseau.
Leonard had “scattered” 13 hits and gotten the final out with two on five times in the first six innings. Then Tudor, who for innings at a time didn’t allow what Kansas City manager Jim Frey termed “a good swing,” found out what it’s like when somebody jumps the median strip on Rte. 1. With two out, nobody on, Willie Aikens and Hal McRae hit back-to-back homers for the second straight day, and suddenly Tom Burgmeier was pitching in a 3-3 tie. Then in the ninth, with two out and nobody on, Burgmeier allowed four straight hits, and the Royals left town with a 5-4 victory, the second time they’ve won back- to-back games this season. “When you win 17-hitters,” said Leonard, who got a final inning’s help from Dan Quisenberry, “things can’t be all bad.”
If Saturday was Excedrin Headache No. 43, this was No. 37 - although, if you figure walks and errors into the total-base count, the Red Sox may have had 17 hits, but the Royals had 22 total bases, Boston 21. Obscured by the squandering of a 3-1 lead with four outs to go were Carney (.359) Lansford’s five hits, the three each by Jerry (.358) Remy and Jim Rice and Tudor’s 7 2/3 strong innings. “It was unusual,” said Frey, “but then, this has been an unusual season.”
For five innings, Leonard was at the mercy of the court. “I thought I had pretty good stuff,” said the Royals’ $4.5-million man, “but the Red Sox obviously didn’t appreciate it.” Remy, Carl Yastrzemski and Rice singles produced a run in the first; Tony Perez then hit into a double play. Aikens made a good play to his right to start a 3-6-2 double play on slewfoot Rich Gedman in the midst of a four-hit, one-run second. Leonard got Stapleton (”I thought he always got a hit” - Frey) in the third and fifth with two on. “I kept thinking, What’s happening here?’ ” said Leonard. “Ten days ago in KC, I made one bad pitch (a home run to Dwight Evans) and lost, 3-1. (Today) I keep escaping, then about the sixth inning, I found my stuff.”
When Leonard again got Stapleton with Lansford at second in the bottom of the seventh, he had kept KC in this one by, as Frey said, “battling his tail off - if Stapleton gets a hit in any of those situations, he’s out of there.” Tudor, meanwhile, had been breezing. In one stretch, the only Boston starter to have pitched well every time out retired 10 in a row. The one run came in the second when Rick Miller lost David Chalk’s fly in the sun, and in long stretches, no Royal could even pull the ball on him.
“I started to get tired at the beginning of the seventh,” said Tudor. “I had lost my fastball, so I just tried to get my fastball down.” Ralph Houk was convinced he had enough to get through the eighth, so he stayed in, mainly because he is the one pitcher who has had a decent-to-good performance every time he’s gone to the mound.
In Minnesota Tuesday, Tudor had a 2-0 three-hitter in the seventh when he gave up a double and Ron Jackson’s game-tying homer. “He’s a young pitcher,” said Houk, “who has yet to learn how to finish games.” Aikens, who had three homers and five RBIs in his weekend stay, got a hanging slider with two out and none on in the eighth. His homer landed halfway up in Section 1. McRae got a fastball and drilled his into the center-field bleachers. 3-3. It was the third time in a week that Boston pitchers had given up back-to-back homers, and since Tuesday’s came in the 10th with two out, none on in Minnesota, this wasn’t the aggravation of the week.
Leonard got Evans to tap out with Remy (a double, his first extra-base hit) at second in the eighth. When Burgmeier stabbed David Chalk’s hopper and started a tough DP featuring Stapleton’s strong pivot, he appeared to be out of trouble. But pinch hitter Lee May singled. “I made four straight good pitches to Willie Wilson,” said Burgmeier. “He just pushed the last one into center.” Wilson’s blooper fell in, and after Burgy missed a couple of close pitches on U.L. Washington, the Royals’ underrated shortstop lined a single to center. Burgy hung a breaking ball to Aikens for another hit, and Bob Stanley came in for the last out.
Quisenberry, who tripled his save total in two days, finished the game, although Rice’s hustle double and Lansford’s fifth hit and second RBI forced him him to get Stapleton, making it four times Stape ended innings. “Saturday was a big thing for my confidence,” said The Quizz. “Now I’ve found the delivery in my flaw.” Ah, madness.
What seems so strange is that the Red Sox are 11-7 on the road and 5-9 in Fenway. “I’ve given up examining logic,” said Leonard. “I can go to bed (last night) thinking I pitched one helluva 15-hitter, even if I didn’t finish.”