In their first year under manager Billy Martin, the Oakland A’s had a new emphasis on aggressive baserunning. Of course, having a full season of Rickey Henderson helped, but the A’s would ultimately go from 104 steals in 1979 to 175 in 1980. This new emphasis was apparent on a Wednesday afternoon at Oakland Coliseum, as the Athletics stole seven bases, including home twice, in a 6-3 win over the Royals.
Kansas City actually held a 2-0 lead after the top of the first, as the first four Royals collected singles off A’s starter Rick Langford. Willie Wilson, Frank White, George Brett, and Darrell Porter all reached safely to start the game, with Brett and Porter picking up RBIs.
But Oakland came back with four runs in the bottom of the inning. Royals starter Rich Gale got Henderson out to start the inning, but Dwayne Murphy and Mitchell Page followed with singles. The two pulled off a double steal, with Page taking off for second and Murphy waiting for catcher John Wathan to throw to second before heading home. Even worse for the Royals, Wathan’s throw sailed into center field, allowing Page to reach third. Then he scored on a passed ball. Apparently rattled, Gale walked Wayne Gross, who took second on a wild pitch and third on a fly ball. Jeff Newman then drew a walk, and the A’s pulled off another double steal, this one with some trickery. Newman started for second, then pretended to slip. Meanwhile, Gross inched down the third-base line. When Wathan threw to first, Gross took off for home and beat the return throw. Newman was never tagged and reached second safely, then scored on a Mickey Klutts single. That was it for Gale, as reliever Marty Pattin took over and got the final out of the inning.
However, the A’s added two runs off Pattin in the second, and possibly could have had more except for Henderson being caught stealing after a leadoff walk. A walk to Murphy and singles by Page, Gross, and Tony Armas produced two runs for a 6-2 Oakland advantage. Pattin did pitch the rest of the game, allowing only those two runs in 7 ⅓ innings.
Langford held the Royals to five hits and two walks the rest of the way. Kansas City was able to add one more run in the fifth, as Wilson led off with a double and ultimately scored on Brett’s groundout. But Langford retired 12 of the next 13 hitters after Wilson’s double, and worked around two singles in the ninth to finish off the Royals.
The loss dropped the Royals to 25-18 and meant Oakland took two of the three games in the series. It was Kansas City’s first series loss since losing two of three in Chicago on May 6-8. The Royals maintained their first place standing in the AL West, 1.5 games ahead of Chicago.
George Brett watch: 1-4 with 2 RBI. Season stats: .280/.362/.504
Box score and play-by-play: https://www.baseball-reference.com/boxes/OAK/OAK198005280.shtml
Today’s birthdays: Kirk Gibson (1957), Steve Jeltz (1959), Mike DiFelice (1969)