Hal McRae hit two home runs and drove in four runs, leading the Royals to a 7-3 win over Texas on a Friday night at Royals Stadium.
McRae got the Royals on the board in the first inning with a one-out solo shot off Rangers starter Ed Figueroa. George Brett followed with another home run for a quick 2-0 lead.
Then McRae went deep again in the fifth. This one, his 11th of the year, was another solo home run.
Al Oliver answered that with a solo home run of his own in the sixth. That one, off Royals starter Dennis Leonard, was only the second hit of the game for the Rangers.
Kansas City opened up a more comfortable lead in the seventh. Frank White and U L Washington started the inning with singles. After Willie Wilson grounded into a forceout at second, reliever Bob Babcock took over for Figueroa. Wilson stole second before McRae hit a sacrifice fly. Sparky Lyle replaced Babcock and got Brett to hit a grounder that should have been the third out. But second baseman Bump Wills booted the ball, Brett was safe, and Wilson scored on the play to increase KC’s lead to 5-1.
Two more runs in the eighth put the game away for the Royals. With one out, Amos Otis reached on a bunt single. Clint Hurdle followed with a single. Washington singled with two outs to drive in Otis. Wilson reached on an infield single to load the bases, and McRae reached on another infield single to drive in his fourth run, giving him 66 for the season.
Leonard finally weakened in the ninth after holding Texas to four hits and three walks over the first eight innings. With one out, Leonard walked Johnny Grubb. Jim Sundberg drove him in with a double. Leonard struck out pinch-hitter Jim Norris, but Mickey Rivers singled to drive in Sundberg. The Royals turned to closer Dan Quisenberry, even though this was not yet a save situation. Quisenberry got Wills to ground out, sealing Leonard’s 16th win of the year.
The victory lifted the Royals to 84-45. With second-place Oakland losing, the Royals now held a 19-game lead in the AL West. Their magic number to clinch the division title stood at 15.
Before the game, the Royals made a couple of roster moves. They added infielder Onix Concepcion and pitcher Ken Brett to the roster from Class AAA Omaha, and waived outfielder Rusty Torres and pitcher Steve Busby. Kansas City was looking to bolster their left-handed relief pitching for the postseason with the elder Brett, who was now playing for the 10th different team of his major-league career. For Busby, the release was the end of a long comeback trail from rotator cuff surgery in 1976. The two-time All-Star had thrown two no-hitters and won 56 games during the 1973-1975 seasons before his injury. Although he would join the Cardinals for spring training in 1981, he would not appear in another major-league game.
George Brett watch: 2-5 with the home run (number 17 on the season) and a double (his 30th of the year). Season stats: .404/.465/.675
1980 baseball news: Speaking of the Cardinals, the team moved former Royals manager Whitey Herzog into a general manager role after just 73 games as the team’s manager. The Cardinals had recently fired general manager John Claiborne and Herzog had expressed concern about who his new boss might be. So owner Gussie Busch asked Herzog to take over rebuilding a franchise that had not reached the postseason since 1968. Coach Red Schoendienst was named interim manager for the rest of the season. While Herzog promised to look for the best fit as field manager, ultimately he would decide to fill both roles in the 1981 season.
Today’s birthdays: Ryan Shealy (1979), Eduardo Villacis (1979)