In a season that had seen many historic moments, the Royals came within inches of adding one more on the final day. Instead, they had to settle for a 4-0 win over Minnesota in which the Twins were held to one hit.
Royals starter Paul Splittorff teamed up with starter Rich Gale, who was getting some work to keep sharp in case he was needed in the playoffs, on the one-hitter. There was no drama, as Minnesota third baseman John Castino singled in the first inning. However, Splittorff came within inches of catching the line drive or at least knocking it down, and Minnesota did not really come close to a hit the rest of the game.
Castino’s single followed a leadoff walk to Gary Ward, but after a bunt moved the runners up, Splittorff coaxed two ground balls out of the next two hitters to keep the Twins from scoring.
After a one-out error in the second, Splittorff retired 11 straight hitters before turning the game over to Gale following the fifth inning. The strong outing was a relief for the Royals, as Splittorff had recently tweaked his back while working around his house. The veteran lefthander had missed time earlier in the year following back spasms, so there was a bit of concern about his health. But he looked ready to take on the Yankees in this one.
Gale issued two walks as he pitched the last four innings, but his second strong outing of the week was also encouraging for the Royals. Gale had battled shoulder tendinitis for several weeks, but had still been awarded the fourth starter spot in the playoff rotation.
The Royals got all the offense they needed in the third inning. Facing Twins starter Darrell Jackson, Manny Castillo started the inning by reaching on an error. After a groundout, U L Washington drew a walk. Hal McRae continued his late-season hot streak with his 14th home run of the year (and third in three games), staking Kansas City to a 3-0 lead.
Kansas City’s final run came in the seventh. Darrell Porter led off with a walk. Dave Chalk doubled, advancing pinch-runner Jerry Terrell to third. With one out, Willie Wilson’s grounder to short brought in Terrell, although Chalk was thrown out at third on the play.
With the win, the Royals finished the season with a 97-65 mark, which is still the second-best record in franchise history. They took two of three games in the final regular-season series but finished the year with a 5-8 mark against the Twins. However, they did also finish with a 49-32 home record. Kansas City won the AL West by 14 games over Oakland, easily the biggest advantage in any division race.
George Brett watch: With nothing to play for and the American League batting title well in hand (and with enough plate appearances to qualify for the title), Brett got a well-deserved day off. It’s a good thing, too– a .389 or .391 average wouldn’t have quite the same ring to it. Final season stats: .390/.454/.664
Box score and play-by-play: https://www.baseball-reference.com/boxes/KCA/KCA198010050.shtml
1980 baseball news: The Los Angeles Dodgers kept their season alive for one more day, capping an incredible sweep of the Houston Astros with a 4-3 win. Ron Cey hit a two-run home run in the eighth to put the Dodgers ahead to stay. Houston had entered the weekend needing just one win for the first division title in franchise history; now they would need to win a one-game playoff in Los Angeles to advance to the postseason.
1980 sports news: The Chiefs picked up their first win of the season, surprising the Oakland Raiders with a 31-17 win in Oakland. Kansas City had managed just 50 total points in the first four games of the season but scored all 31 points in the first half of this one. The Chiefs’ defense helped out, returning two fumbles for touchdowns. They also intercepted Raiders quarterback Jim Plunkett five times.
Today’s birthdays: Onix Concepcion (1957), Terry Mathews (1964), Rey Sanchez (1967), Yamil Benitez (1972), Aaron Guiel (1972), Brett Laxton (1973), Felipe Paulino (1983)