John Mayberry had been in a slump. A very long slump, really, one that arguably stretched back to the beginning of the 1976 season. Following his 34 home runs and .291/.416/.547 line in 1975, the first baseman had a puzzling lack of power, hitting just .232/.322/.342 with 13 home runs in 1976. And through the end of May in 1977, he was hitting .211/.324/.329 with four homers.
When a hitter is struggling like that, sometimes a change in their stance helps. And it certainly did for Mayberry on this Wednesday night in Toronto, as he pounded three home runs to lead the Royals to an 11-3 win.
Mayberry explained after the game, “It’s more of an open stance. I’m closer to the plate and it allows me a more free-swinging style. Before, my hips were getting in the way and I wasn’t getting around on the ball.”
Manager Whitey Herzog gave Mayberry credit for working hard with the new stance, which the skipper (a career .257 hitter with 25 home runs) suggested the previous Thursday while the team was in Boston.
“I gave him 200 games to do it his way, so I thought it was time he should take a suggestion from me. He was very receptive to the idea and he’s hit about 500 balls in batting practice since then.”
Mayberry didn’t figure in the first two runs the Royals scored, which came in the second inning. With one out, Al Cowens tripled. Tom Poquette hit a grounder to first, where Doug Ault decided to throw behind Cowens. But third baseman Roy Howell couldn’t handle the throw. Cowens scored on the error, with Poquette taking second on the throw home. With two outs, Freddie Patek singled to score Poquette.
Toronto got one run back in the bottom of the inning, as Otto Velez tripled and scored on Sam Ewing’s groundout.
But the Blue Jays would get no closer. In the fourth, Amos Otis and Cowens both doubled for another run, and then the Royals blew the game open with five runs in the fifth. Frank White started the inning with a walk, before George Brett homered off Toronto starter Bill Singer. After Otis singled with one out, Jerry Johnson took over on the mound. Mayberry greeted him with his first homer of the night, followed by a Cowens single and Poquette RBI double.
Mayberry homered off reliever Mike Willis in the seventh to push the lead to 9-1, then capped the Royals’ scoring with a two-run shot off Tom Bruno in the ninth.
Royals starter Dennis Leonard enjoyed the run support, mowing down the Blue Jays lineup until Toronto scored two runs with two outs in the eighth inning. Larry Gura got the last four outs to finish off the win.
Mayberry wasn’t the only Royal to enjoy a banner night. Leonard struck out a career-high 10 batters. Cowens went 5-for-5, giving him eight hits in nine at-bats in the two game series and boosting his batting average by 31 points, to .306.
With the win, the Royals moved to 22-23 on the season. They jumped into a tie for fourth place with Texas and Oakland; all three teams were seven games out of first in the AL West.
Box score and play-by-play:
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