The Royals moved to the cusp of a 100-win season with a doubleheader sweep of the California Angels by scores of 6-3 and 6-2 on Sunday afternoon at Anaheim Stadium.
The first game was marred by a brawl in the eighth inning as the Royals were scoring three runs to put the game away. Angels starter Ken Brett got two outs to start the inning, looking to keep the score at 3-1. But Hal McRae and Cookie Rojas both singled.
Al Cowens doubled, scoring McRae with Rojas stopping at third. Angels manager Dave Garcia ordered Brett to intentionally walk Amos Otis, who, for whatever reason, began yelling at Brett to challenge him. Brett responded with a pitch behind Otis’ head. As the ball bounced off the backstop, Brett charged in and gave Rojas a shoulder block, then charged at Otis. Rojas and Cowens both scored on the play, the benches emptied, and a few punches were thrown. Brett was ejected, although Otis got to stay in the game. He drew a walk and stole second but was stranded there, as the inning ended with the Royals ahead, 6-1.
“Brett lost his cool, I guess,” Otis said. “I could tell he was throwing at me. It was the hardest ball he’s thrown in 10 years. I must have got the best of him.”
Brett wasn’t talking after the game, but Angels catcher Ike Hampton was.
“If Otis has any sense at all, he knows it wasn’t our decision,” Hampton said. “It was our manager’s decision. That’s why we had to do it. It was totally unnecessary for Otis to get on him. He was swearing at him and calling him things like a crybaby and a chicken.”
Of course, one Royals player had a unique perspective. Third baseman George Brett, Ken’s younger brother, said, “Amos called my brother a name he doesn’t like to be called. When I saw Amos talking, I said I don’t think this is going to go over big. My brother doesn’t like to be made a fool of. Losing is bad enough. He doesn’t want it rubbed in his face.”
Royals starter Paul Splittorff pitched six solid innings, holding the Angels to three hits and a walk. The first two California hitters reached base as Gil Flores doubled and Jerry Remy singled, but Remy got thrown out trying to reach second on a pitch that bounced away from catcher John Wathan, and the Angels only got one run.
Kansas City got solo home runs from Freddie Patek in the third and McRae in the fourth to take the lead. Wathan started the fifth with a triple and scored on Frank White’s single to push the lead to 3-1.
In the second game, the Royals scored four runs in the seventh to break a 2-2 tie. After Bob Heise led off with a single, Angels starter Nolan Ryan committed a throwing error on Willie Wilson’s bunt, leaving runners at first and third. Dave LaRoche replaced Ryan on the mound, drawing boos from the crowd of 22,943 who were hoping to see Ryan pick up his 20th win. Cowens greeted LaRoche with a two-run triple, a ball that right fielder Don Baylor lost in the sun, to give the Royals a 4-2 lead. Dave Nelson drew a walk. Clint Hurdle drove in another run with a single. LaRoche issued an intentional walk to McRae, this one thankfully without incident. John Mayberry grounded into a forceout at home, but Darrell Porter hit a sacrifice fly for a 6-2 lead.
Royals starter Marty Pattin pitched a complete game, scattering eight hits. He struck out six and didn’t walk anyone. California got their first run on Baylor’s home run in the fourth and scored again when Tony Solaita homered in the sixth.
Kansas City scored one run in the first, as Tom Poquette singled and Brett doubled. They scored again when Wilson and Poquette started the third with singles. After Ryan intentionally walked Brett, Hurdle’s grounder brought Wilson home.
The two wins gave the Royals eight in a row and a 99-55 record. Kansas City would have eight more chances to pick up their 100th win, which would be a first for the franchise. The Royals, who had already wrapped up the division, held a 10.5-game lead in the AL West.
Box score and play-by-play (first game):
Box score and play-by-play (second game):
Today’s birthday: Ray Holbert (1970)