The Royals closed out the regular season in style (and in less than two hours) with a 2-0 win over California on Sunday afternoon at Royals Stadium.
Royals starter Dennis Leonard reached the 20-win plateau (against 12 losses) by holding the Angels to six hits and a walk in a complete-game effort. Leonard struck out nine, giving him 244 for the year, and lowered his ERA to 3.04.
George Brett gave Leonard all the run support he needed with a first-inning home run off Angels starter Paul Hartzell. Brett’s solo shot was his 22nd round-tripper of the season, and he would finish one behind the team’s co-leaders, Al Cowens and John Mayberry.
Mayberry scored the second Kansas City run, as he led off the second with a double. After moving up to third on a grounder, he scored on an Amos Otis sacrifice fly.
California only had more than one runner on in one inning, the eighth, which was when they mounted their most serious scoring threat. With two outs, Carlos May and Thad Bosley singled. Leonard walked Jerry Remy to load the bases, but escaped by striking out Bobby Bonds to end the inning. Leonard retired the Angels in order in the ninth to end the game in one hour and 55 minutes.
After the game, Leonard’s manager and teammates campaigned for him to win the Cy Young award, as he was one of only three pitchers in the AL to win 20 games, joining Jim Palmer of Baltimore and Dave Goltz of Minnesota as the league leaders.
“He’d be a Cy Young winner if he had won in Oakland (on Sept. 27, a game the Royals lost 3-2 with the A’s scoring two unearned runs). He should still be, but he won’t. You just never get any recognition in Kansas City,” said manager Whitey Herzog.
“If he doesn’t win the Cy Young award, something is wrong,” added Brett. “How many others have won 20? Palmer? Goltzy shouldn’t get it because he’s not with a winner.”
With the win, the Royals finished the regular season with a 102-60 mark, still the best in team history and the best in baseball for the 1977 season (Philadelphia won 101 games, while the New York Yankees won 100). They finished eight games ahead of Texas in the AL West, with Chicago 12 games back, Minnesota 17.5, California 28, Seattle 38, and Oakland 38.5.
Box score and play-by-play:
Today’s birthday: Greg Pryor (1949)