For champions, 1959 has become a nightmare. First, the hopes of the Yankees went down the drain. Last week the Braves had a chance to stop their slide and failed.
When a pennant race, particularly such a hotly contested one as exists in the National League these days, reaches an advanced stage, it is almost too late to expect others to do your work for you. To win, a team must beat the other contenders itself. And this was the opportunity which Milwaukee faced: trailing the Giants by 3½ games and the Dodgers by one game, the Braves invited both teams into their parlor for five games in four days. A sweep would have sent the Braves surging to the top; even four victories would have knotted things up in a ball. But the Braves couldn't win even three.
In each series they started out well. They beat Los Angeles in the first game of a double-header behind Bob Buhl, making it seem easy, 8-1. But Johnny Podres' fine relief pitching stopped them in the second, 4-3, for Milwaukee's 19th one-run defeat of the year. The next day the Braves lost No. 20 when the Dodgers won 7-6 in 13 innings.
On Wednesday, Lew Burdette won his 17th game, a comfortable 5-2 victory over the Giants, and again Milwaukee hopes soared. But then Sam Jones outpitched Warren Spahn, Willie McCovey hit a home run and the Braves lost again, 5-3. They also lost Wes Covington, who injured an ankle, for the rest of the year.
After that, the Braves turned into tigers again, walloping the Cubs three straight. But the Giants were breezing past the Phillies, and Milwaukee found itself at week's end even further behind the Giants than before. The Braves are not going to win another pennant by beating the Cubs. It is the Giants and Dodgers they must beat, and last week they failed.