Two weeks ago BOSTON (5-1) star Carl Yastrzemski visited a TV station to see if a close look at reruns of his 1967 hitting would help break a slump. Since then, Yaz, who hit .333 last week, has raised his season's average 67 points and moved into fourth in the batting race. That was enough to make a believer of benched First Baseman George Scott, who was averaging .111. He watched a few replays of his own '67 form and then promptly took off on a spree (.375 BA for the week) which helped the Red Sox run up seven straight wins and jump from sixth to fourth. CHICAGO (5-1) showed signs of last year's pennant-contending form, too. Starter Joe Horlen won his third straight and Tommy John his fourth, with Wilbur Wood and Hoyt Wilhelm also winning once each on strong relief performances. The Indians' Luis Tiant had his shutout streak stopped at four, but CLEVELAND (4-2) quickly found a new hero in Stan Williams, who blanked the Orioles on two hits. DETROIT (4-2) got few hits (.251 team BA for the week) but used them wisely. Willie Horton knocked two homers to win one game, Jim Northrup belted a ninth-inning grand slam to take another and Gates Brown pinch-hit a single in the eighth to win a third. Slumping Rick Reichardt (.250 BA) joined this year's parade of disappointed hitters who have sought help from the eye doctor. The CALIFORNIA (2-2) slugger ordered new glasses and, as soon as he became accustomed to them, collected two hits which figured in both runs of a 2-1 Angels victory. BALTIMORE (2-4) twice wasted five-hit pitching and dropped to third. The fall could have been worse, but Boog Powell and Curt Motton slugged two three-run homers each in the wins. MINNESOTA (2-2) was rained out three times and probably wished it had happened even more often. The Twins blew a five-run lead in one loss and failed to support Dave Boswell's five-hit pitching in another. WASHINGTON'S (2-5) hitters scored 27 runs but that was not enough to balance out the Senators' shaky pitching, which gave up 35 runs and twice failed to hold early leads. Heavy hitting by Roy White (.400 BA for the week) and Andy Kosco (10 RBIs) could not keep NEW YORK (1-4) from dropping into the cellar. The Yanks lost one game in which they had a six-run lead and another when Tom Tresh committed three errors in one inning. OAKLAND (1-5) had only one strong pitching performance all week, and that came from Jim Nash, who pitched a 10-inning three-hitter and still lost, 1-0.
Standings: Det 22-12, Clev 20-14, Balt 18-16, Bos 18-16, Minn 18-16, Chi 15-17, Cal 16-19, Oak 15-20, Wash 15-20, NY 14-21
May 26, 1968
With slugging Third Baseman Jim Ray Hart out with an injury, SAN FRANCISCO (5-2) Manager Herman Franks was forced to put rookie Frank Johnson into the starting lineup. Johnson made the best of his chance, using his first big league homer to gain the victory that started his team on a four-game win streak. Those victories helped move the Giants into a close battle for the league lead with the slumping Cards. Stepping into a challenging position right up with the two leaders, ATLANTA (5-1) again relied on sharp pitching, particularly by rookie Ron Reed, who ran his record to 5-0 with two complete game wins, and Phil Niekro, who threw a three-hitter. CINCINNATI'S (4-2) Vada Pinson hit .400 for the week, broke one Reds' hitting record and tied another with the 319th double and 1,784th hit of his career, sparking the Reds on an advance from sixth to fifth. After starting the week with two losses, PHILADELPHIA (3-2) turned on the Cards and took three in a row from the league leaders. Woody Fryman put the Phils on the winning track with a 1-0, five-hit victory. In 1967 CHICAGO (5-3) was shut out only six times, a figure the Cubs have already topped this season after three times failing to score in games last week. The main culprits were Lou Johnson and Adolfo Phillips, who combined to go 0-43 at the plate and were out of the starting lineup the day the Cubs broke their slump with 10 runs against the Giants, NEW YORK (3-4), with slugger Ron Swoboda in a nose dive (.148 BA for the week), could score only 13 runs, but the Mets' pitching was strong enough to lift the club from the cellar. Don Drysdale found the secret of winning for LOS ANGELES (3-5). The big righthander finally managed to even his season's record at 3-3 by pitching two 1-0 shutouts and allowing only seven hits in 18 innings, ST. LOUIS (2-4) scored seven runs and batted .205 in a costly slump that chopped the Cards' league lead to one game after they began the week by opening up a four-game edge. The Pirates, except for Matty Alou's .421 BA for the week, were slumping, too, and for them it was even more costly. PITTSBURGH (1-5) scored 11 runs all week and dropped six places in the standings to eighth. HOUSTON (2-5) found life on the road miserable, as usual. The Astros dropped back to 10th after three consecutive losses in Candlestick Park, where they have a 3-32 record since the 1964 season.
Standings: StL 20-14, SF 20-16, Atl 20-16, Phil 17-16, Cin 18-17, Chi 19-19, LA 17-20, Pitt 15-18, NY 15-20, Hou 15-20
With the combined average for American League hitters down to .223, it was no wonder they were all bug-eyed last week at the feats of the Senators' Frank Howard. The 6'7", 260-pound Howard had 10 homers and 17 RBIs in a six-game hitting binge that matched his Bunyanesque size and provoked some awestruck comments like these from the Detroit Tigers. Pitcher Joe Sparma, who gave up one of Howard's homers, said, "He always was good for 30 home runs anyway, but this year he's clobbering my best pitches. I think he'll hit 70." "No," contradicted Outfielder Jim Northrup, "he'll hit 75." These startling predictions were made for a batter whose lifetime average is .274, who has never hit more than 37 home runs in one season and who has not led any league in anything since he left the Class-B Green Bay Bluejays in 1958. But in 1968 Howard has already built big leads in the three major hitting categories with a .347 average, 17 homers and 34 runs driven in. The Senators' slugger was not visibly impressed by his own deeds. "All I'm trying to do is get three good cuts each time up. I haven't changed my swing, and I don't kid myself—I'm a streak hitter and I'm hot." Last week Howard was so hot he broke records in bunches, tying the mark for most homers in four games, then setting new ones for five and six games. All that slugging, which included one drive which went over the 82-foot-high left-field roof in Detroit, also put him in range of Rudy York's record of 18 homers in a month. Howard already had 13 for May with 12 games remaining. And, it might not stop there. He was 13 games ahead of Roger Maris' record pace the year he hit 61.