During its month-long May slump WASHINGTON (5-1) sent young slugger Mike Epstein, who was averaging just .099, down to Buffalo to work on his hitting. After 10 days on the farm, where he batted .400 with five homers, Epstein was recalled last week and his return was just what the Senators needed. The first baseman's two-run homer won his first game back in the majors and set the Senators off on their best week since April. CLEVELAND'S (5-2) pitching was once again excellent as the Indians allowed only 12 runs all week. Luis Tiant firmly established himself as the ace of that select staff by winning his eighth and ninth of the season. Norm Cash, who heard nothing but boos all last year and during the early weeks of this season in DETROIT (5-3), finally was cheered as he hit a game-winning three-run homer one night and added two more the next to help the Tigers build a 3½-game lead. MINNESOTA (4-3) relied heavily on its star relievers, Ron Perranoski and Al Worthington. Perranoski collected his fifth victory and Worthington scored two more saves to bring his league-leading total to 12. With Oriole hitters averaging just .188 for the week, BALTIMORE (3-4) won only the games in which Jim Hardin, who is now 7-2 for the year, and Dave McNally held the opposition to one run or less. Even with 1967 ace Jim Lonborg making two more scoreless relief appearances, BOSTON'S (3-4) chances for a successful league title defense were fading fast. The Red Sox finished the week 8½ games from the lead and only a half game out of the second division. CALIFORNIA'S (3-5) Jim Fregosi is one hitter who believes hard work will overcome the pitchers' big advantage this year. The Angels' shortstop felt a slump coming on, took three strenuous hours of overtime batting practice and immediately came up with an eight-game hitting streak and a .419 BA for the week, NEW YORK (4-4) was shut out twice, but in the rest of its games enjoyed solid hitting. As Roy White led the way with a .345 BA, the Yanks scored 29 runs to tie their most productive week of the season. Young Outfielder Rick Monday of OAKLAND (2-4) averaged .370 and joined a fast disappearing breed by becoming one of only three .300 hitters in the league. As CHICAGO (1-5) fell back into the cellar, the blame for the decline was easy to place—White Sox batters scored an average of just 1.6 runs in a week when the team played five one-run games and lost them all.
Standings: Det 35-20, Clev 32-24, Balt 30-24, Minn 28-27, Bos 26-28, Oak 25-28, NY 26-30, Wash 24-30, Cal 25-32, Chi 22-30
June 16, 1968
St. Louis' (6-2) hitters suddenly began looking like the sluggers of 1967 as they averaged .290 and scored over five runs a game. Led by Curt Flood (.371 for the week) and Orlando Cepeda (.375), the Cards opened up a two-game lead. In their most muscular display, they scored 10 runs after two were out in one inning against the Reds to turn what looked like an 8-0 loss into a startling 10-8 win. Although Don Drysdale was the main attraction (page 20), Claude Osteen was another big winner for LOS ANGELES (7-0). The lefthander threw two shutouts and, along with hitters Tom Haller (.467 for the week) and Wes Parker (.378), was the brightest star in a Dodger surge from seventh to second, NEW YORK (4-2), which has a 148-366 road record since 1962, showed signs of changing that dismal pattern. The Mets combined the tight pitching of their young staff with the hitting of Jerry Grote (.368 for the week) and Ed Charles (.316) to win four of six games away from home. Even reliable Henry Aaron has not been hitting (.253 for the year), so ATLANTA (3-3) has been forced to rely on its pitchers. With Ron Reed slumping and last year's ERA champ Phil Niekro bombed for seven runs in one game, veteran Ken Johnson moved in and took up the slack with two victories. After starting the week with three wins to move into second PHILADELPHIA (3-4) went into a four-game nose dive when its pitching allowed 18 funs and fell back to sixth. CINCINNATI (4-3) got a boost when Gary Nolan, the 1967 rookie star who came up with a sore shoulder this spring, threw a three-hit shutout in his second start since returning from the minors, SAN FRANCISCO (3-4), which lost six of its last 10 games, had even worse problems in the front office. The Giants played one game before 3,018, the smallest crowd ever at Candlestick Park, then became involved in a hassle with the Mets over whether they should cancel lucrative Bat Day in memory of Senator Kennedy. The game was postponed, but the Giants made it clear that they would have preferred to play it. With Jim Bunning and Bob Veale on losing streaks, PITTSBURGH (2-5) turned to Steve Blass, who pitched his first complete game of the year, and rookie Bob Moose for its only victories. HOUSTON (1-6) was shut out twice and scored only six runs in its six defeats as the Astros fell back into the cellar. CHICAGO (1-5) was also shut out twice, but the real villains in the Cubs' drop from fourth to seventh were the pitchers, who averaged less than three innings apiece.
Standings: StL 33-23, LA 32-26, Atl 29-25, SF 30-26, Cin 27-26, Phil 25-25, Chi 26-28, NY 24-29, Pitt 21-29, Hou 22-32
In early May a Cincinnati reporter wrote that the Giants' Juan Marichal, who then had a 4-2 record and a poor 3.90 ERA, was finished. When asked about it, San Francisco's righthander smiled and replied, "We'll see about that in October." Marshal's timing was way off. It is only the beginning of June, but already, as a horde of other pitchers have grabbed the headlines with shutouts and astonishingly low ERAs (page 20), the big Dominican quietly has become the major league's first 10-game winner. In winning six in a row to run his record to 10-2, Marichal lowered his earned run average by more than a run with the same combination of variety and control that has made him a 20-game winner in four of the last five years. The $100,000-a-season ace has more pitches and deliveries than a carnival barker, and he hits the strike zone with every one of them. Over the past two weeks Marichal has won three games, once relying mainly on his screwball, another time on his fastball and a third time on a potpourri of curves, sliders, screwballs and fastballs. Despite the variety of his pitches he has walked just 14 men in 119‚Öî innings. "It's amazing," said the Braves' third baseman Clete Boyer, "but he always seems to be able to pick up the corner with a curve, even when the count's 3 and 0." Marichal's tight pitching has brought his record to a par with his 1966 year, when he enjoyed his best season ever with a 25-6 mark. He has done this while getting his rest on hotel floors—a bad back keeps him off beds—and catching his breath wherever he can—air conditioning and open windows both bother him. Now, if he should remain unhealthy through October....