In BOSTON (8-0), Fenway Park's short left-field wall is supposed to be a graveyard for lefthanders, but Red Sox lefties Dick Ellsworth, Sparky Lyle and Juan Pizzaro would give you an argument. The three led the Sox back into the first division by amassing five victories, all at Fenway. Ellsworth won twice as a starter while Relievers Lyle and Pizzaro took the other three with 15‚Öì scoreless innings in which they allowed only three hits. DETROIT (7-1) clouted 18 homers, including five by All-Star Catcher Bill Freehan, and Denny McLain won his 15th and 16th games as the Tigers opened up the biggest midseason lead in the league since the Yankees of 1958. CLEVELAND (5-3), which already has the best pitching in baseball, has come up with another stopper in rookie Vicente Romo. Romo has not given up a run since joining the Indians in June, and last week he won his first big-league game with five innings of two-hit relief. Led by Dave Leonhard's three-hitter, BALTIMORE'S (5-3) pitchers seven times held opponents to five or fewer hits, but they could not stop the Orioles from falling 10½ games behind Detroit, as the hitters averaged just .210. Ed Stroud's .625 average and Mike Epstein's three-run pinch homer paced WASHINGTON (3-3) to its best week in a month. Bobby Cox and Roy White used that old Yankee weapon, the clutch, late-inning homer, to help NEW YORK'S (3-4) Mel Stottlemyre pick up two wins. With the White Sox still firmly locked in ninth, it is open season in CHICAGO (3-4) on Eddie Stanky. Wrote one reporter: "If there is one man to blame for the helpless position in which the White Sox find themselves, that man is the manager, Eddie Stanky." One of CALIFORNIA'S (2-6) long suits was supposed to be its relief pitching, but it has turned out to be the Angels' weakest spot. After the bullpen staff allowed 25 runs in 24‚Öî innings last week there was not a reliever with an ERA better than 3.90. With MINNESOTA (1-7) skidding again, Twin Manager Cal Ermer benched All-Stars Harmon Killebrew and Rod Carew in favor of Jack Hernandez and Rich Reese. The nonstars each collected a pair of hits and sparked a four-run rally to give their team its only win. OAKLAND (1-7) fell out of the first division as the hitters slumped to .200 and the pitchers allowed 4.9 runs a game.
Standings: Det 55-28, Clev 47-39, Balt 43-37, Bos 42-38, Minn 39-42, Oak 39-43, Ca 39-43, NY 36-43, Chi 34-44, Wash 30-47
July 14, 1968
A wild pitch that allowed the Dodgers a run cost Bob Gibson his chance at Don Drysdale's records for consecutive shutouts and scoreless innings, but that was just about the only mistake ST. LOUIS (7-0) made all week. Led by Gibson's two wins, including another shutout in the game after his streak was stopped, the Cards outscored their opponents 24-10 and opened a lead of 10 games, just half a game short of their 1967 pennant-winning margin. When Ted Abernathy joined CINCINNATI (5-2), he told Manager Dave Bristol, "I've got to pitch often." With the Reds matching their best week of the season, Abernathy was doing just that. He appeared in all of the games, won two of them and ran off 11‚Öì innings without giving up an earned run. Infielder Felix Millan, one of two ATLANTA (4-4) regulars hitting over .300, returned to the lineup after a two-week absence and promptly lifted his slumping team back from fourth to second with four hits, including a game-winning double, in a Braves' sweep of a doubleheader. PITTSBURGH (4-5), behind Bob Veale's two-hitter, moved briefly into second, but could not hold it when spot Starters Luke Walker and Tom Sisk were bombed in both games of a doubleheader with CHICAGO (6-4). The Cubs scored plenty of runs (46), but should have had more. In one loss they left five men stranded on third, a display of nonhitting in the clutch that prompted Manager Leo Durocher to order $10 fines for batters who fail to drive runners in from third with less than two out. PHILADELPHIA'S (5-4) regulars at shortstop have averaged .226 since 1963. Now Roberto Pena, who raised his season's average to .309 with a .385 week, is offering a pleasant change, NEW YORK'S (3-5) four young starters all lost in the same week for the first time, so veterans Al Jackson and Don Cardwell moved in to prevent a Met collapse by winning their second and third games respectively. With the exception of Juan Marichal's 15th win, it was a dismal week for SAN FRANCISCO (2-5). The Giants slipped from third to fourth as the heart of the batting order—Willie Mays, Willie McCovey and Jim Hart—averaged just .246. HOUSTON (3-5) used pitching—Denny Lemaster's four-hitter—to win one game, and hitting—16 hits and 13 runs—to take another, but saw precious little of either for the rest of the week as the Astros were outscored 26-14 in their losses, LOS ANGELES' (1-6) hitting was 29 points higher than its season's mark of .225, but that was no help as the Dodgers left 55 men on base and averaged only 2.1 runs while losing five games by two or fewer runs.
Standings: StL 52-30 Cin 42-39, Atl 43-40, SF 42-42, Pitt 40-41, Phil 38-40, LA 41-44, NY 39-43, Chi 39-45, Hou 35-48
Cleveland's Luis Tiant used to have a problem with what ballplayers call "lollipops"—those soft pitches batters find so sweet to hit. In four major league seasons, Tiant, who looks like Brooklyn's Don Newcombe and can throw just as fast as Newk ever did, strayed from his hard pitches often enough to keep him from winning more than 12 games. This year is different, and everything the 5'11", 194-pound Cuban throws at hitters is sour. Tiant has already won 14 games, pitched a league-leading seven shutouts and run up the league's best ERA of 1.24. Although his greater reliance on his zinging, rising fastball has been mostly responsible for his success, Tiant, who has always had a varied repertoire of deliveries, has helped himself by adding a new touch to his style. The cigar-chomping 27-year-old is using a copy of Satchel Paige's "hesitation pitch" that twists his body away from the plate and leaves his face looking skyward just before he throws. This delivery hides the ball from the batter until the instant it is released and has a psychological effect as well. Says one outfielder, "It has to be disturbing. Luis seems to be looking at the moon, and all of a sudden the pitch is by you." In the past Tiant frequently tired toward the end of games. He now runs laps in the outfield on off days to build up his endurance. Last week, to show that he has given up his bad habit of throwing late-inning sucker pitches, he fanned three in the 10th as he shut out the Twins, striking out 19 in all. Added to 13 strikeouts in his previous win, he set the major league record for strikeouts in two consecutive games with 32 and the nine strikeouts in the game before that tied him at 41 with Sandy Koufax for three games.