With ST. LOUIS (4-4) returning to Busch Stadium to open its last major home stand against the Giants, Manager Red Schoendienst said, "We'd like to sew up the pennant during this stretch. The home fans really deserve it." But second-place SAN FRANCISCO (5-4), its pennant chances reduced to a mathematical absurdity, gleefully ruined the homecoming, sweeping three straight from the defending champs as Juan Marichal gained his 25th win of the season and Frank Linzy came out of the bullpen to record two saves. With a converted third baseman pitching for PHILADELPHIA (5-3) and a converted pitcher playing third for LOS ANGELES (6-3), both teams enjoyed their best weeks since July. The Phillies' convert, righthander Jerry Johnson, defeated the Reds in his first major league complete-game win. For the Dodgers, Bill Sudakis, who had pitched in El Paso the day before he moved up to the majors, became the 36th man to play third since the team moved west in 1958. He gave promise—at least for now—of becoming the man who will solve the old Dodger dilemma, clouting a homer in his first game and averaging .364 for the week. PITTSBURGH'S (5-2) Willie Stargell, who enjoyed instant insight when he donned glasses earlier this year, suddenly went 1 for 25 at bat as his depth perception all but disappeared. Switching back to naked eyes, the Pirate slugger unloaded his 22nd homer of the year to account for a 3-2 win. ATLANTA (5-2) shifted Henry Aaron to first, making room in the outfield for rookie Mike Lum, who promptly responded with a two-run, game-winning homer. After CHICAGO (4-4) lost one game when the hitters twice failed to drive in runners from third with just one out, Manager Leo Durocher revamped his lineup in hopes of preventing similar collapses. Sadly, the hoped-for cure fizzled as the Cubs lost again. They left 12 runners stranded and failed to take advantage of a bases-loaded opportunity with the score tied in the eighth inning. After three unsuccessful tries, ace rookie lefthander Jerry Koosman of NEW YORK (2-5) gained his 17th victory to become the biggest winner in Mets' history. Opposing batters finally caught up with CINCINNATI'S (2-6) two most reliable pitchers, Relievers Clay Carroll and Ted Abernathy. They were rapped for four losses while allowing nine runs in 18 innings. HOUSTON (1-6), which was challenging for sixth just a week ago, scored only 14 runs, averaged just .206 and fell back to within one game of the cellar.
Standings: StL 90-55, SF 78-66, Cin 73-68, Chi 75-71, Atl 73-71, Pitt 70-73, Phil 67-76, Hou 65-79, NY 65-81, LA 64-80
September 15, 1968
"He's fantastic, he's the best, and No. 2 isn't even close," said Infielder Tom Tresh of NEW YORK (6-2) Manager Ralph Houk. With the Yankees the hottest team in the league over the last month it is easy to account for Tresh's enthusiasm. Most of the Yanks' success, however, can be credited to Houk's talented young pitching staff. Last week in a doubleheader baseball's lightest-hitting team (.211 season average) finally came to the hurlers' aid when it turned on the Senators with 26 runs and 27 hits to move into a tie for fifth. Denny McLain picked up two more victories for DETROIT (5-3) to become the first pitcher since the Phils' Robin Roberts in 1952 to win 28 games. With BOSTON'S (4-3) Carl Yastrzemski off on a .381 tear with three homers and National League castoff Ray Culp winning twice, the Red Sox maintained a solid hold on third place. Last year when Al Dark managed the Athletics, Blue Moon Odom felt he was not given a fair chance to pitch. Now the ace of the OAKLAND (5-3) staff, Odom was gloating about his sweet revenge last week as he shut out Dark's new team, CLEVELAND (3-4), for the third time in five starts this season. That loss stopped the Indians just when it looked like their hitting was coming on strong. In the three previous games they had rolled up a 20-9 scoring advantage over the Angels by bashing out 41 hits. WASHINGTON (3-6) almost moved out of the cellar with three consecutive wins over CHICAGO (4-5), but the White Sox staved off that threat with a three-game streak of their own. Two of the victories came in extra innings with Tommy McCraw winning one with a 14th-inning squeeze bunt and Buddy Bradford the other with an 11 thinning homer. A .500 week for BALTIMORE (4-4) probably cost Manager Earl Weaver his dream of a pennant for the Orioles, but that was not the only expense. During one loss, Weaver used some unkind words on Umpire Larry Napp and was fined approximately $100. MINNESOTA (3-4) may have come up with the pick of the crop of late-season rookies in Graig Nettles, a 24-year-old outfielder-third baseman who has led every minor league he has played in in homers. After five games with the Twins, Nettles averaged .333 with four homers and a double. Another rookie, this time in from the bullpen instead of up from the farm, gave CALIFORNIA (2-5) its only bright spot. The new pitcher is Andy Messersmith, who pitched a two-hit shutout in his first start.
Standings: Det 90-54, Balt 83-61, Bos 77-67, Clev 76-71, NY 73-70, Oak 74-71, Minn 69-75, Cal 63-82, Chi 61-84, Wash 56-87
As Baltimore lefthander Dave McNally was finishing his warm-ups to Catcher Andy Etchebarren one day during spring training this year, he jokingly yelled, "Short curve, Andy," and threw a ball that he had held slightly off center. He was astonished to hear Etchebarren call back, "Great slider, Dave." The Orioles' $80,000 bonus pitcher had had a slider once, but strangely he had lost it entirely six years earlier when he was playing at Elmira. Even though the abrupt disappearance of the pitch did not prevent McNally from moving up to the majors when he was just 20, it did stop him from winning more than 13 games in any of his five big-league seasons. "In all those years," said the 5'11", 195-pound Montanan, "I couldn't make the hitters swing at my curve because they knew I'd eventually pour my fastball in. Now I can keep them off balance with the slider." That is something of an understatement. Since the All-Star Game, McNally has started 15 times, has yet to lose and has set a team record of 12 straight wins, one of them a victory over Chicago last week which ran his season's mark to 20-8. If his teammates had averaged more than 1.4 runs a game in his eight losses over the first half of the season, McNally might be up with Detroit's Denny McLain challenging for 30 wins. During his streak, the Orioles have scored five runs a game and he has hardly hindered himself by hitting three home runs, one a grand slam. McNally is mystified by his batting outburst, but Manager Earl Weaver is not surprised at his pitching. "McNally," he says, "is the best lefty in the league. You look for him to win every time he goes out. He could win 20 every year."