Detroit (5-1) nailed down its first pennant since 1945 by playing last-inning clutch ball as it had all year (page 26). Joe Sparma, called on to start just before game time following an injury to Earl Wilson, tossed a five-hitter, and Don Wert, a .200 batter for the year, drove in the winning run with a ninth-inning single. The clincher was the Tigers' eighth consecutive win and they did not stop there. The new champs stormed on for three more victories to build the majors' longest winning streak of the season. Along the way Denny McLain achieved his 31st triumph by defeating NEW YORK (0-6). The Yanks' hopes for a third-place finish took a nose dive, but McLain still gave them something to lift their spirits by serving up a made-to-order, belt-high fastball to Mickey Mantle. The Yankee star did exactly what McLain seemingly intended when he hit the pitch for his 535th home run and moved into third place behind Babe Ruth and Willie Mays on the career home run list, BOSTON (5-1) took advantage of the Yanks' slump to regain a solid hold on third, and Carl Yastrzemski continued his effort to prevent the batting title from becoming an embarrassment. He averaged .400 for the week to increase his season's percentage to .303. Set for a dismal seventh-place finish, MINNESOTA (4-2) still managed to brighten things up by playing versatile Cesar Tovar in all nine positions in one game. CLEVELAND (1-2), with two rain-outs and two off days, could afford to spend all its aces at once. Manager Al Dark used Sonny Siebert, Sam McDowell and Luis Tiant against the Angels and just did eke out a 3-2 victory. Both OAKLAND (2-3) and BALTIMORE (3-3) had trouble scoring runs. With the pitchers putting together four straight complete games, the A's could easily have returned to the first division but did not when the batters thrice failed to push across more than a run. The Orioles were shut out two times and one of those games probably cost Jim Hardin, whose teammates have scored two or fewer runs in four of his last six starts, his chance for a 20-win season. CHICAGO (2-3) reliever Wilbur Wood picked up his 12th win in his 83rd game of the year as he set a league record for appearances by a pitcher. Frank Howard, who has averaged .750 with eight RBIs against the Indians' Sam McDowell this season, continued to blast the big fastballer with a two-run, eighth-inning double to give WASHINGTON (2-2) one win. Led by Jim Fregosi's .381 average, CALIFORNIA (1-4) batted five points over its season's percentage, but the hits rarely came at the right moment as the Angels dropped four of five one-run games.
Standings: Det 101-55, Balt 89-68, Bos 84-72, Clev 83-73, NY 80-76, Oak 78-78, Minn 75-81, Cal 66-90, Chi 64-92, Wash 60-95
September 29, 1968
With his contract for 1969 signed and the Dodgers on a late surge that has moved them from 10th to seventh, LOS ANGELES (6-1) Manager Walt Alston had his eye on the future. "You just have to look at this as encouraging, at least for next year," he said. His reasons? A revived pitching staff that has thrown five shutouts during the Dodgers' two-week rise and the overall play of youngsters Willie Crawford and Bill Sudakis, who look set for starting jobs in the outfield and at third base, respectively. Steve Blass's second-half performance (11-3, with six shutouts, since the All-Star Game) is giving PITTSBURGH (5-1) good reason for optimism, too. The slender righthander enhanced that record last week with a two-hit shutout in the same game in which Maury Wills stole the 500th base of his career. SAN FRANCISCO'S (5-2) Candlestick Park was a lively spot with consecutive no-hitters (below) and normally placid Willie Mays attempting to jump into the stands to show two hecklers what he thought of their unkind remarks. Complete games by Jim McAndrew and Tom Seaver and tight relief pitching by Don Shaw and Cal Koonce gave NEW YORK (4-2) three one-run wins and an edge over HOUSTON (3-3) in their fight to stay out of the cellar. The Astros, shut out twice, dropped to 10th for the first time in a month even though the hitters averaged .228. ATLANTA'S (3-4) Felipe Alou and CINCINNATI'S (2-5) Pete Rose both collected their 200th hits of the season. Although Alou passed the mark first, it was a bigger achievement for Rose, who missed three weeks with a broken thumb and now has had 200 or more hits in three of his six big-league seasons. Nobody in PHILADELPHIA (2-5) is neutral about Slugger Richie Allen. His fans have had plenty to cheer about again this year (30 homers and 81 RBIs), but it was his detractors' turn last week. The boos rang long and loud as Allen set a record for striking out with his 151st whiff of the season. CHICAGO (1-4), challenging a week ago for second, was outscored 18-4 in its losses and now must battle to stay in the first division. With all the Cardinals' starters taking at least one day off to get rested for the World Series, ST. LOUIS' (1-5) lead dropped to nine games, its narrowest margin since July 19.
Standings: StL 94-63, SF 85-72, Cin 80-75, Chi 79-78, Atl 79-78, Pitt 78-77. LA 74-83, Phil 73-84, NY 71-86, Hou 70-87
Because the Giants were facing St. Louis' Bob Gibson, who has been so stingy about allowing runs this season (1.16 ERA with 12 shutouts) that he is almost sure to set a record for earned run average, San Francisco Pitching Coach Larry Jansen told his starter, Gaylord Perry, "You'll have to pitch a shutout to beat him." The 6'4" righthander topped even that tough order, no-hitting the league champions and coming within two walks of a perfect game. Although Perry may have received some help from the champagne hangovers the Cards were suffering after their two-day pennant-clinching celebration, it was really his sharp slider (as dry, many hitters claim, as a magnum of bubbly) that was giving the world champions their glassy stares. Perry controlled his big pitch—be it slider or spitter—perfectly, putting the batters on the defensive by starting off 23 of the 29 who faced him with strikes. The North Carolinian did his celebrating with a bowl of ice cream, but almost before the treat could go soft the Cards' Ray Washburn was reviving St. Louis' festive mood. A sore-armed former fastballer who has cured his aches to the point where he can usually make as many as 95 pitches in a game before losing his stuff, Washburn threw 134 the next day in Candlestick Park to give baseball its first back-to-back no-hitters. The 30-year-old righty, showing nothing but his curve, allowed just two balls to be hit to the outfield. This left Cards' rookie Joe Hague, who had joined the team the day of Perry's no-hitter, a bit dizzy even though he had missed the pennant party. "Don't worry, Joe," yelled a teammate during the locker room huzzahs for Washburn, "it's not usually this tough up here."