The record for the most consecutive losses by an expansion team was about the only thing Montreal (1-5) won last week. The Eastern Division's last-place team ran its losing streak to 20 games, three more than the former mark for a new team and just three short of the modern major league record. The Expos actually lost 21 straight, and although the extra defeat did not count in the standings, it was the most bitter. In an exhibition game the Vancouver Mounties, a Montreal farm team, whipped the parent club 5-3. The Expos also briefly lost their shortstop, when Maury Wills announced his retirement. But before the front office could drop the record-holding base stealer from the roster he rejoined the team. New York (6-0), which set the record the Expos broke, was on an opposite course as it increased its winning string to 10 consecutive games, the most ever for the Mets. Paced by two strong performances by Jerry Koosman, who pitched a five-hitter and then struck out 11 batters in his next start, the Mets moved up to second. Ken Holtzman became the leagues' first nine-game winner to help Chicago (3-0) stay 7½ games ahead in the East, but the victory failed to please Manager Leo Durocher. In his last three starts Holtzman has pitched 14‚Öì innings and allowed 16 runs. Still the Cubs won all the games by building huge early leads. "I think he unconsciously eases up because of the big cushion," said Pitching Coach Joe Becker. Durocher, who was not ready for excuses from his pitcher or his coach, said, "He was just being hit." Second Baseman Glenn Beckert, the tough No. 2 batter in the team's order, was the Cub who really was hit. Beckert fractured his thumb making a tag and will miss about a month. St. Louis (3-4) Owner Gussie Busch was surrounded with labor problems. Not only were his breweries out on strike, his relief pitchers seemed to be out of strikes. In 15‚Öì innings pitched, seven relievers gave up 12 runs as the Cards slumped 12 games out of first place. Even with Roberto Clemente averaging .428 for the week, Pittsburgh's (1-5) batters could not overcome pitching that allowed the opposition to bat .282 and score five runs a game. "I still insist we're only this far away from being a good ball club," said Philadelphia (0-6) Manager Bob Skinner as he held his thumb and forefinger about an inch apart. But with his team now 16½ games behind the Cubs, with Richie Allen again bothered by a sore wrist and with his hitters averaging barely .200 last week with three home runs, Skinner's inch might as well have been a mile; and Phillie fans know it. Last year fewer of them turned out to watch the team than in any other National League city. This year attendance is even worse. For the final three dates of a home stand in which the Phillies lost five of six games, an average of only 3,453 people came out to Connie Mack Stadium. While Skinner tried vainly to boost his own team, his star slugger, Allen, took to praising opponents. "Willie McCovey is simply the best hitter in baseball today," said the Phillies' star. And Allen, who has been accused of a few wrongs in the past, might be right this time. The San Francisco (5-0) first baseman averaged .421 with three home runs and seven RBIs for the week to bring his season's totals to .346 with 19 homers and 46 runs driven across. The league's home-run champion last season, McCovey is now ahead of Roger Maris' record pace of 1961 despite painful bone chips in his hip and a variety of eruptions in his knees and feet. San Diego (3-3) ran off the longest winning streak of its short history by sweeping six games before encountering the even hotter Mets. The final three victories of the Padres' string came on Tommy Dean's two-run double that sparked a four-run winning rally, another two-run double by Al Ferrara that helped build an early lead in the next game and, finally, strong pitching in the third win, with Dick Kelley, Jack Baldschun and Billy McCool combining to throw a four-hit shutout. The hardest hitting lineup in baseball, Cincinnati's (2-1), enjoyed a hot week. With Tony Perez batting .600, Alex Johnson .500 and Johnny Bench .412, the Reds put together a team average of .331 but fell to fourth place in the Western Division. Los Angeles (2-4) moved within .012 of first place on continued strong throwing by Don Sutton and Claude Osteen, who are both 8-4 for the year. An old face and a new one helped keep Atlanta (4-3) on top in the West. Henry Aaron slugged four homers to bring his career total to 525 and pass Ted Williams as the fifth greatest home-run hitter ever. Lefthander George Stone, who came to the Braves after playing for two minor league teams last year, increased his record to 6-0 by beating the Cards with relief help from his cousin, Cecil Upshaw. Houston (3-3) lost Shortstop Denis Menke because of an eye injury, Second Baseman Joe Morgan to Army duty and Third Baseman Doug Rader to a batting slump. In their places Manager Harry Walker started second stringers Julio Gotay, Hector Torres and Marty Martinez and still won. The trio played flawlessly in the field, rapped three hits, drove in a run and scored one as the Astros defeated the Cards 4-2.
Standings—East: Chi 36-16, NY 28-23, Pitt 26-28, StL 25-29, Phil 18-31, Mont 12-37. West: Atl 32-20, LA 30-22, SF 29-23, Cin 26-21, Hou 27-30, SD 24-33.
June 15, 1969
Harmon Killebrew of Minnesota (4-2) was doing his thing and then some last week. The slugging first baseman clouted four homers and drove in 12 runs as the Twins increased their Western Division lead to three games. Then, with Manager Billy Martin remolding Minnesota into a daring, running team, Killebrew joined the base-stealing act, too, swiping two bases in one inning. This was exactly double his total for the last six seasons. Behind—or rather ahead of—Killebrew's success was Rod Carew, the league's top hitter (.391) and an accomplished base runner who has stolen home five times in five tries this year. With Carew on third, the opposition made no effort to throw out the lumbering Killebrew when he took off for second. Moments later Carew stole home, with Killebrew moving to third as the middleman in a triple steal. Carew's theft put him one short of the American League record of six for one season. Even with old standbys Joel Horlen, who allowed eight runs in 7‚Öì innings pitched, and Gary Peters, who lost twice, both hit hard, Chicago (2-5) veterans were complaining about the play of the team's young fielders. Leftfielder Carlos May was knocked for playing too deep and permitting a short fly to drop in for two RBIs. Third Baseman Bill Melton was benched for playing back on ground balls instead of charging them. And Outfielder Angel Bravo was criticized for staying too deep in center field. Said one White Sox veteran, "There seem to be a few people on this club who don't have any pride. Maybe they should send some of these young hotshots back to the minors and let them ride buses for a month. Maybe that would jack them up." Andy Messersmith pitched California's (3-4) first complete game in three weeks, and the Angels' young starters claimed that life is much more secure under new Manager Lefty Phillips than under Bill Rigney, who was fired two weeks ago. Said 23-year-old Tom Murphy of Rigney's penchant for bringing in a reliever at the first sign of trouble, "I respected Rig, but I also knew as a starting pitcher that one or two mistakes would get me out. It was tough on confidence. Now I think you can give up a run or two and still be around in the eighth inning." Oakland (1-3) dropped three games from first as the hitters averaged just .203 and Pitchers Lew Krausse and Catfish Hunter threw three ill-timed gopher balls. Krausse came on in relief in the 11th inning of one game and gave up home runs to the only two batters he faced. Then Hunter started the next game and tossed a home-run ball on his first pitch. Three pitchers, who looked washed up before expansion, produced wins for Kansas City (1-5) and Seattle (2-4). Ex-Oriole Wally Bunker struck out 10 in a victory for the Royals, while his former teammate Steve Barber and onetime Yankee 20-game winner Jim Bouton combined for a Pilot win. Despite the liveliest fans in the league and four home runs from Rico Petrocelli, who took over the league lead with 19, Boston (4-2, page 36) lost ground to Eastern Division-leading Baltimore (4-1). Dave McNally (below) was not the only Orioles pitching star as Tom Phoebus, now 6-1, picked up a five-hit victory and Jim Palmer threw a two-hit shutout. While the staff was holding opponents to an average of 1.5 runs a game, the hitters scored seven with Boog Powell batting .409, Brooks Robinson .368 and Frank Robinson .400. Cleveland (5-2) put together its best week of the year with star pitchers Sam McDowell and Luis Tiant both showing a return to last season's form. McDowell won twice, striking out 13 batters in the first game, then pitching a two-hitter in the other. Tiant also took a pair, combining with relievers Stan Williams and Juan Pizarro for a four-hit, 10-strikeout win and coming back three games later for a two-hit shutout. New York (4-3) dropped to a tie for fourth place, but Yankee fans were still cheering wildly; 61,157 of them showed up for Mickey Mantle's retirement at Yankee Stadium and gave him the same kind of send-off that Lou Gehrig and Babe Ruth received at similar ceremonies in 1939 and 1948. Washington (4-2) had only one home run from Frank Howard, but Manager Ted Williams could not have been happier with his big slugger or most of his pitchers. Howard raised his season's average to .314 with a .474 week but the Senators tied the Yanks for fourth. Except for Jim Hannan and Frank Bertaina, who gave up 15 runs in the nine innings they pitched, Williams' staff was improved. Darold Knowles, who has not yielded a run in five appearances since returning to the Senators from the Air Force two weeks ago, turned in another strong performance. He threw four innings to preserve Barry Moore's 1-0 shutout. And Joe Coleman, who had not won since April, pitched a 3-1 complete-game victory. Detroit (2-3) began the week with Al Kaline out of the lineup with a twisted ankle and ran its losses to three straight before he came back to drive in four runs during a 5-4 victory. Denny McLain lost his fifth game—he did not drop that many until the end of August last season—and went to the doctor for his third cortisone shot of the year. The pain in his sore shoulder eased, McLain returned to pick up his ninth win with a three-hitter and match his 1968 victory pace.
Standings—East: Balt 39-16, Bos 34-18, Det 27-22, Wash 29-29, NY 28-28, Clev 17-32. West: Minn 29-22, Oak 25-24, Sea 23-28, Chi 21-27, KC 22-31, Cal 17-34.
Pilots Manager Joe Schultz, who coached in the National League before this season, said after the Orioles' Dave McNally stopped Seattle on four hits last week: "I had never seen much of him, but I'd always heard he was a great pitcher. Tonight he showed it. Our whole offense was a stolen base—and we didn't even get credit for it." If Schultz, whose team scored its only run on an error and a balk, felt frustrated, at least he knew he was not alone. The boyish-looking, red-haired lefthander's victory ran his record to 8-0, the best in the majors. Only two years ago it looked like McNally might be lucky to be the best pitcher on his block. A tendon injury in his left shoulder knocked his record from 13-6 in 1966 to 7-7 in 1967 and cut his innings pitched almost in half. Last season McNally began the year without a spot in the Baltimore rotation. "During spring training they'd list the four or five guys who would start and then say, 'And McNally might help if his arm gets better,' " remembers the 26-year-old Montanan. He did much more than help. Not only did his shoulder heal, but he rediscovered the slider, a pitch that strangely deserted him five years earlier. McNally, who came to the majors as a 19-year-old, proceeded to set six Orioles pitching records, finishing the season with 22 wins and a 1.95 ERA. Since last July he has won 20 of his 22 decisions, but he is still not happy. "I was better last year when my control was sharper. I've been erratic, and I wish I knew why. I guess I'll have to work on it," he says. With his nonlosing record Joe Schultz and the other managers will find it hard to believe that practice is going to make Dave McNally any more perfect.