In Baltimore (6-2), where the Orioles continue to win games at a record-setting pace, the news was worse for the also rans. Two formerly sore-armed pitchers gained most of the credit as the team stretched its lead to nine games. Mike Cuellar, a lame left-armer before being traded from Houston, is leading the Orioles' starters in two important categories—complete games (8) and innings pitched (117)—and is second in ERA (1.93). Cuellar had a pair of four-hit wins and was looking almost as good as Dave McNally, who ran his record to 10-0 with a two-hitter. The other surprising pitcher, Marcelino Lopez, turned in 5‚Öì hitless innings in relief to post his second victory. Lopez, who had an aching arm for two seasons, was on the roster of the Orioles' Rochester farm team this spring and could have been drafted by any major league club for $25,000 before he was recalled in May. Since then he has made six relief appearances and put together a 1.01 earned run average. Third-place Detroit (4-5) dropped 12 games behind the Orioles because of weak hitting. Mickey Lolich's pitching gave the defending champions two wins, but the hitters averaged only .206 as the Tigers lost three in a row to the Yanks and Senators. Boston (3-4) also lost ground in the pennant race, but its fans were still second to none. Some 43,000 Red Sox rooters showed up for a day-night doubleheader, pushing total attendance over 750,000 with almost two-thirds of the season yet to play. Two pitchers who got off to miserable starts came on strong for Cleveland (4-5) and New York (4-4). Luis Tiant, who lost his first seven decisions, defeated the Orioles for the first time in a year to win his third game in four starts. The Yanks' Stan Bahnsen, 1968 Rookie of the Year, who had begun the season with six consecutive fosses, raised his team to a fourth-place tie with his third victory in the past two weeks. Washington (3-4) batters collected over four hits in only three games and averaged .216 as the Senators fell into a tie for fourth place. Even though it lost two games by one run in extra innings, Chicago (5-3) enjoyed its best week since the beginning of May. Three of the White Sox' wins came on complete games by Billy Wynne and Paul Edmondson, who were both making their first major league starts. The young pair helped themselves with clutch hitting as Wynne drove in two runs during a decisive five-run rally and Edmondson twice singled and scored while throwing a two-hitter. Minnesota (5-3) and Oakland (5-3) met head-on for the Western Division lead. The A's maintained a slim .002 advantage, but not before the teams split a pair of wild extra-inning games to begin their series. The Athletics needed five hours and four minutes, the longest game of the year, to take the opener with an unearned run in the 14th inning. The next day Harmon Killebrew's three-run homer started the Twins off to a record-tying, 10th-inning spree. Before they were finished, 16 batters scored 11 times for the Twins, matching the record for runs in an extra inning set by the Yankees in 1928. California's (3-5) latest relief-pitching hero, Ken Tatum, appeared in two more games, threw four scoreless innings and picked up his second victory and second save since joining the Angels a month ago. The 6'2" right-handed fastballer has now taken over as top man in a bullpen that includes such established aces as Hoyt Wilhelm and Eddie Fisher. Two-time batting champ Tommy Davis was back in his old form for Seattle (4-4). Davis, who had been in a two-year slump and began the week hitting .196, went 14 for 32 with nine RBIs to raise his season's average to .231 and take over leadership of the Pilots in runs batted in with 39. Kansas City (2-6) used 20 pitchers, was outscored 47-24 and for the first time fell more than 10 games behind the division leaders.
Standings—East: Balt 50-19, Bos 39-26, Det 35-28, NY 34-36. Wash 34-36, Clev 24-40 West: Oak 35-28, Minn 36-29, Sea 30-35, Chi 28-35, KC 26-40, Cal 22-41.
June 29, 1969
Don Drysdale's (below) was not the only familiar old Dodger face boosting Los Angeles' (6-1) hopes for the Western Division pennant. Since returning to his former team from the Expos two weeks ago, onetime Dodger captain Maury Wills has averaged .325 and tightened the infield defense. The only hotter Dodger hitter was Manny Mota, who also came in the deal that sent Ron Fairly north of the border. Mota has hit .444 while batting second in the lineup behind Wills. The right-handed hitting outfielder has used his expert bat control to remind Dodger fans of the pennant-winning one-two punch of Wills and Jim Gilliam. One of Denny Lemaster's two five-hitters ended a four-game losing streak for Houston (6-3) and set the Astros' staff off on a tear that led to six consecutive wins. Over that stretch Don Wilson, Larry Dierker and rookie Tom Griffin joined Lemaster as complete game victors. The best performances were turned in by Dierker, who won his ninth game of the year with a four-hit, nine-strikeout effort, and Griffin, who struck out 12 while throwing a five-hitter. Atlanta (5-3) lost its division lead to the Dodgers despite a .440 week by Rico Carty and knuckleballer Phil Niekro's 11th win of the season. Niekro, whose victory over the Astros was backed by Tony Gonzalez' two home runs, is now the top winner in the majors. Cincinnati's (3-4) heavy hitters were shut out three times and the Reds' pitching, except when Tony Cloninger threw a five-hitter, was as shaky as ever. In all, Manager Dave Bristol used 22 pitchers as his staff allowed 5.3 runs a game. San Francisco (3-5), with its hitters averaging five runs a game, missed a chance to close in on the Braves as weak relief pitching cost the team three games. Ron Kline, Ron Herbel and Frank Linzy allowed three runs in 5‚Öì innings pitched, just enough to cause the Giants to lose out after early leads. San Diego (1-8) failed to score more than three times in any of its games and the opposition pounded out 49 runs on 66 hits as the Padres fell 16½ games out of first. Leo Durocher's marriage, his fourth, was just about the only happy event of the week in Chicago (2-7, page 14) as the Eastern Division leaders ran up a five-game losing streak. Bill Hands stopped the string with a five-hitter, but by the end of the week the Cubs' lead, which once was 8½ games, had dropped to 4½. New York (6-2) and Pittsburgh (6-2) both took advantage of the Cubs' lapse. With over 155,000 fans packing Shea Stadium for a weekend series with the Cards, the once feeble Mets have taken on the look of a serious pennant contender. Rookie Gary Gentry, a two-time winner, and Jerry Koosman both threw shutouts, and Art Shamsky, who refurbished his hitting down on the Mets' Tidewater farm team, averaged .421 with three homers. The Pirates closed within a game of New York in third place by sweeping a four-game series from the Cubs. All the victories were by a run with Rich Hebner driving in the winning score twice and Al Oliver and Jose Martinez once each. Matty Alou, who now leads the league in batting at .366 and has 108 hits for the season, Roberto Clemente, who has raised his average 100 points in a month, and rookie Oliver combined to bat .429 for the Bucs. Lou Brock went on a .438 tear for St. Louis (4-4), but the Cards still failed to reach the .500 mark. Three times the defending champs edged within one win of the break-even point only to lose their next game to the Expos or Mets. Montreal (3-5), which had only two homers—both by Bob Bailey—was shut out three times but still managed to equal its best week of the season. Ron Fairly cracked three doubles and paced the Expos to two of their victories. Philadelphia (3-5) lost two games when Relief Pitchers Al Raffo and John Boozer allowed five runs in the two late innings they pitched.
Standings—East: Chi 42-25, NY 36 28, Pitt 36-32, StL 32-35, Phil 26-37, Mont 18-46, West: LA 39-26, Atl 39-27, SF 36-30, Cin 32-29, Hou 35-36, SD 26-46.
Pointing to his right arm, the Dodgers' Don Drysdale said last week, "I'm pitching as hard as this thing will let me." For the past 13 years that would have meant that Drysdale, whose 207 wins are the most by an active pitcher, was throwing as hard as anyone in the major leagues. But early this season Big D took a tumble in the dugout, hurt his right shoulder and went on the disabled list for seven weeks. Unable to throw for most of that time, the 32-year-old ace even talked of retirement. But he came off the injured list last week and gave promise that the only retiring he may do for quite a while will be of opposing batters. Manager Walter Alston eased the 6'6" veteran back into the rotation with a start against the Mets in spacious Dodger Stadium, and Drysdale won 3-2. In tiny Crosley Field he next took on Cincinnati and its starting lineup averaging .305. Drysdale pitched six innings, allowed three hits and gave up no runs in earning his third victory of the season. "It's not the D with the speed of other years," said Dodger Catcher Tom Haller, "but he's throwing with fantastic precision." Fastballer Drysdale always did, although the fact was often overlooked while he was allowing an average of only 2.3 walks in the equivalent of 374 complete major league games. Now without full power, he has even tighter control. "I'm just throwing for spots because my control seems to go off if I throw too hard," Drysdale says. In the first 11‚Öî innings after his seven-week layoff, he did not walk a hitter. Obviously he is throwing just hard enough, which should strike fear in the hearts of the other Western Division clubs, already feeling the sting of the Dodgers before the return of Big D.