"Can I remember the last time we had three straight shutouts?" said Philadelphia (4-3) Pitching Coach Al Widmar. "I can't remember the last time we had three straight wins." With Richie Allen's absences, the recent resignation of Manager Bob Skinner and a 48-70 record, it has been a bleak summer for the Eastern Division's fifth-place team. But last week Widmar's pitching staff, the third worst in the league, brought in some sunshine. Jerry Johnson, Woody Fryman and Grant Jackson pitched the shutouts that startled their coach, and then Rick Wise gave him a real jolt by making it four in a row. In dealing all those zeroes the Phillies starters never allowed more than six hits in a game and, except when Jackson turned in a gutty 1-0 victory, they had ample support. In the other three wins the hitters scored at least six runs and hit two home runs a game. Chicago (4-2) had a pair of shutouts from Ferguson Jenkins as it opened up a 7½-game lead. The 6'5", Canadian-born Cubs ace, who is headed for his third 20-win season since coming to the majors in 1965, allowed just nine hits while recording his 16th and 17th victories. After 71 days in second place New York (4-3) lost three straight games to the Astros and fell to third. A pair of four-hit victories by Tom Seaver and Jim McAndrew, both with relief help, quickly righted the Mets, and they slipped back ahead of St. Louis (4-2). The Cards, 17-6 since the All-Star break, have been boosted during their surge by the pitching of rookie Chuck Taylor. With a six-hit shutout last week, Taylor increased his record to 5-1. Nobody shut out Pittsburgh (3-2), mainly because Roberto Clemente is driving for his fifth batting title. With a .455 week, he raised his league-leading average to .358. Eastern Division tail-ender Montreal (3-4) took a hand in the other race by tagging the West's top team, Cincinnati (3-5), with three losses. Two Expo wins came in a doubleheader as rookie Third Baseman Coco Laboy went 4 for 7, drove in five runs and scored a pair. Three players who could not be blamed for the Reds' slump were picked up in off-season trades. Pitcher Jim Merritt, who came from the Twins, recorded his 13th victory, matching his best previous year. Bob Tolan and Wayne Granger, obtained from the Cards for Vada Pinson, also made good grades. Tolan returned from a two-week military hitch, went 5 for 6 and raised his average to .320. Reliever Granger took his team's only win over the Expos, pitching 4‚Öì innings without allowing a run and increasing his scoreless streak to 21‚Öî innings. The Western race is now so tight that Houston (4-2) fell from second to fifth in one day. A three-game win streak, paced by Curt Blefary's nine RBIs, pushed the Astros briefly into the runner-up spot. "I've changed my bat against left-handed pitching," said Blefary. "I'm using a genuine Toy Cannon, King Finger, Ice Cream Man bat." "What he's saying," explained teammate Jim Wynn, "is that he's using my bat." Whatever it is, it has helped the first baseman, who claims, "I'm swinging like a man now instead of a 210-pound washerwoman." While the Astros yo-yoed between fifth and second and then back to fifth, Los Angeles (4-2), Atlanta (2-4) and San Francisco (3-3) frantically shuffled second, third and fourth places. The Dodgers took the runner-up spot at least temporarily as Maury Wills enjoyed a sparkling series in his first visit to Montreal since retiring from baseball [sic] in June. In a three-game sweep Wills overcame loud boos by driving in five runs, scoring four more and hitting a rare home run. There was encouragement for the Giants too as Juan Marichal ended the longest losing streak of his career at four games. He reversed the trend with a four-hit shutout. San Diego (0-6) pitching allowed just 38 hits and 18 runs all week, but that was not good enough as the Padres batters averaged .196 and were shut out twice.
Standings—East: Chi 74-45, NY 66-51, StL 67-53, Pitt 61-56, Phil 48-70, Mont 38-83, West: Cin 64-50, LA 65-53, SF 64-55, Hou 64-55, Atl 66-57, SD 35-85.
For Chicago (3-4), it has been a dismal year. Considered a dark horse for the Western Division pennant, the White Sox dropped out of contention in late June, skidded into the cellar three weeks ago and are now 25½ games from first place. With the crosstown Cubs rolling to a division title, Sox crowds have been minuscule and the cheers muted. The only bright spot has been the promising hitting of youngsters Bill Melton, Gail Hopkins and, best of all, Carlos May. May, an outfielder and the 21-year-old younger brother of Red slugger Lee, was a strong candidate for the Rookie of the Year. Selected to the All-Star team in July, May left for Marine reserve training two weeks ago with a .281 average, 18 homers and 62 RBIs. Then, on the mortar range at Camp Pendleton, Calif., the weapon he was cleaning fired and blew off the top half of his right thumb. Despite optimistic reports from a Navy hospital where he underwent surgery, there is no assurance that May, a left-handed hitter and right-handed thrower, will ever be able to play again. Oakland (3-3) dropped two games behind division leader Minnesota (3-2) despite a couple of heavy-hitting pitchers. Lew Krausse helped himself with a three-run blast as he pitched a four-hit shutout, and then Blue Moon Odom cracked a solo homer in a one-run A's victory. Both Twin losses came when ace lefthander Jim Kaat was bombed. Kaat pitched 14‚Öì innings in his two starts, allowing 17 hits and 10 earned runs. Kansas City (3-3) and Seattle (2-4) continued their battle for third place. The Royals hit only .241, but still ended up with 86 base runners as opposing pitchers allowed 32 walks. The bases on balls resulted in 23 runs as the Royals edged within one-half game of third. The Pilots hit 24 points over their season's average, yet won only when they received tight, complete games from Diego Segui and George Brunet. California (3-3) found another name to add to its M Squad of Pitchers Jim McGlothlin, Andy Messersmith and Tom Murphy. The new M is Rudy May, who is recovering after two years with a sore shoulder. Last week he pitched 18 innings, giving up six hits and one earned run. With Eastern Division-leading Baltimore (5-1) becoming even tougher (see HIGHLIGHT), there was already talk of postseason parties and World Series shares in the Orioles' clubhouse. After every victory "Judge" Frank Robinson dons a white mop wig and passes sentence on transgressors who committed errors during the game, missed a sign or talked to girls in the stands. The one-dollar fines go in to the Orioles' postseason victory-party fund. One of the latest defendants was a reporter who arranged for a fishing boat for the Orioles to use on an off day. The boat sank before the outing could be held. The reporter argued that it was fortunate that it happened when the players were not aboard. "Naw," replied one player-prosecutor, "if it had sunk during the trip, the World Series checks would have been bigger for the guys who didn't go fishing." Verdict: guilty. Fine: one dollar. With Fritz Peterson pitching a six-hitter, New York (4-2) moved into fourth place ahead of Washington (2-4) after having trailed the Senators by as many as 5½ games only a few weeks ago. Boston (3-3) has dropped more than 20 games behind, but has found a bright hope for the future in 21-year-old rookie righthander Mike Nagy. He pitched two Sox wins last week, bringing his season's record to 8-2. Another rookie, Detroit's (3-3) Mike Kilkenny, looked as if he might have a bright future, too, after he threw a 10-strikeout three-hitter. Another Tiger win came on a shutout by Denny Mc-Lain, who leads the majors with 19 victories. Despite a .435 week by Tony Horton, Cleveland (2-4) needed a 12th-inning homer by Jose Cardenal to pick up one of its wins by a 2-1 score.
Standings—East: Balt 84-35, Det 67-51, Bos 63-56, NY 61-59, Wash 61-61, Clev 50-72, West: Minn 71-48, Oak 69-49, Sea 48-69, KC 48-70, Cal 46-69, Chi 46-74.
Oriole righthander Jim Palmer is not even a college graduate, but he sounds like an orthopedist when he discusses arm, hip, back and shoulder injuries. Palmer blithely talks of infraspinatus muscles, Teflon needles, tendonitis and Indacin, because he has come to know them well. Since 1966, when he became the youngest player ever to pitch a World Series shutout, the 23-year-old fastballer has endured a series of injuries that knocked him out of the majors for almost two years. Even though the 6'3" 195-pounder was once considered the American League's most promising young pitcher, no one wanted him at the $25,000 waiver price last September, and Kansas City and Seattle passed him by in the expansion draft. The Orioles sent Palmer to pitch in Puerto Rico last winter, though, and with the help of an anti-inflammatory drug he returned to the Baltimore rotation this spring. He had a 9-2 record, when pop—his hip muscle separated. Palmer was on the disabled list 41 days before easing back into a starting spot. By last week he was blazing as he pitched his first big league no-hitter, an 8-0 win over the A's. Despite that performance and the league's best ERA (1.77), Palmer remains leery. "I'm reserved about success," he said. "I've had to come back about four or five times in the last two years because my arm's been hurt just about everywhere." If his latest revival is genuine, Baltimore should become even tougher. Led by Dave McNally (17-2), Mike Cuellar (16-9) and Tom Phoebus (12-4), its staff already tops the majors in ERA. Manager Earl Weaver's pitching is so solid he says his biggest worry is how to get enough work for tough long relievers Jim Hardin and Dave Leonhard.