Ken Holtzman was born and raised in St. Louis (2-4) (page 14), and until five years ago was a Cardinals fan. Last week, though, he was the only starting pitcher able to prevent his old favorites from gaining ground on Chicago (3-4). The 23-year-old lefthander, who became an instant Cub rooter when Chicago signed him out of the University of Illinois for $65,000, was a double winner for the Eastern Division leaders, and one of his victories was a no-hitter. In leaving the Braves hitless, Holtzman surprisingly had no strikeouts while walking three. Since coming to the majors in 1965, he has used his excellent fastball to average five strikeouts a game. In his big win last week, the Cubs' defense, best in the league, made the outs for him, and Leftfielder Billy Williams, Shortstop Don Kessinger and Second Baseman Glenn Beckert all turned in fine plays. Pittsburgh (7-0) also moved into position for a shot at the top. Trailing by 13½ games only two weeks ago, the Pirates, paced by Bob Veale's four-hit shutout and the hitting of Catcher Manny Sanguillen (.375), came from behind to win five times and closed within 8½ games of first place. New York (5-1) was also moving on the Cubs. The second-place Mets shaved their deficit to five games as Gary Gentry, Tug McGraw and Jim McAndrew combined to win two games and hold the Giants scoreless for 23 straight innings. Then the Mets' batters took over, with Cleon Jones hitting .444 for the week to lift his season's average to .353 and Ron Swoboda coming off the bench to start four games and drive in eight runs. The victims of the Mets' latest surge were the old New York teams, the Giants and Dodgers. By taking five of six from them, the Mets ran their season's record against the former New Yorkers to 11-1 at Shea Stadium. And their attendance for the season was only 67,000 less than the Giants and the Dodgers combined. "Go in and get the Lowenbrau," Philadelphia (4-2) Manager George Myatt told the press. Myatt is a gracious host after Phillies victories, and lately he has been a regular partygiver. Three unheralded players, 26-year-old Jerry Johnson, 23-year-old Rick Wise and 22-year-old Larry Hisle, have helped the Phils right themselves since Myatt took over three weeks ago. Last week Johnson stopped the Dodgers 2-1, and the next day Wise bettered that by pitching his second straight shutout. Centerfielder Hisle, who averaged .409, helped Wise to the victory with his 20th homer of the season. They call it Expo-mania in Montreal (1-6), and rightly so. Even though the Expos continue to lose, often one-sidedly, the fans keep pouring into tiny Jarry Park. Attendance passed the million mark last week. And Expo rooters still seem willing to cheer anything their team does even after 89 losses in 128 games. Manager Gene Mauch received a standing ovation from a near-capacity crowd after it was announced that his contract had been extended for two years. The loudest roars were for Claude Raymond, one of very few Canadians in the majors, whom the Expos picked up last week from the Braves. Raymond, who has hardly been the object of hero worship during his seven-year career as a relief pitcher in Milwaukee, Houston and Atlanta, was an instant success in Montreal where he received prolonged applause before he threw his first pitch. Mauch obviously intends to give the Expo fans what they want to see. By week's end, Raymond had appeared in six games, allowing four runs in 8‚Öì innings. The Western Division race continued to be one of the tightest ever with five teams bunched within 2½ games of first place. San Francisco (5-2) drove from 3½ games out into first by half a game with a five-game win streak. Bobby Bonds and Willie McCovey hit two home runs each to overcome shaky Giant pitching in the first two victories, then spot starters Mike McCormick and Ray Sadecki put a six-hitter and three-hitter back to back. Atlanta (4-2) was also on the upswing, even though the Braves' hitting was still inexplicably below par (.179 for the week).
The pitchers allowed only 12 runs with Jim Britton, who threw a four-hitter, and Phil Niekro, who threw a five-hitter, winning a pair of 3-1 games. Jim Bunning, making his first appearance for Los Angeles (2-4), pitched a shutout, and Bill Sudakis backed him with a home run to help the Dodgers stay near the top in the West. Houston (2-4) fell from third to fifth but was only 2½ behind as Larry Dierker pitched his 16th win and Jesus Alou gave him all the support he needed with three RBIs. For Dierker, who has been credited with three of the Astros' last four wins, the victory demanded a change in perspective now that his team is a pennant contender. "Before the season, if somebody had said I was going to be 16-9 with a 2.54 earned run average, I'd have said that was a heckuva year," he said. "Now I'm a little more greedy and I want a few more. Before it was almost impossible to win 20 games with the Astros because we didn't have a good enough team. Now we do." Cincinnati (2-6) lost its division lead as the usually hard-hitting Reds averaged just .226. The team's top slugger, Lee May, who began the week at .298 with 87 RBIs and 32 home runs, turned out to be its top slumper as he hit .065. Except when Joe Niekro threw a 1-0, six-hit shutout, San Diego (2-4) pitchers allowed the opposition to average .281, and they lost two high scoring games by one run.
Standings—East: Chi 78-49, NY 71-52, Pitt 68-56, StL 69-57, Phil 52-72, Mont 39-89. West: SF 69-57, Atl 70-59, Cin 66-56, LA 67-57, Hou 66-59, SD 37-89.
During his four years as a pro, 22-year-old Steve Kealey had had only one start—at Idaho Falls—and had never pitched more than five innings in one game. Still, when California (5-1) Manager Lefty Phillips found his staff depleted by injuries last week, he gave Kealey, who came to the Angels from the minors only a month ago, a starting assignment. "I was hoping he could go five innings," said Phillips. Kealey went five and then some as he shut out the majors' toughest team, the Orioles, on seven hits. In eight innings of relief since moving to the majors, Kealey had allowed six runs. Against the Orioles, the righthander permitted just one man past second base. His turnabout was in keeping with the Angels' week, their best since April as they moved from fifth place to third in the Western Division. Minnesota (4-2) reactivated Dave Boswell, the righthander who fought with and lost to Twins' Manager Billy Martin, and he immediately showed his talent is pitching—not punching. Boswell allowed the Yankees and the Red Sox two earned runs in 15 innings and earned his 13th victory. The punch on the Twins has shifted back to Harmon Killebrew, who recovered the league lead in RBIs (113) with nine for the week, all of them coming on his four home runs.
Complete games by two rookie pitchers, Bill Butler and Jim Rooker, helped Kansas City (3-3) stay in fourth place. Rooker, who also played the outfield and first base in the minors, has turned out to be a double threat for the Royals. For his last six starts, the 26-year-old lefthander has a 1.91 earned run average and his batting average over his 10 most recent games is .393. Not satisfied with these accomplishments, Rooker has begun an intense conditioning program involving extra running and sit-ups. "There's no doubt that exercising has already made me a better pitcher," he says. "Now all I need to do is learn how to get my curve over." Another first-year player's clutch performance kept Oakland (4-2) within two games of the division-leading Twins. The A's brought in 20-year-old Vida Blue to face a pinch hitter with the bases loaded in the ninth inning, and Vida struck him out to preserve the victory. Chicago (2-3) and Seattle (0-7) battled to stay out of the cellar, neither with much success. The Pilots dropped from third place to fifth and extended their losing streak to 10 games as 32 pitchers allowed 50 runs. The last-place White Sox failed to take advantage of the Pilots' swoon, winning only twice, once when Gary Peters threw a seven-hitter and scored the winning run for himself. Peters could not—and would not—claim all the credit for that victory. Reliable Shortstop Luis Aparicio handled 10 assists flawlessly, and four of them required exceptional plays. "Luis played the best game I've ever had played behind me," said the Sox pitcher. Denny McLain (page 58) was not the only hot pitcher for the Eastern Division's second-place Tigers. Detroit's (4-2) Mickey Lolich continued to drive for his first 20-win season by recording his 16th victory. Defeating the Pilots, Lolich struck out 14 batters and insured his win by effectively using his quick pick-off move to first base. The lefty, who trapped two Cards off base in the seventh game of last year's World Series, turned the trick two times against the Pilots. A .555 week by Centerfielder Del Unser and two saves by Reliever Darold Knowles drove Washington (4-1) past slumping New York (1-5) and back into fourth place. The Yankees, whose hitters averaged .200, were shut out three times, and Mel Stottlemyre was bombed in both his starts. The righthander allowed 10 runs in the 7‚Öî innings he pitched. The stingiest Yank pitcher recently has been Al Downing who threw two four-hitters last week, but lost one of them 1-0.
Downing has not allowed more than two runs in any of his last five starts. Ray Culp, a National League castoff two seasons ago, won his 17th game for Boston (3-3), and Shortstop Rico Petrocelli hit his 29th and 30th homers of the year. His best previous-season total was 18. Tony Horton's hitting, .407 with three home runs and six RBIs, and Sam McDowell's one-hit, 10-strikeout shutout helped Cleveland (4-2) to a winning week. In recent years pro football has tried to discount baseball's prestige, but Rams' Coach George Allen is so impressed by Baltimore's (3-5) .685 won-lost percentage that he is using the Orioles as an example for his players. "I talked about them in my squad meeting," said Allen. "The Tigers have a heck of a team, but the Orioles never gave them a chance to make it a race. They got in shape early, got the winning attitude and that was it. That's exactly what I would like to see my team do." The Orioles are now so far in front that Manager Earl Weaver is resting his regulars occasionally. That brings little joy to the opposition, however, because Weaver has been replacing Frank Robinson, for example, with 5'8", 170-pound Curt Motton. Playing in three games last week, Motton hit .471 with three home runs and five RBIs. One of the homers was a pinch-hit, lOth-inning shot that brought Jim Palmer his fourth straight victory since coming off the disabled list.
Standings—East: Balt 87-40, Det 71-53, Bos 66-59, Wash 65-62, NY 62-64, Clev 54-74. West: Minn 75-50, Oak 72-51, Cal 51-71, KC 51-73, Sea 48-76, Chi 48-77.
Around the bars during spring training, the reporters and expert fans who go to Florida to watch the teams shape up agreed almost unanimously on one thing: Detroit's Denny McLain would be lucky to win, say, 16 games this year. McLain had won 31 in 1968, but the logical evidence against anything approaching that figure seemed obvious. Denny pitched a grueling 336 innings last season and then came up with a sore arm for the World Series. In the winter there had been no time for rest between his nightclub appearances as an organist and his flying lessons. Besides, the argument went, he had won many of his games because his team scored more for him than for any other pitcher. Four times last year McLain was pulled from games only to win them in the clubhouse as his team pushed over the go-ahead run in the inning in which he left. The Tigers have not hit nearly as strongly for their 25-year-old ace this year but, by last week, McLain had struck out all the logicians. With a 3-1, seven-hit victory over the Angels, he became the year's first 20-game winner (20-6) and solidly established himself as baseball's toughest pitcher. "I had to win 20 this year to prove last season was no fluke," he said. McLain has an outside chance at another 30-victory season if he chooses to try for it. Manager Mayo Smith figures Denny has just nine starts left, but the pitcher disagrees. "Hmm, there are 5½ weeks left," he said. "That means I could make about 14 more starts. No, sir, I'm not interested in 14 more starts. My pitching arm's not sore, just tired, very tired." Now, that is logical for a weary man who has had no rest in 18 months and has already pitched 261 innings this year.