Instead of being Boston common, the Red Sox are Boston preferred. Arriving in first place helped the Sox reappear on the front pages with banner headlines. The rise was due partly to the shift of Carl Yastrzemski to first base: he has raised his average 22 points and hit .467 during September. "I over think as a hitter," Yaz explains. "Playing first base takes my mind off my hitting." Maybe the ascent had something to do with the appearance of lush fall foliage on Boston's upper lips. Yastrzemski, Reggie Smith and Luis Aparicio have all grown mustaches, and Luis Tiant—winner of seven in a row—has started one. Tiant pitched 40‚Öì scoreless innings before the Yankees punctured the streak.
Mickey Lolich won his 20th as Detroit stayed close. "I'll take our chances with Boston," Manager Billy Martin said. "Our last three games are with the Red Sox—in Detroit." Lolich got to visit President Nixon and asked how big a raise he should request. "Twenty-seven and a half percent," Nixon suggested. Lolich said he would vote for the President.
An uncharacteristic burst of pessimism escaped Earl Weaver after Baltimore lost 2-1 to Detroit Friday. "Losing is bad," Weaver said, "but being mathematically eliminated is worse." He was thinking of the unequal number of games played by contenders this season. The loss was the sixth in 11 games.
September 17, 1972
New York frustrated Detroit's attempt to climb back into first place by beating the Tigers 3-1 Saturday night on Rob Gardner's seventh win, another rescue by Sparky Lyle and Bobby Murcer's score from first on a single by Felipe Alou.
Gaylord Perry of Cleveland became the first pitcher since 1924 to win 20 games in both major leagues. Perry had been stuck at 19 since Aug. 22 because the Indians—lowest-scoring team in the majors with 399 runs—hadn't been getting him any.
Hope—and the fans—were gone, but the Milwaukee Brewers had a destiny to fulfill. They kept plugging along, losing two more dreary games to Baltimore 2-1 and 8-0.
BOST 71-60 DET 72-62 BALT 72-63 NY 71-64 CLEV 62-71 MIL 54-81
"Pitchers are a funny breed," says Gene Tenace, who has caught Vida Blue since minor-league days. Vida, the MVP and Cy Young winner last year, went only three innings on Sept. 7 against Chicago and lost again. The 6-0 defeat was administered by the men who probably will take those honors this year: Dick Allen, who drove in four more runs, and Wilbur Wood, who won his 24th game. Yet the A's still stayed ahead of the Sox.
When Chicago lost a doubleheader to Minnesota, the organist played dirges all night. "We must win two from Oakland now," Manager Chuck Tanner said—and the Sox only split. But then they began playing hang-on baseball and, by beating the Angels 3-2 Saturday night while Oakland was losing, crept back within 2½.
Minnesota's main reason for happiness was Harmon Killebrew's 537th career home run, putting him fourth on the alltime list behind Babe Ruth, Henry Aaron and Willie Mays. The Twins also got three shutouts, from Dick Woodson, Jim Perry and Ray Corbin.
With Kansas City 12½ games back, Manager Bob Lemon admitted the Royals no longer had a chance. "From now on we're looking toward 1973 with our pitching," Lemon said. The view was scenic. In three straight games Lemon started men just up from Omaha, and Monty Montgomery began by shutting out California on a four-hitter. Next night Tom Murphy shut out Minnesota in the first game; then Steve Busby, in his first major league appearance, allowed five hits and retired 16 in a row.
The only suspense at Anaheim was whether the fence would be moved in or home plate moved out next season. The Angels have pitching—Rudy May, who won his eighth, has allowed two earned runs and struck out 25 in three consecutive complete games—but they are powerless.
"We're tired," Texas Manager Ted Williams admitted. The Rangers supplied convincing proof by losing two straight to Minnesota, 2-0 and 4-0, the 23rd and 24th times they have been blanked.
OAK 78-55 CHI 76-58 MINN 67-65 KC 65-67 CAL 62-72 TEX 51-83
One reason for Pittsburgh's success is doubleheaders. Of 15, the Pirates have lost none, split five and won 10, giving them a 25-5 record. In Friday's doubleheader, for example, rarely used Bob Johnson pitched a three-hitter in the first game and the Pirates won the nightcap in the 12th inning.
Chicago is 28-17 since giving Leo Durocher the heave and has won or split eight consecutive series. Billy Williams is still leading the league in batting at .341. Yet the struggling Cubs are three games farther behind the piping-hot Pirates. There were two solaces. Ferguson Jenkins, by winning his 20th game, became only the seventh man to reach that mark six successive years and accomplished his feat in perhaps the best hitters' park in the majors. Besides, young Burt Hooton's back spasms relented enough to let him beat Pittsburgh 4-2.
Cardinal rookie Ken Reitz, who had 12 hits in his first 21 major league at-bats, is just as exuberant with pen in hand. "I was born with a baseball glove in one hand and a bat in the other," he wrote on his questionnaire. "Every night at dinner we used to slide into the soup." St. Louis has been starting lineups averaging under 24 years. Bob Gibson has lost three straight and the Cardinals rank 23rd in the majors in home runs.
New York's walking wounded lost five of nine and were shut out three times, but Gary Gentry, now a more respectable 7-8, did win twice.
With Team Canada playing the Russians on live television, the Montreal Expos could be proud of the 12,118 who turned out to watch them play the Pirates. That was the only good news on the scoreboard. The Pirates got 12 hits and won the opening game 7-1, then took the second 4-2 in the 12th inning.
The one bright spot for poor Philadelphia was Steve Carlton, winner of 23 games.
PITT 86-47 CHI 74-61 NY 68-64 ST.L 64-71 MONT 61-72 PHIL 49-85
Cincinnati's Johnny Bench says he hasn't been hitting the way he did earlier because, "I need a challenge." He might still get one. The leaders lost three straight and four of five on the road, and stresses were showing. Both Gary Nolan and Wayne Simpson were accused of having arm problems more mental than physical. Nolan was yanked after only one inning against San Diego as the Reds lost a doubleheader. "After he pitched to the first batter," Sparky Anderson said, "I told myself if that's all he's going to throw, I'm getting him out of there." Simpson, however, was able to answer criticism with a good 6-3 win over the Dodgers.
Throwing 196 pitches in 13 innings, Don Wilson put a Band-Aid on Houston's dying hopes by beating the Giants 5-1. Bob Watson's homer in the 13th won the game, and Roger Metzger followed with another, his second of the year. He attributed it to "a windstorm."
Los Angeles, 10 back, was .500 for the week and was cheered only by Claude Osteen's recovery of his curveball and a chance to win 20 games. He needs four more. Atlanta won four in a row as Earl Williams collected his 25th home run.
Jimmy Ray Hart put his commuter ticket in his hat and once again returned to the Giants from Phoenix, hitting three home runs during the week. Sore-armed Sam McDowell healed enough to go 10 innings against Houston, the first time he has pitched a complete game in 2½ months. And Jim Willoughby beat Cincy 2-1 on Dave Kingman's ninth-inning home run.
San Diego's Leron Lee, .322 for the year, has been crowding .365 in September. While a broken bone was knitting, he watched games from the press box. "Up there I saw how many mistakes pitchers make on hitters," Lee explained.
CIN 82-52 HOUS 75-59 LA 72-62 ATL 63-72 SF 59-76 SD 50-82