NATIONAL LEAGUE EAST
Pittsburgh kept the bottles corked, the magic number steady and the reserves anxious while losing four of seven, but accomplished the inevitable by clinching the division with a 6-2 victory over the Mets as Steve Blass allowed only seven hits and won his 18th. The Bucs were letting some young hitters have their turn at bat, among them Outfielder Richie Zisk, who in one game knocked in three runs with a double and a single. And an older slugger, Roberto Clemente, was just six hits away from 3,000.
Although they never threatened the Pirates, the Cubs have been a spirited club since Whitey Lockman replaced Leo Durocher as manager. A sweep of a doubleheader with St. Louis gave Chicago six wins in its last seven and put the team 14 games above the .500 mark for the Lockman era.
But Montreal was not overly impressed with Chicago, especially the Expos' manager, Gene Mauch. After Milt Pappas of the Cubs won the 200th game of his major league career, Chicago received a locker-room visit from Mauch and a large group of his Montreal men. The Cubs assumed they wanted to congratulate Pappas. Not so. Mauch was there seeking Cub Outfielder Jose Cardenal who, he said, had called him a bad name. At the door, Mauch blustered: "Nobody is going to call me that and walk away. The next time, I won't wait until the end of the game." Cub Coach Pete Reiser commented: "It's a good thing he didn't walk into the clubhouse. He might not have walked out."
Steve Carlton won his 25th game for Philadelphia, beating Rick Wise and his old St. Louis teammates 2-1. Wise, who was traded for Carlton, has won 15 games—and has a 3-12 record in one-run decisions.
PITT 92-54 CHI 81-65 NY 75-70 ST.L 70-78 MONT 66-79 PHIL 55-91
NATIONAL LEAGUE WEST
The Reds beat Houston in the Astrodome 4-3 to clinch their divisional title, and broke out their own champagne. "This is the best thing in the world for me," chortled Joe Morgan, one of the Reds who had gone from Houston to Cincinnati in the big winter trade. But Cincinnati still had some unfinished business. Morgan had 56 stolen bases and a chance to lead both leagues in that category; Johnny Bench barely trailed San Diego's Nate Colbert in the home run derby 37-38; and feisty Pete Rose was hustling for another 200-hit season.
San Francisco lost six straight and Giant Owner Horace Stoneham continued his personal reducing program. Stoneham lost weight dramatically this season, explaining that he went on a diet because his cook quit. One dyspeptic fan in a letter to Stoneham suggested that he hire the cook as the Giant manager and move Charlie Fox, the incumbent, into the kitchen. Last year's West champs were 27½ games out of first.
Like most teams, the Dodgers were gazing ahead to next year, and Steve Yeager was one of the rainbows on the horizon. The young catcher, up for a trial from the minors, absorbed some batting intruction from Manager Walt Alston and proceeded to hit safely in 15 of 18 games. Atlanta and San Diego were still hunting their rainbows.
CIN 90-56 HOUS 81-64 LA 79-67 ATL 68-78 SF 63-84 SD 55-89
AMERICAN LEAGUE EAST
The race seethed on as Boston and Detroit battered each other at week's end and Baltimore (page 26) saw its chances all but wing away. The Tigers and Red Sox played a beautiful game of seesaw, the Red Sox winning two of three from the Orioles, then losing two of three to the Tigers. Top of the week for the Sox was a doubleheader sweep of Baltimore's best pitchers, Jim Palmer and Mike Cuellar, with Luis Tiant getting his sixth shutout in eight starts in the nightcap. But elsewhere Boston's pitching was about as solid as a hippopotamus in quicksand. Sonny Siebert, testing an injured ankle, went only a third of an inning and gave up three runs as the Tigers mauled the Red Sox Saturday 7-1.
Earlier in the week the Tigers had been behaving as if they were on their way down. They fumed when Cleveland Manager Ken Aspromonte replaced Pitcher Bill Butler in the third inning of a game although he had not given up a run. He had walked five Tigers. The Indians went on to beat Detroit 6-4, and Manager Bill Martin said, "Aspromonte pulled one I'll never forget and I promise you I will bury him. If he was in the pennant race, it would be all right." If you aren't in the race, you shouldn't play to win? The Yankees died in the West, losing to Cleveland and Milwaukee. Indeed, the also-rans bedeviled the contenders. Both teams had winning records for the week, Cleveland beating the division elite four of six and Milwaukee three of four.
BOST 79-66 DET 80-67 BALT 77-69 NY 76-70 CLEV 67-81 MIL 61-86
AMERICAN LEAGUE WEST
Home-run slugger Reggie Jackson came to bat for Oakland in the ninth inning against Kansas City, flexed his muscles, then slammed out—a bunt. That brought in the winning run, as the A's stretched their division lead over Chicago (3-1 on the week) to five games. Jackson called the infield tap "the biggest bunt of my life." It was only his third of '72.
Kansas City rookie Pitcher Steve Bus-by left 42 passes at the gate for relatives and friends when he was scheduled to start against California. He must have had an inkling that it was to be a spectacular evening. Busby won his game 9-2, but it was at the plate that he caused excitement. He hit a grand-slam homer in the first inning—or so everyone thought until Umpire John Rice explained he had signaled time-out before the pitch to eject a heckling KC player, Jerry May, from the game. Rice also ejected KC Manager Bob Lemon, who observed, "I heard him call time, but I had to get mad at somebody."
Minnesota seemed to be mad at everybody, winning four of five as Rod Carew raised his league-leading average to .324. One of his six hits was his 24th successful bunt single in 35 attempts. "If I bunt it where I want, there is no way to be thrown out," he said.
Also looking for a title was Dave Nelson of Texas. Although he was a sack behind Bert Campaneris of Oakland for the league lead in stolen bases (43-44), Nelson groused that his base-stealing opportunities were getting scarce since his teammates were not taking pitches because they wanted to get the games over quickly. The Rangers lost five games, quickly.
OAK 86-59 CHI 82-63 MINN 75-69 KC 71-73 CAL 68-78 TEX 52-93