Despite two rain-outs and losing one of their last four games, the Cubs increased their division lead over the Mets to four games. "Maybe we've come up with the answer to perpetual motion," said Manager Whitey Lockman. "Since time immemorial, people have been looking for something that can run on its own—maybe that's us." Chicago certainly was not running on Ferguson Jenkins' arm. Jenkins is becoming increasingly distressed over the home-run pitches he has been serving. So far this year he has given up 15 in fewer than 11 full games. Willie Mays took a few days off from the Mets to go home to San Francisco and think about his waning career, and thus missed a 19-inning, five-hour and 42-minute marathon 7-3 win over L.A. "I finally found out what time of day I hit best," said Met Third Baseman Ken Boswell. "One-thirty in the morning." Rusty Staub went five for nine in the game. Oh, well, the Mets needed the work, anyway. They had been rained out three times the week before moving on to sunny L.A. Cleon Jones came out of the game with a sore right wrist and had to be scratched from the lineup the next night, and Jon Matlack, who kept the pitching chart (301 pitches), suffered a blistered left index finger from his pencil work.
The Phillies' Steve Carlton could not hold a four-run lead against the Pirates, and saw his record stay at 4-6. He also complained about "guys who have written about seeing me in a bar having a drink, as though that had something to do with the way I'm pitching. I've taken a drink all my life, going good or bad." A happy note for Philly: tall Wayne Twitchell beat the Pirates for the second time in less than a week 7-4. An unhappy note for Philly: Wayne Twitchell struck out four times, making it eight whiffs in a row to break the league record for strikeouts in successive games. Within easy reach is Sandy Koufax' record of 12 strikeouts in consecutive at-bats.
Manager Bill Virdon was still confident his Pirates could win without his making changes. "I think we have the best personnel in the league," he said. Steve Blass, a 19-game winner last year, gave Virdon encouragement in a 5-4 win over the Phils. "It feels good to be able to come into the clubhouse and look everyone in the eye," Blass said.
The Cardinals' maligned bullpen has improved. In their last 12 appearances, covering 16 innings, Diego Segui, Rick Folkers and Wayne Granger have allowed only four hits and no runs while picking up six saves. And starter Alan Foster, a sensation in spring training but a loser in his first three decisions, has allowed only two earned runs in his last 27 innings. But St. Louis was still at the bottom of the division.
The Expos have been rained out so many times this season that Coach Jerry Zimmerman looked up one day, saw the sun and said, "It's a UFO." They took the Canadian weather to the Bay Area with them, and on a bitterly cold and windy night in Candlestick Park beat the Giants 5-2.
CHI 26-17 NY 20-19 PITT 17-19 MONT 17-20 PHIL 17-24 SL 15-24
The Astros' Jerry Reuss won his sixth victory in seven decisions with a five-hitter against Pittsburgh, but the talk in the Houston locker room was about the trade of a reserve catcher, Larry Howard. He was dealt to Atlanta for a minor-league catcher, Tom Heirele, even though he was the only experienced backstop behind starter John Edwards (who has been injured). "This one thing has done more to disrupt this ball club than anything that has happened all year," said a veteran player. Howard was hitting only .167 when he departed, but he was good at handling pitchers.
San Francisco's Bobby Bonds had a sore arm, but in his hotel room he threw bunched-up towels around to loosen it up, took his name off the can't-play list and got three hits, including a homer, against Atlanta. He also stole three bases to help Juan Marichal beat the Braves for the first time since 1969. "We've come back to the pack," said Bonds, "but there's just too much young talent on this team. We'll catch another streak pretty soon. We're gonna win the pennant."
Credit Houston Manager Leo Durocher with the Reds' midweek pair of wins over the Astros. The Cincy players felt that in an earlier defeat in Houston Leo had rubbed it in by having Cesar Cedeno steal in the late innings of a game already won and having a pitcher sacrifice in another run. "It was time for them to calm it down a little and let a sleeping dog lie," said Reds Manager Sparky Anderson. "But Leo had to kick us."
The Padres brought up Dave Roberts from Hawaii, where he was hitting .382, but the bright spot of the week for them was Fred Norman's first win, a six-hitter against the Reds. Norman threw practically nothing but fastballs, leaving his curve and slider in his locker. Henry Aaron brought his 1973 home-run total up to 12 for Atlanta. Only 30 more to go to surpass Babe Ruth's record or 714.
HOUS 27-19 SF 29-19 CIN 25-18 LA 26-19 ATL 17-25 SD 16-29
The Tigers had lost two straight to the Yanks, so Detroit Manager Billy Martin, often more newsworthy than his team, assigned himself to coach third base for the fourth time this season. It worked like a good-luck charm. Mickey Lolich finally got some batting support and won his third 4-0. The next night John Hiller pitched two strong innings of relief and the Tigers beat the A's 1-0 in 13 innings in the first meeting between the 1972 divisional winners.
The Yankees had a lovely week, sweeping a doubleheader from Cleveland, taking two of three from Detroit and raising their record above .500, but the most fun came against the Rangers. Down 7-0 after 1½ innings, New York battled back to win 9-7. Said Tiger Second Baseman Dick McAuliffe: "If there were 10 games left in the season and I had to pick a club, I'd say the Yankees."
Baltimore Manager Earl Weaver scheduled batting practice for an off day during a wet, gloomy week, but even that was rained out. Boog Powell continued in his miserable slump, Dave McNally threw three wild pitches and suffered his sixth straight loss (to Cleveland) and Catcher Earl Williams, leader of the Orioles' meager attack, was sidelined with a severely sprained ankle. An injury also hurt the Red Sox, who lost Second Baseman Doug Griffin for four to six weeks because of a broken bone in his left hand—the same hand that was hurt last year and cost him three weeks. Griffin had been hitting .289 and fielding well. The day he was injured Shortstop Luis Aparicio played in his 2,500th major league game and celebrated by stealing two bases.
Gaylord Perry was winning for the Indians and was being accused once again of throwing a spitter. "If baseball really is serious about helping the hitters," said White Sox Manager Chuck Tanner, "then all it has to do is start having umpires call a ball for every pitch thrown that they think is a spitter." Perry thought it a ridiculous idea. "Chuck is just psyching up for the weekend," he said.
Mr. Misnomer, Billy Champion of the Brewers, threw a wild pitch, balked and hit a batter en route to his 14th straight defeat (11 with the Phils last year). Joe Lahoud, who wants to be traded, beat his former Boston teammates with a two-run pinch single. In seven pinch-hit appearances for Milwaukee he has four hits and two walks.
DET 23-20 NY 22-21 BALT 18-19 MIL 19-22 BOS 17-20 CLEV 19-23
The Angels managed to stay hot on Chicago's trail despite three straight losses to the White Sox. Nolan Ryan struck out 13 in the 4-1 final defeat of the trio, but you have to do even better than that when the opposing pitcher is Wilbur Wood. California picked up Mike Epstein from the Rangers, adding power to a lineup that already had Bob Oliver and Frank Robinson. One small problem was the fact that bullpen arms were getting rusty as the Angels' starters, Bill Singer, Rudy May, Clyde Wright and Ryan, led the league in complete games.
Royal Manager Jack McKeon contemplated a cloudy sky in Minnesota and remarked, "So many things have happened to us lately it might have been better if it had rained all week." Raindrops did delay the game a bit, but it was completed and the Twins' Bert Blyleven shut out Kansas City on one hit 2-0. McKeon called it "The best-pitched game I've seen all year. It was better than Nolan Ryan's no-hitter against us." Said K.C.'s Hal McRae: "The curves that man threw came in and kissed your cap. The ball is heading right for you and you don't know what to do—stay, leave, you just don't know." The Twins took the series 3-1, winning the first two despite the Royals' 28 hits, one a 420-foot homer by John May-berry. "I played baseball for 17 years," said K.C. Coach Harry Dunlop, "and would give anything to have hit just one ball as hard as John did that one." May berry has a good chance to break the K.C. homer record of 38 set by Bob Cerv in 1958. He now has 13.
Unhappy Pitcher Bill Hands, an ex-Cub, sounded off about Twins Owner Calvin Griffith, who cut his salary by $3,000 this year. After calling Griffith "stupid," he said, "If I think a guy's a jerk, I'll call him a jerk." He also called the Twins a "fifth-place ball club" but later apologized to his teammates.
Chicago Centerfielder Ken Henderson suffered a strained ligament in his knee sliding home and was lost for a week. Oakland's Ken Holtzman, the leading pitcher in the league with a 1.68 ERA, did his customary thing after his ninth victory of the season and 102nd career win. He airmailed the winning baseball to his parents in St. Louis for storage in his personal Holtzman Hall of Fame. But Blue Moon Odom was really blue, as who wouldn't be with a 1-7 record? The Rangers, 12½ games back, were the only club in the division out of contention.
CHI 24-14 CAL 22-18 KC 24-20 MINN 21-19 OAK 23-21 TEX 12-27