Cincinnati was making the rest of the division see Reds, winning four of five to elbow closer to the front-row Dodgers. The Reds, losing only five games in three weeks, have picked up five games on LA since July 1. Pete Rose, with 45 hits in his last 110 at bats, took the league lead among regulars (.335). Johnny Bench sacked Atlanta, driving in six runs to increase his total to 77. That, too, topped the NL. And when lefthander Fred Norman beat the Braves it was his eighth win since he joined the team in June. Righthander Gary Nolan, who had been on the disabled list with a sore shoulder since Opening Day, reported for work, but Shortstop Dave Concepcion broke an ankle in a game with Montreal. He could be lost for the season.
Leo Durocher may have been celebrating his 67th birthday, but the crusty Houston manager's hearing was still acute. He overheard a remark by a disgruntled pitcher, Don Wilson, that was unflattering to him, and responded with discipline. Wilson paid a $300 fine, then threw a good seven-hitter at Atlanta, but the Astros lost 3-1 when Henry Aaron singled home the winning run in the ninth inning. Having home run No. 700 under his belt, Aaron displayed other offensive powers: he stole a base on Johnny Bench.
LA's Tommy John, fully recovered from off-season elbow surgery, won his 10th game and his first standing ovation by beating the Astros. "That's the first time it's ever happened to me," said John. "I tipped my hat but I really wanted to take it off and wave to all those wonderful people. The fans would love it—but the players would have called me a hot dog." The Dodger defense was a little doggy in a loss to San Francisco, making six errors.
Shortstop Enzo Hernandez returned to the Padres' lineup and San Diego ended a seven-game losing streak. All-Star MVP Bobby Bonds cracked three homers as the Giants won four of five.
LA 64-39 CIN 60-43 SF 59-44 HOUS 53-52 ATL 47-59 SD 34-68
Montreal slowed galloping Philadelphia to a walk by sweeping a three-game series after the Phils had crept to within 5½ games of first place. Phillie Shortstop Larry Bowa suffered a broken leg in one of the losses, causing despondent Manager Danny Ozark to mutter, "This has to be my lowest point." Wayne Twitchell ended the Phillie slump with a shutout of the Pirates, disdaining his fastball and afterward explaining his lack of a pitching cannon with a cerebral canon: "Batter after batter, they're a fastball team."
The wilting Chicago Cubs were the only Eastern team with a losing record for the week, dropping four of five and falling 2½ games out of first place. Their lone victory was over Pittsburgh, the completion of a game suspended on April 21 because of darkness, a time when the Cubs were playing superlative baseball. In one pair of losses Cub pitchers gave up 34 hits.
The Pirates' young outfielder, Richie Zisk, was hammering the ball at .383 for the month and his team won four of six during the week, bringing the sound of footsteps to the Cubs and the division-leading Cards (page 20). The Mets ran to excess, losing to St. Louis 13-1, then two days later trumping Montreal 11-3 as the division race bowled on with only 8½ games separating the top and bottom teams. "Nobody is going to open up a sizeable gap between themselves and the rest," said Gene Mauch. "It hasn't happened in 100 games, so why should it happen the rest of the way?"
ST.L 54-46 CHI 52-49 PITT 48-50 MONT 47-52 PHIL 47-54 NY 44-53
The Texas Rangers opened some eyes by winning six in a row, including a memorable doubleheader sweep over the California Angels' Nolan Ryan and Bill Singer. More than 25,000 fans saw the Rangers score 15 runs in those two games. They also saw phenom David Clyde get his second victory and Jim Bibby throw a two-hitter. Bibby now has pitched one-, two- and four-hit games, as well as a pair of five-hitters. "When I started to throw some sliders and some breaking pitches, everything began to go fine," he explained. Veteran Infielder Jim Fregosi, rescued from the New York Mets' disfavor, seems to have had a settling effect on the Rangers. "I think I've proved that I'm not over the hill at 31," Fregosi said.
Minnesota shocked Oakland with a three-game sweep, took single games from Boston and Chicago and jauntily vaulted into third place. Catcher George Mitterwald contributed four home runs, and former Manager Bill Rigney, who had used him sparingly last season, commented, "Mitterwald needed to mature, to grow up."
Oakland managed to win its other two games, but was pinched for pitchers. Winning only once, the Angels plopped into fifth place, and now have lost 12 of their last 17 games. Chicago gained Wilbur Wood's 19th victory but lost General Manager Stu Holcomb, who resigned.
OAK 57-45 KC 57-48 MINN 53-47 CHI 50-52 CAL 49-51 TEX 37-62
The season resumed on an ominous note for second-place Baltimore. In the first inning of the Orioles' first game after the All-Star rest, Pitcher Dave McNally was carried off the field on a stretcher after a line drive from the bat of Cleveland's Chris Chambliss smacked into his left ear. But then the gloom lifted. Although McNally suffered a hairline fracture of the jaw, he could be back pitching this week. And the Orioles gained ground on the Yankees as Jim Palmer pitched a one-hitter against Cleveland, a feat marred only by George Hendrick's single. Said Manager Earl Weaver, "Jim told me recently that he felt so good he might not lose another game the rest of the season."
Big Frank Howard had a big hand—or bat—in three straight Detroit victories. He hit three home runs, which equaled his prior 3½ months' production.
The Yankees were encouraged by the return of Steve Kline (16-9 last season), who had been out since June 25 with a sore arm. Kline pitched 5‚Öì innings in relief and did not allow a run as Milwaukee squeezed out a 5-4 win, one of two Yankee defeats.
Cleveland, Milwaukee and Boston could gather only one victory apiece. Indian rookie Charley Spikes, a reputed streak hitter, recalled past glories in the minor leagues—where he once had seven home runs in seven games—by whacking three home runs in three days. After dismissing as ridiculous any criticism that his bullpen was crippled by the absence of a left-handed arm, Milwaukee Manager Del Crandall took Chris Short out of the starting rotation and moved him to the bullpen. The left-handed Short responded with a save against the Yankees. Snakebitten when it comes to Detroit, Boston lost two games to the Tigers and fell nine games below the .500 mark against them. The Red Sox were 16 games above .500 against the rest of the league.
NY 59-45 BALT 54-43 BOST 53-46 DET 52-48 MIL 48-51 CLEV 36-67