During a game at Dodger Stadium a message for Catcher Joe Ferguson was flashed on the scoreboard: YOU'RE A POPPA/IT'S A GIRL/8 POUNDS, 9 OUNCES/AT 2:51/AND MOM IS DOING FINE. The Dodgers had a message of their own for the rest of the league: beware of L.A. pitching. Don Sutton improved his record to 4-1 with a 6-1 win, and the next day Tommy John completed a three-game sweep of the Phillies with a four-hit, 1-0 performance. That brought John's ERA down to 0.86 and made him 5-0, the first Dodger ever to win five times in April. After losing their week's opener, the Dodgers won five games, yielding just seven runs. Their pitchers' timeliest helper was Tom Paciorek, whose pinch three-run homer in the ninth toppled the Phillies 5-3. Manager Walter Alston, 62, took a few spins on his new motorcycle, then explained, "Just trying to close the generation gap." Meanwhile the Dodgers opened a 3½-game gap over the second-place Astros.
Ron Bryant of the Giants became the first major league streaker when he scampered up and down the aisle of the team bus. In the ball park it was the Mets' turn to strip Bryant, 6-0. But Mike Caldwell, whose trade for Willie McCovey had prompted WHO'S CALDWELL? headlines, beat Montreal 8-2 to bring his record to 4-1.
Despite hitting only three homers all week, Cincinnati won four of six. The Reds beat the Cubs 1-0 behind Jack Billingham when George Foster walked with the bases full in the bottom of the ninth.
Attendance continued to lag in Atlanta, with a mere 6,834 fans out for a two-game series against Pittsburgh. Richie Hebner of the Pirates visited a local wax museum one afternoon and said the figures "reminded me of Atlanta fans; they just stand there." Henry Aaron, though, did not just stand. Three times he trotted around the bases after homering. Two of his drives were game winners, a two-run homer beating the Pirates 3-2 and a grand slam snapping a 3-3 tie en route to a 9-3 victory over the Cubs. That raised Aaron's home-run total to 719, and his bases-loaded smash was the 15th of his career, a league record.
Houston hit a resounding .313 as a team, the most Astronomical of the batters being Tommy Helms (.476) and Bob Watson (.458). Claude Osteen contributed to a 4-2 week by blanking the Braves 7-0.
Everyone in San Diego agreed something had to be done after a 10-1 loss to the Reds had dropped the Padre record to 3-13. So Manager John McNamara had the players discard their white spikes and don black ones. And just like that the Padres were transformed, winning five of their next six outings. Dave Freisleben, 22, up from Hawaii, pitched a four-hit, 6-2 victory over the Phillies in his big-league debut.
LA 15-5 HOUS 12-9 CIN 10-8 SF 11-9 ATL 11-10 SD 8-14
Last year Ken Reitz of the Cardinals strongly resisted tips from Harry Walker, then the batting instructor. "I'm a pull hitter," said the brash Reitz. "Walker cost me 30 points on my average trying to get me to go to right." This spring Manager Red Schoendienst suggested that Reitz choke up on his bat. Now Reitz has put all the advice together and leads the majors with a .421 average. He got to the top by hitting .632 last week, in one game finishing off the Reds 4-3 with a 10th-inning double. Lou Brock, with six more steals, was off to his fastest start ever: 12 successful thefts since being caught in his first try. Poor pitching, however, resulted in a 2-3 Cardinal week.
Chicago pitchers couldn't steal a thing, while the Cub hitters' .225 average was the league's worst and the fielders handled the new cowhide balls like city folk trying to milk Elsie. Help clearly was needed. So the Cubs dipped into (he minors and brought up Bobby Adams, an infield instructor. Alas, they lost five straight.
In a week involving much interdivisional play, only one Eastern team was a winner. That was the Pirates, who hit seven homers while taking three of five.
The early-season surprise teams, Montreal and Philadelphia, faltered. Following a 9-5 romp over the Cardinals and an 8-4 defeat of the Giants, Jim Lyttle of the Expos said, "This club has a real killer instinct." For the rest of the week, though, it was the other clubs that were killers as the Expos lost three times.
Manager Danny Ozark seemed to have instilled some killer in his Phillies with a 45-minute tongue-lashing after a loss to the Padres. The players took the field the next day in a fighting mood, and fight they did—in a bench-clearing melee with the Padres—but win they did not for the fifth time in a row.
Before facing the Giants, Tom Seaver of the Mets searched his locker and asked, "Are you there, fastball? Where did you go?" Much had been said about the ineffectiveness of the pitch, especially when Seaver's ERA rose to 6.12 as he began the week by giving up 12 hits and six runs to the Pirates in five innings. But Seaver found his fastball in the San Francisco game, winning 6-0. Then it was Centerfielder Dave Schneck's turn to suffer. Twice Schneck fell down while chasing routine flies, turning one into a triple and the other into a four-base error.
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David Clyde of the Rangers promised, "We're gonna give the people of Dallas a division championship in 1974." Then Clyde, age 19, went out and had a bonny time, beating New York 6-1 in his first complete game in the majors. Ferguson Jenkins and Jim Bibby both defeated Boston to earn their fourth victories. It was all part of a 3-2 week that put the Rangers on top in the West, the first time the Washington-Texas team has been there this far into a season.
Oakland, 2-3, slipped to second, and there was a flash of wrath from Pitcher Vida Blue. After being taken out in the eighth inning with a 4-3 lead against the Angels and then watching two relievers get shelled, Blue vented his anger by pounding a bat against the clubhouse bat rack.
Chicago snapped back with a 4-1 week. Reliever Terry Forster struck out eight of 11 men he faced in a 7-2 win over the Brewers. The lustiest White Sox hitter was Brian Downing, who, in his 12 at bats, had seven hits (three of them homers) and 10 RBIs.
Moved from the No. 5 spot in the lineup to No. 3, Amos Otis of the Royals went 9 for 16. Nelson Briles was shelved for knee surgery, but his replacement—Al Fitzmorris—beat the Red Sox twice in five days, 5-2 and 10-3.
Minnesota, 2-3, decked Detroit on Steve Braun's 10th-inning homer and the five-hit pitching of Dick Woodson and Bill Campbell. Robust hitting carried California past the A's 9-5 but then the Angels lost four times. Slumping Nolan Ryan ost to the Indians 4-2, walking seven men in 6‚Öì innings and raising his season's total to 30 in 36‚Öî innings.
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"How about putting a little white propeller on the caps? Then we'll really look neat." That was the reaction of Pitcher Bill Lee to changes in the Red Sox uniform that made many recoil: red inserts in the caps, solid red socks instead of the traditional red, white and blue ones. Boston hit only two homers in a 2-5 week, and it did not help that opponents stole 12 bases, giving them a total of 22 in 27 attempts as regular Catcher Carlton Fisk remained benched with a groin injury.
Reliever John Hiller excelled for the Tigers. In 13 innings he allowed just one run as he picked up his third win and two saves. Jim Northrup beat the Brewers 6-5 with a 14th-inning double, but it was Willie Horton who kept the Tigers in that game with a home run and three superb catches in left field. And Eddie Brinkman slugged two homers in a game for the first time in his 11-year career. With such Aaronisms, Detroit was 3-2 and stayed in fifth place. Designated Hitter Al Kaline was jogging in the dugout runway between trips to the plate. Thus limbered up, the 39-year-old Kaline was batting .309, having picked up 21 hits on the season. He has 118 hits to go to reach 3,000.
Milwaukee, 2-3, stayed atop the East as Jim Slaton beat the Twins 9-0 four days after his wild pitch had cost him a 3-2 loss to Chicago. The Twins seem to bring out the best in the Brewers, who beat them eight times in 12 games last season and who also downed them 4-3 last week.
Only percentage points back were the Orioles, 4-2. Three times they won in extra innings: 6-5 over the Yankees on Mike Reinbach's 13th-inning hit; 4-3 over the Angels on Rich Coggins' 10th-inning hit; and 6-5 over the A's on a 200-foot sacrifice fly by Andy Etchebarren in the 15th.
Yankee players were stunned by a trade that sent almost half the pitching staff—Fred Beene, Fritz Peterson, Steve Kline and Tom Buskey—to the Indians for First Baseman Chris Chambliss and Pitchers Dick Tidrow and Cecil Upshaw. Ironically, strong pitching enabled the Yankees to split six games. Cleveland, 3-2, still struggled in the cellar even though Chambliss got a three-run double in his last at bat as an Indian to beat the Angels 4-3, and the Perrys both won. Jim stopped the Angels 6-0 and Gaylord stymied the A's 2-1.
MIL 9-6 BALT 10-7 NY 11-9 BOS 9-10 DET 7-10 CLEV 7-11