Despite frequent substitutions and a carefree attitude—Manager Sparky Anderson complained that one player was loafing and another was clowning around—Cincinnati ground out five more wins in six games. Three of the victories came in San Francisco, where Anderson rested three regulars a day and still won 7-5, 6-3 and 12-5. With a 15½-game lead, Sparky was looking ahead to the playoffs, naming Pitcher Don Gullett, who has been out for two months and is not expected back until next week, to start the first game.
Los Angeles took four of six as Burt Hooton had complete-game victories over Atlanta (9-1) and New York (2-0) and Davey Lopes broke Max Carey's 1922 record of 31 consecutive stolen bases in a season.
After defeating Houston in the first game of a doubleheader on Aug. 3, San Francisco was momentarily in second place, ahead of Los Angeles. Then the Giants started a six-game losing streak in which their pitchers allowed 51 runs. They were in no immediate danger of falling to fourth, however, since San Diego was losing four of six.
While Atlanta was winning four of eight. Third Baseman Darrell Evans learned there are some days you should not get out of bed, and Pitcher Carl Morton learned there are other days when you don't have to. In a doubleheader with Chicago, Evans made three errors, left eight runners stranded and was caught stealing. On Saturday, Morton got his second win of the week without making a pitch. That happened when Reliever Phil Niekro completed a game that had been suspended on June 12.
Not a single person was on hand to greet Houston's return from yet another losing road trip. "Can you believe we are this bad?" asked Tommy Helms. "There isn't even one wife here. I've been in baseball 15 years and I've never seen that happen. We must really be terrible." The shock was therapeutic, however, since the Astros (5-3) proceeded to stun Pittsburgh by winning three straight.
CIN 75-39 LA 60-55 SF 55-59
SD 53-61 ATL 51-64 HOUS 43-75
This most competitive of divisions found itself in a genuine pennant race as front-running Pittsburgh lost five of eight games and second-place Philadelphia won four of six. Doing even better than the Phillies was third-place St. Louis (5-2), which took two of three from the Pirates and pulled to within 6½ games of the top.
Pittsburgh's margin over Philadelphia shrank to two when the Pirates managed but 15 hits in three straight losses to Houston, 6-1, 5-3 and 5-0. Mike Schmidt's five home runs highlighted the Phillies' week. Two of them came in a 13-5 defeat of Chicago, in which Philadelphia scored 10 runs on 10 hits in the first inning. "Our guys were hitterish," said Outfielder Jay Johnstone. Dick Allen seemed his old self. After his ninth-inning single beat San Francisco 5-4, he said, "Don't bother talking to me."
St. Louis Reliever Al Hrabosky got his 15th and 16th saves in the Cardinals' two wins over the Pirates. Lou Brock, out with a bad ankle since July 21, returned to full-time duty and went 5 for 7 in his first two starts. Brock's 2,500th career hit helped Lynn McGlothen beat San Diego 6-1. McGlothen, a real night owl, is 2-6 in day games and 10-2 under the lights.
Not even a managerial change—Roy McMillan for Yogi Berra—could prevent New York (2-7) from falling to fourth place. Yogi and the Mets were done in by doubleheader losses to both Pittsburgh and Montreal.
Although Bill Madlock, the National League's leading hitter, missed most of the week with a bad back, Chicago still won five of nine. Gene Hiser was the star of a 3-1 defeat of Atlanta, driving in the winning run with a single and protecting the lead with a sliding catch.
Montreal Manager Gene Mauch dampened the fire building around him by directing the Expos to four wins in eight games. Woodie Fryman, usually a starter, notched a win and a save in two relief appearances.
PITT 66-48 PHIL 64-50 ST. L 59-54
NY 58-55 CHI 54-63 MONT 48-63
Three weeks ago, Kansas City trailed Oakland by 11 games and Bay Area talk was of magic numbers and playoff ticket orders. Now the margin is 6½, and the charging Royals are beginning to think they have a chance. "We're having more fun than anytime since I've been here," said Paul Splittorff after pitching his second victory of the week and Kansas City's sixth in seven games. Splittorff's first win was a one-hit 5-0 victory over Oakland in which he retired 26 consecutive batters; the other was a 10-2 rout of Minnesota. Al Fitzmorris beat the Twins 6-1 with a two-hitter after Manager Whitey Herzog suggested he work faster. The Royals were also getting unaccustomed power. With home runs in nine straight games, four by John Mayberry, the club surpassed last season's total of 89. Mayberry says he has been hitting more homers because he's been drinking more beer. "I was trying to keep my weight down because I wanted to do some running, steal me some bases. But running just ain't me. I get paid to hit. After I went nothing for four one day I got myself a beer and I'm sure back to it now." Twenty-five homers worth.
Oakland (3-5) scored only seven runs while losing four of five games before exploding against Texas 10-1. Billy Williams smacked two home runs, his 15th and 16th, Joe Rudi busted a grand slam and Vida Blue pitched a four-hitter. The next night, against Boston, the bats were still again, as Reggie Cleveland had a no-hitter into the seventh inning. Then Reggie Jackson and Gene Tenace homered, their 28th and 17th respectively, and the A's won 3-2.
"Oakland isn't doing so hot," said Chicago Manager Chuck Tanner. Neither, unfortunately, were his White Sox, who lost five of nine. Their best hitting and pitching came in the same game, an 11-1 defeat of California in which Jim Kaat threw a five-hitter and Bill Melton drove in five runs.
Texas (5-3) got two wins from Ferguson Jenkins (14-12) and five home runs from Roy Howell, who took over at third base 10 games ago. Moves like that won a year's extension to Manager Frank Lucchesi's contract.
Minnesota took four of eight, all the losses coming on a disastrous visit to Kansas City. California (3-5) also lost four in a row before Ed Figueroa's pitching and Adrian Garrett's hitting beat the Yankees 8-1.
OAK 70-44 KC 63-50 CHI 55-59
TEX 55-60 MINN 51-65 CAL 50-66
Boston Began to cool off and Baltimore was hot on its trail. The Orioles, baseball's best team since the All-Star break with 21 wins in 27 games, followed a Sunday loss to Milwaukee with seven straight triumphs. Two of the victories came where they were needed most, in Boston, Baltimore having lost ground to the Red Sox while rising from fourth to second in the standings. The Orioles charged from five runs down to take the first one 12-8, as Don Baylor went 5 for 5, and then J√¨m Palmer threw a two-hitter to win 3-0. "That's the way I'm supposed to pitch," said Palmer. Later against Chicago he won his 17th, with relief from busy Dyar Miller.
After losing twice to Baltimore, Boston's Carlton Fisk said, "It was getting awfully quiet on the bench." But the Red Sox (4-3) made plenty of noise in Milwaukee, winning twice, as Reliever Jim Willoughby and Starter Rick Wise continued to sparkle. Wise's 4-2 victory was his eighth straight, giving him a 15-6 record.
New York (5-3) advanced only half a game, despite Doc Medich's two wins over Cleveland, 12-1 and 6-3. Bobby Bonds' 22nd home run helped Catfish Hunter beat Milwaukee 4-3 for his 15th, but Hunter fell apart later against California, losing 8-1.
When a two-alarm fire broke out in a storage room at Milwaukee's County Stadium, someone said, "Too bad it wasn't set under the Brewers." Fair enough, since Milwaukee has lost nine of 10 and six of seven last week. Following a 6-4 defeat by Texas, Manager Del Crandall was incensed. "A terrible exhibition of baseball," he steamed. The next day the Brewers lost again, 4-2.
Cleveland enjoyed the week, winning five of eight. Two of the victories were against Detroit, which dropped eight more to extend its losing streak to a club-record 14. The record breaker, a 1-0 win by Minnesota, came on Manager Ralph Houk's 56th birthday.
BOS 69-45 BALT 62-50 NY 59-54
MIL 53-62 CLEV 51-60 DET 46-69