Good pitching from unexpected sources highlighted play throughout the division. John D'Acquisto of San Francisco and Carl Morton of Atlanta both ended season-long losing streaks, Tommy John of Los Angeles pitched his first shutout in more than two years and Dan Larson of Houston notched his first major league victory with a five-hitter.
D'Acquisto actually won twice for San Francisco (5-3), beating St. Louis 5-3 and Houston 4-0 and allowing only six hits in 14 innings. A game against Montreal was just the thing Morton needed to start winning after seven losses. The 7-1 victory brought his three-season record against his old teammates to 8-1. Mike Marshall got a win and his 14th save for Atlanta (3-5), but Andy Messersmith lost his third straight.
When Tommy John four-hit San Diego 5-0, it marked a major step in his recovery from elbow surgery on Sept. 25, 1974. Los Angeles (3-3) beat St. Louis twice as Reggie Smith continued to pound his old teammates (he's 10 for 21 in five games against them).
August 1, 1976
Houston (5-5) staggered through four doubleheaders, winning one from Montreal, losing one to Pittsburgh and splitting two with the Pirates and San Francisco. Ed Herrmann had eight hits and seven RBIs in the Expo sweep and made all the right decisions as Rookie Larson won the second game 14-1. Pitching Coach Mel Wright told Larson that he wanted the experienced Herrmann to do the thinking and Larson to do the pitching.
Cincinnati (5-2) got good hitting from Pete Rose, which is usual, and three complete games from Pat Zachry, Fred Norman (a 4-0 shutout of New York) and Santo Alcala, which is becoming decreasingly unusual. The Reds now have 23 complete performances, one more than all last season.
San Diego (5-2) eked out four one-run victories and had a more comfortable 3-0 shutout of Philadelphia by Randy Jones. The Phillies have batted .167 and scored no runs in their 27 innings against Jones this year.
CIN 60-36 LA 53-43 HOUS 49-50 SD 48-49 ATL 44-52 SF 42-56
Although the Pirates insist otherwise, the Phillies may have sewn up the division race last week with more than 70 games to go. The Phils won three of four in a matchup with Pittsburgh and fattened their lead to 12 games, largest in the history of the franchise.
In fact, Philadelphia (6-2) played like champions all week, starting out with a two-game sweep of Los Angeles, during which the Phillies twice scored the winning run in the ninth inning. Each of the six wins was posted by a different pitcher, but the combined four-hit 3-0 shutout of the Pirates by Tom Underwood and Ron Reed was the best. "If I can start out with a strike, I can get them to hack at anything close after that," Underwood said. The statistics supported his strategy: of the 31 batters he faced, 20 fell behind on the first pitch and four more made outs by swinging at Underwood's initial delivery.
All but one of Pittsburgh's (4-6) victories came against Houston, including a combined two-hitter by Larry Demery and Dave Giusti. Bill Robinson continued his hot hitting by slugging three home runs.
New York (3-3) suffered a power failure when Dave Kingman was sidelined for six weeks with torn thumb ligaments. The night before, Kingman had hit his 32nd home run as Mickey Lolich two-hit the Braves 2-0. Jerry Koosman won his 11th by holding Cincinnati's big guns to five hits in a 2-1 win. The Mets' most galling defeat was a 3-2 setback in Montreal that came on an 11th inning homer by Del Unser—three games after he and Wayne Garrett had been traded by New York to clear out some "dead wood."
Reliever Dale Murray ended his season-long eight-game losing streak with a pair of victories for Montreal (3-5). But starter Woodie Fryman (8-8) wanted out. "The one club I saw as bad as this was the Phillies in 1972," he said. "If I were the Expos, I'd get rid of me and get one or two more young players. We're going backward."
St. Louis (2-6) ended a five-game losing streak by pounding Chicago 12-3. Earlier Manager Red Schoendienst had tried to get more punch in the lineup by moving Catcher-First Baseman Ted Simmons to third and putting Vic Harris at second in place of injured Mike Tyson. After each of them had made two errors in a game, Simmons went back to his old positions and Harris to the bench.
Everyone in Chicago (3-4) seemed to have a complaint. Manager Jim Marshall benched Jerry Morales and the outfielder called him "gutless." Bill Madlock was hit by pitches twice in a game against St. Louis and steamed that his pitchers were not protecting him. And after the players held a meeting to determine "why we accept losing as easily as we do," Pitcher Joe Coleman moaned, "We're not pulling together enough."
PHIL 63-29 PITT 52-42 NY 50-47 ST.L 41-52 CHI 39-55 MONT 29-59
Not all of the Angels' good young players are down on the farm. California (5-3) welcomed new Manager Norm Sherry by sweeping a doubleheader from Texas 8-0 and 4-3. Rookie Paul Hartzell pitched a three-hitter in the first game for his second victory of the week, and young Shortstop Mario Guerrero, a reclamation project from the Red Sox and Cards, had four hits. Sherry, who managed five years in the California minor league system, looks for more of the same. "I see kids who were no better—and maybe a little worse—than some of my kids making good in the big leagues, and I think mine can, too."
Just when it seemed as if Oakland (5-3) might be getting back into the division race, the A's fell apart. It happened in the sixth inning of a game against first-place Kansas City before 42,592 people, the largest crowd of the season in Oakland. The night before, Vida Blue's six-hit, 13-strikeout performance had beaten the Royals 2-0 and cut their lead to eight games. On Saturday, the A's were leading 4-0 when five errors and shoddy relief pitching let KC score all its runs in a 6-5 win.
Kansas City (3-4) had not looked good earlier in the week when it dropped games to Baltimore 10-3 and Milwaukee 5-0. Manager Whitey Herzog compared the play in the first loss to that in Bad News Bears and wanted to refund the fans' money after the second. "I thought seriously about having a team meeting," Herzog said. "Then I decided it wasn't necessary. When they play that bad, they know they are lousy."
Texas (2-5) started another losing streak to dip below .500 for the first time this season. One-run victories over New York and Boston ended a 10-game drought, but at week's end the Rangers had dropped five in a row.
New York, Minnesota and consecutive doubleheaders with Detroit wore the White Sox out. Chicago (4-5) blew a 7-0 first-inning lead against the Yankees, losing 14-9, and took a 17-2 mauling from the Twins.
The victory over Chicago was Minnesota's (5-2) fourth straight. In that game, Lyman Bostock hit for the cycle, driving in four runs and scoring four.
KC 58-36 OAK 50-46 TEX 46-47 MINN 45-48 CHI 43-51 CAL 41-57
"I've got my blood-hounds out," said Reggie Jackson last week as he hit home runs in six consecutive games and began to nose in on the league's home-run lead. "Before, the leaders were a couple of hills away. But now I can see them," said Reggie. With 16 home runs Jackson was only three behind leader Sal Bando. "Park it, Sal," Reggie warned. "You're cluttering up the highway."
Jackson's most important clout of the week helped Baltimore (4-4) beat Texas 4-3 in the ninth. Forgotten man Paul Blair also knocked off the Rangers with a two-run shot in the 12th inning of a 6-4 game.
New York (5-2) rested comfortably at the top as Ed Figueroa won twice, Doyle Alexander lost a no-hitter in the ninth inning of a 9-1 win over Boston and Thurman Munson batted .452. Munson's best performance was a four-hit, five-RBI job that helped rout Oakland 10-1.
Although Cleveland (5-3) won twice behind Jim Bibby, President Ted Bonda seemed to indicate he does not think that the Indians can catch the Yankees. He suggested that, beginning next season, the playoffs be expanded to include wild-card teams.
Boston (1-6) lost Manager Darrell Johnson and its ninth game in 10 starts. General Manager Dick O'Connell said he decided to promote Coach Don Zimmer "to shake up the team." But after the Red Sox were bombed twice by New York, they were only a game out of last place.
Milwaukee drew close to Boston by sweeping three from Baltimore. It was a rare good showing for the Brewers within their division. They are 15-27 against Eastern teams this year and 25-23 against the West.
Detroit batters slugged four homers against Minnesota, but the Tigers (3-6) still lost 6-5. Mark Fidrych won his 11th, beating the Twins 8-3, but later was chased in the fifth inning by Cleveland.
NY 59-33 CLEV 45-45 BALT 46-47 DET 43-48 BOST 42-50 MIL 40-50
PLAYER OF THE WEEK
REGGIE JACKSON: Baltimore's DH had only eight hits during the week, but six were homers hit in consecutive games, tying an American League record held by four others. He also scored six runs and drove in 12.