Gulp. That was the loudest sound Philadelphia (0-5) fans could muster. Phillie hitters gave them nothing to shout about, producing just three runs in the last four games of the week, three of them one-run setbacks. Mike Schmidt, Larry Bowa, Dave Cash and Jay Johnstone hit a combined 175 as the Phils extended their losing streak to seven.
While the Phillies slipped, the Pirates zipped. Pittsburgh (6-0) ran its string of victories to nine and. during an eight-day stretch, chopped Philadelphia's once-imposing 15-game lead in half. More than anything it was superb pitching that carried the Bucs back into the race, with John Candelaria winning twice and the staff allowing the Padres only one run during a three-game sweep. Jerry Reuss and Larry Demery pitched shutouts, and Bruce Kison won 4-1.
Strong pitching also buoyed New York (3-2), but it was robust hitting that helped Chicago (3-1). Rick Monday raised his home-run total to 27 with two blasts in an 8-5 win over St. Louis. And Jerry Morales drove in four runs—two on a 14th-inning single—as the Cubs bounced the Braves 7-5.
September 12, 1976
Steve Rogers continued his superlative pitching for Montreal (1-5), defeating San Diego 3-0, then losing to Los Angeles 2-1. In his past eight starts Rogers has had a 2.14 ERA, but because of the Expos' silent bats he has won just three times, all of them shutouts. After dropping doubleheaders on successive days, Manager Karl Kuehl was put out of his misery; he was replaced by former Giant skipper Charlie Fox.
PHIL 83-49 PITT 76-57 NY 68-65 CHI 62-72 ST.L 57-71 MONT 43-85
"I'd better take Japanese lessons. I'll need them with the Tokyo Giants next year if we lose this thing," said Cincinnati Manager Sparky Anderson as he tried to make light of his team's dwindling lead. In four weeks the Dodgers have cut the Reds' margin from 13½ games to seven. Four saves were registered by Charlie Hough, who now has 14, as Los Angeles won five in a row and finished its best August (19-10) since moving west in 1958. The only game Hough did not have a hand in was a 2-1 win over the Mets. Tommy John hurled a six-hitter for that victory, and Reggie Smith hit a two-run homer.
The Reds (3-2) also relied heavily on one reliever—Rawly Eastwick, who earned his 10th win and 19th save. Clearly, Eastwick has been out of this world. Now it turns out he wants to depart from it in another way. "I would like to travel spiritually to another country or maybe another universe," says Eastwick, a believer in OOBE (Out-of-Body Experiences). "We have no idea what we can do with our brain power. We can create positive energy, turn a thought into a reality." Eastwick's brain power—and control—failed him, though, when he walked in a run in the 11th inning of a 1-0 loss at St. Louis.
"I'm a native of Houston and I've been with the Astros all their 15 years, but only recently have I felt safe to walk the streets of this city," said Lynwood Stallings, the team's director of scouting. What made him feel safe was a string of excellent pitching performances. Joe Sambito, 24, stopped St. Louis 6-0 on four hits. Then came a sweep of Philadelphia: Dan Larson, 22, won 3-1 with a five-hitter; J.R. Richard, 26, gave up seven hits in a 3-2 game; and Bo McLaughlin, 22, won 1-0 while yielding only six hits.
Randy Jones of San Diego (0-5) was saddled with his 10th loss, a 3-0 verdict in Pittsburgh, one of three shutouts suffered by the Padres. Although attendance has been mediocre in Atlanta (1-3), hopes were high for a big gate on Jacket Night. Warmup jackets awaited the first 5,000 youngsters that night. Alas, only 2,364 fans showed up. "It'll be good to get back to Candlestick and some decent weather," joked Bobby Murcer of San Francisco (2-3) after driving in five runs between raindrops during a 10-7 win in New York.
CIN 85-50 LA 77-56 HOUS 68-69 SD 63-73 ATL 59-75 SF 58-77
Kansas City, which led by 12 games on Aug. 6, began the week with a still-comfortable nine-game advantage over Oakland. But the Royals lost 15-6 to the Red Sox on Sunday, while the A's nipped the Tigers 2-1. Don Baylor opened the 12th inning of that victory with a single, sped to third on a bunt and scored on Gene Tenace's single. That left Kansas City eight games up. Both contenders dropped their next two outings, but while the Royals lost again on Wednesday, the A's sliced the lead to seven games when Vida Blue beat the Yankees 5-0. After a day off, Kansas City lost once more, and Oakland zapped California 3-0 as Mike Torrez gave up just two hits. That brought the A's to within six games of the Royals, whose attack had suddenly fizzled. Royal Manager Whitey Herzog even rested George Brett, whose average had fallen almost 40 points in six weeks. "When I saw him throw his helmet and try to kick it and miss, I knew it was time," Herzog said.
There was no stopping Rod Carew of Minnesota (5-2). He batted .375, stole home for the 15th time in his career and scored all the way from first when a wild throw was made on a bunt. Dave Goltz defeated Milwaukee 4-0, and Tom Burgmeier and Tom Johnson excelled in relief. Burgmeier permitted just three hits in 8‚Öî innings in a 10-3 decision over the Brewers, and Johnson allowed one run in 8‚Öì innings as he beat Milwaukee. Another relief win went to Bill Campbell (14-4), giving the Twins' bullpen a 28-7 record.
Jim Umbarger of the Rangers (3-2) cooled off the Orioles 11-0, and newcomer Tom Boggs frustrated the Royals 4-1.
A three-game sweep of Detroit lifted California (4-1) out of the cellar. Paul Hartzell and Frank Tanana won five-hitters, and Nolan Ryan, his fastball blazing at 97 mph in the ninth, fanned 11 Tigers.
Falling into the basement was Chicago (1-3). After an 11-1 loss to the Twins, in which his outfielders pursued batted balls with unrelenting ineptitude, Manager Paul Richards labeled their performances "the worst I have ever seen in the big leagues."
KC 78-55 OAK 72-61 MINN 67-69 TEX 61-72 CAL 59-75 CHI 57-76
The only first-place team to lose no ground was New York (page 24), which won three of five. Jim Palmer of Baltimore (3-2), who was 6-7 on June 10, improved his record to 19-11 when he held off Kansas City 4-3. Then Orioles Mike Flanagan, who was bothered by a cold, and Lee May, who was conked by a line drive during pregame practice, teamed up to beat the Royals again, 7-1. Flanagan pitched a six-hitter; May drove in four runs.
Boston's hopes for a third-place finish were dimmed when Ferguson Jenkins was lost for the rest of the season after undergoing surgery on a torn Achilles tendon. But Luis Tiant brought his victory total to 17 as he won twice. And the Red Sox (4-1) were hitting at last-drubbing the Royals 15-6 and clubbing the Rangers 11-3.
Jim Bibby of the Indians (3-1) defeated the White Sox 3-0; Jim Kern notched his ninth win when the Tribe scored three times in the 10th to trim Chicago 4-2; and Stan Thomas preserved a 7-4 verdict over the Twins with four innings of hitless relief. Player-Manager Frank Robinson was fined $4 by Cleveland's Kangaroo Kourt. The charge: showboating on his 41st birthday by inserting himself as a pinch runner.
It was all downhill for Mark Fidrych and Detroit (0-5). First Fidrych lost to the A's 2-1 in 12 innings. Then a game in California was delayed 15 minutes when he became trapped in a special "Bird Cage" while signing autographs. And finally Fidrych was tagged for nine runs in 3‚Öî innings by the Brewers. "You name it, I threw it, they hit it," The Bird said. Milwaukee (2-5) won that game 11-2 as First Baseman Mike Hegan made a rare start and hit for the cycle.
NY 80-50 BALT 69-62 CLEV 67-64 BOS 64-68 DET 61-71 MIL 59-71
PLAYER OF THE WEEK
JOHN CANDELARIA: Pittsburgh's surge got a boost when the 6'7" lefty, who was 4-4 in early June, ran his record to 14-5 by holding San Francisco to five hits as he won 3-2 in 11 innings and by defeating Montreal 7-2.