"I'm ahead of last year in every aspect," said Joe Morgan of Cincinnati (6-1) as he assessed his chances of repeating as MVP. Last week he batted .318, drove in nine runs and became the first second baseman since 1950, and the fourth ever, to get 100 RBIs in one year. Morgan also became the first player at any position to amass 100 walks, 50 steals, 25 homers and 100 runs in a single season.
Steve Yeager of Los Angeles (2-3) was simply glad to be alive. "Another inch and he would have been a dead man," said the surgeon who operated on Yeager after he was struck in the throat by the jagged end of teammate Bill Russell's broken bat while in the on-deck circle.
Houston (2-5) was homerless, but J. R. Richard won his 17th game and the Astros put together an eight-run inning to overhaul Cincinnati 10-5.
September 19, 1976
Reliever Butch Metzger of San Diego (4-4) won for the 11th time, Randy Jones stifled Houston for his 21st victory and Doug Rader hit the team's first homer in 14 games.
San Francisco (5-3) bumped Atlanta (1-4) out of fifth place as John Montefusco (15-12) picked up 5-0 and 4-2 wins.
CIN 92-51 LA 79-60 HOUS 71-74 SD 67-78 SF 64-80 ATL 60-80
"The way we're going right now, I think you could take nine guys off the street, put Pirate uniforms on them and they'd win," said Pittsburgh Outfielder Al Oliver. The way the Pirates (4-2) were going was up: they now trail the Phillies (2-5) by only four games. Bruce Kison (12-8) and Larry Demery (10-4) muzzled Philadelphia 6-2 and 5-1 in a double-header, Jim Rooker (13-7) beat them 6-1 and Jerry Reuss (13-8) and Kent Tekulve held off the Expos 4-3. Richie Hebner, who has been hitting in the low .200s all season, batted .500 and socked the Pirates' only homer of the week, while Oliver was tied for third in the hectic race for the batting title with a .331 average.
Last season's batting champion, Bill Mad-lock of Chicago (2-5), hit .438 and took over the league lead at .341, passing Cincinnati's Joe Morgan. Rick Monday of the Cubs twice led off games with homers, the seventh and eighth times he has done so this year.
New York (5-1), which more than doubled its pleasure—and run production—at Wrigley Field, closed out its season series there by thumping Chicago 7-4, 11-0 (behind Jon Matlack) and 11-5. In winning seven of nine outings there this year the Mets averaged 8.7 runs a game; in contests played elsewhere they have averaged 3.4 runs. Jerry Koosman (19-8) had two victories, one a two-hit, 4-1 verdict over St. Louis.
St. Louis (4-4), which a year ago had the league's best record in one-run decisions (29-14), lost two of three such games and ran its mark in that category to 19-33.
Montreal (5-4) perked up for new Manager Charlie Fox. Pinch hits by Barry Foote and Jose Morales topped off late rallies that earned the Expos a 7-5, 8-7 sweep of a doubleheader from the Cardinals.
PHIL 85-55 PITT 81-59 NY 74-66 CHI 65-77 ST. L 61-77 MONT 48-90
While the Oakland-Kansas City race (page 16) heated up, the batting race began to boil. Only five points separated the top four hitters: Hal McRae (.338) and George Brett (.337) of the Royals, and Lyman Bostock (.336) and Rod Carew (.333) of the Twins. Last week Bostock batted .600, Brett .464, Carew .444 and McRae .185. Carew, who had not hit a grand-slam homer in his 10-year career, walloped his third since June. Minnesota (6-1) set a team record for runs by bombing Chicago 18-1, then matched it in an 18-3 conquest of Kansas City.
Minnie Minoso, 53, became the oldest non-pitcher in major league history when he took over as the DH for Chicago (1-6). (Satchel Paige, 59, and Nick Altrock, 57, are the only older players.) Minoso struck out, popped up and flied out as Frank Tanana of the Angels notched his 16th victory, 7-3. Nolan Ryan of California (5-2) won two three-hitters, striking out 18 Chicago batters in one game. That victory enabled the Angels to grab fourth place from the Rangers (3-4), who were shut out three times.
KC 81-60 OAK 76-65 MINN 73-71 CAL 65-77 TEX 64-77 CHI 59-82
With first place securely in hand, the Yankees (5-2) tried to stay sharp. Keeping them that way were Ed Figueroa, Dick Tidrow and Thurman Munson. Figueroa (17-8) blanked Milwaukee 8-0, then flew to Puerto Rico in time for the birth of a son. Tidrow, who saved two games in relief, has an 0.69 ERA in his last 26 innings and 10 games. And MVP aspirant Munson hit .400 and drove in eight runs. That left Munson with 95 RBIs, three behind Lee May of Baltimore (6-2). Jim Palmer of the Orioles became the league's first 20-game winner, and Wayne Garland (17-6) won twice.
Dave LaRoche and Jim Kern have turned out to be the best bullpen combination in Cleveland (4-4) history. Last week LaRoche earned his 16th, 17th and 18th saves and Kern his 13th, giving them three more than Ray Narleski (19) and Don Mossi (9) had in 1955.
Carl Yastrzemski bopped his 20th homer as Boston (2-5) beat Detroit 4-3. Ben Oglivie of the Tigers (3-4) finished off the Red Sox 1-0 with a home run and took care of the Yankees 6-5 with three RBIs.
The Brewers (3-6) savored a 17-4 shellacking of the Indians, but a throwing error and a wild pitch cost them a pair of 3-2 losses.
NY 86-53 BALT 76-65 CLEV 72-69 BOS 67-74 DET 65-75 MIL 62-78
PLAYER OF THE WEEK
WOODIE FRYMAN: Montreal's rejuvenated hurler, who had one complete game all year, went the route to beat Pittsburgh 1-0, saved a win over St. Louis and, with one day's rest, again went all the way to stop the Bucs 4-2.