After Jim Barr of the Giants (6-1) had beaten the Reds for the third and fourth times this season, 3-1 and 4-2, Johnny Bench said, "They should only give him half the plate. He doesn't use the other half. He just keeps everything on the outside corner."
Cincinnati (3-4) got some good pitching of its own from rookie Pat Zachry (13-5), who stopped Los Angeles for the fifth time, 4-3, and from Rawly Eastwick, who racked up his 22nd and 23rd saves. Don Gullett, beset all year by shoulder and contractual problems, mowed down the Dodgers 4-2 with a revved-up fastball. Pete Rose hit .394 and reached the 200-hit plateau for the eighth season, one short of Ty Cobb's record.
Los Angeles (4-6) got shutouts from Tommy John, who buoyed his hopes of earning the comeback-of-the-year award by beating Cincinnati 9-0, and Don Sutton, who muzzled Atlanta 2-0. Anticipating his first 20-win season when he again faced the Braves later in the week, Sutton rented a suite and had champagne on ice. Despite extending his streak of shutout innings against Atlanta to 28, he did not have his party. Sutton left the scoreless game after 11 innings, and the Braves went on to win 1-0 on a passed ball in the 12th. In all, the busy Braves played six one-run games and took three of them.
September 26, 1976
"That isn't the real Bob Watson. Before the season is over I'll have my usual .300 average, about 15 home runs and 90 RBIs." So said Bob Watson of Houston (2-3) in June when he was slumping. True to his word, last week he raised his average to .310, hit his 16th homer and drove across his 96th run.
With the Padres (1-3) collapsing, talk in San Diego was of the team's minor-leaguers who won pennants for Hawaii, Amarillo, Texas, Reno, and Walla Walla, Wash.
CIN 95-55 LA 83-66 HOUS 73-77 SF 70-81 SD 68-81 ATL 66-85
Four, five, six, five, four, three, four—that was the day-by-day rundown on Philadelphia's lead over Pittsburgh. "To hell with fundamentals, team meetings, morale and all that jazz," said Mike Schmidt of the Phillies (4-3). "I'm going to worry about myself, get my hits and, if I contribute, fine." Schmidt was not really all that self-seeking, pointing out this was his way of "meeting the pressure. I hope nobody misunderstands." Making it perfectly clear, Schmidt slugged two homers in a 7-2 rout of Montreal. "You'll never get another hit off me," Tony Taylor, 40, was told by a former Phillie teammate, Pitcher Woodie Fryman, 36, now of the Expos. That night Taylor got a pinch RBI single off Fryman as the Phils rallied for a 3-2 win. After a two-base error led to a 4-3 loss to the Cubs, Novelist James Michener said, "I'm a Quaker and my wife's a Buddhist, and we joined in prayer for the Phillies. But it didn't work." The next day Steve Carlton (18-6) answered the Micheners' prayers by stopping the Cubs 4-1.
"Ability gets you to the majors, mentality keeps you here," said Willie Stargell of the Pirates (4-3). "I'd say 80% of this game is from the neck up." A former head case, Bill Robinson, who has 16 RBIs against his former Phillie teammates this year, homered twice and drove in seven runs in 7-2, 7-6 wins in Philadelphia. "Why am I a late bloomer?" asked Robinson, 33. "I wasn't able to handle all the press I got when I was younger. I tried to hit a home run every time up. It nearly ruined me."
After Tom Seaver of the Mets (4-4) had baffled the Pirates 5-0 and 6-2, Stargell paid tribute to his fastball by saying, "We were lucky we weren't playing on a prairie. If we had been, he might've started a brush fire." Jerry Koosman became a 20-game winner for the first time in nine seasons. His 4-1 win over St. Louis was his 14th victory in his last 16 decisions, during which time he has had a 1.69 ERA.
St. Louis (6-3), which is 22nd in the majors in homers, hit seven last week. Other notable deeds: Tom Walker, who had just one save, preserved both ends of a doubleheader as the Cardinals, who had not taken a twin bill all year, swept two in four days; Bob Forsch, who failed to go the route 29 times, pitched his first complete game; and John Denny beat New York 7-0 to lower his ERA to 2.56, second only to Seaver's 2.38.
Rick Reuschel and Ray Burris won their 13th games for Chicago (3-4). Montreal (2-6) clinched possession of the cellar.
PHIL 89-58 PITT 85-62 NY 78-70 CHI 68-81 ST. L 67-80 MONT 50-96
They played footsie in the West. Oakland Owner Charlie Finley opened his mouth and—no surprise—stuck his foot in it, and his players were, for a change, caught flat-footed on the base paths. The Royals also got tangled up while running the bases, but managed to put their best feet forward when it counted most. Finley first spoke up when he tried to woo five unsigned A's—Joe Rudi, Rollie Fingers, Bert Campaneris, Don Baylor and Gene Tenace—with new contracts. They all turned him down. Then, while watching the Royals drop a doubleheader to the White Sox, Finley gloated, "They're choking. The Sox sweep just gave us the pennant." Not quite. Even though Vida Blue won his fourth and fifth games in a row and Mike Torrez his sixth straight, the A's (4-3) fell 5½ behind the Royals. Oakland, which has averaged better than two steals a game, had just one in three games against Texas (3-4). Cutting down the A's repeatedly was Ranger Catcher Jim Sundberg.
The Royals (5-3) ran themselves in and out of trouble. Tom Poquette, who should have gone from first to third on a single, was tagged out at second after hesitating on his way to third. But later that night he put his feet to better use, chasing down a low liner in left field with the bases loaded to preserve a 3-2 triumph over Chicago for Dennis Leonard (17-8). White Sox Pitcher Ken Brett picked three Royals off first in one game, but one of those base runners, Fred Patek, eluded a rundown and made it to second while Frank White scored from third with a vital run in a 6-5 victory. Brett, who earlier had stopped the Royals 5-4, wore an I LIKE GEORGE BRETT T shirt under his uniform and admitted, "I couldn't help smiling" each time brother George batted for K.C. George went three for nine against Ken last week. Also helping Kansas City rebuild its lead, which had shrunk to 3½ games on Wednesday, were a pair of five-hit victories by Marty Pattin and Andy Hassler.
Still very much in the running for the batting title were Rod Carew (.331) and Lyman Bostock (.327) of Minnesota (3-4), who trailed Kansas City's Hal McRae (.335) and Brett (.333).
Although failing to hit a homer, California (4-4) clung to fourth place as Nolan Ryan zapped Kansas City 2-1 and Gary Ross blanked Minnesota 6-0.
Some Chicago (4-5) players seem to have gone years without a hit. But one who had actually been without one for more than a decade finally came through on his fourth time at bat this season. Fifty-three-year-old Designated Hitter Minnie Minoso, who recently was put on the roster as a Bill Veeck publicity stunt, poked his first hit since 1964.
KC 86-63 OAK 80-68 MINN 76-75 CAL 69-81 TEX 67-81 CHI 63-87
"When they get a hit off me I always ask for a new ball. Let the old one go back in the umpire's pocket and goof around with the other balls. Maybe it'll come out as a pop-up." The author of that soliloquy? None other than Mark (The Bird) Fidrych of Detroit (2-5), who could not find any pop-up balls against Boston. He allowed seven runs before being yanked in the third inning of an 8-3 loss. Rusty Staub picked up his 2,000th career hit.
It was much the same story for New York (5-2) and Boston (5-2). Ed Figueroa (19-8) won twice and Graig Nettles hit two game-winning homers for the Yankees. For the Red Sox, it was Luis Tiant (19-11) winning twice and Butch Hobson hitting two game-clinching homers. Lee May became the first Baltimore (5-1) player since 1970 to get 100 RBIs. Jim Kern notched his 14th save for Cleveland (2-4).
On A Salute to Hank Aaron Night, the Milwaukee (1-6) slugger told 40,383 fans, "This is the end for me." Aaron had asked that he not receive any expensive gifts, but the Brewers could not resist giving him a car. Thirteen of them piled into a battered vehicle from Crazy Jim's Demolition Derby. "It's a 1971 Torino Canardly," Driver-Pitcher Jim Colborn said. "You roll it down a hill, and you canardly get it back up."
NY 91-55 BALT 87-66 CLEV 74-73 BOS 72-76 DET 67-80 MIL 63-84
PLAYER OF THE WEEK
DAN FORD: "I remember and it gets me going," said the Twin outfielder of his inspired play against the A's, who traded him in 1974. Ford hit .478 and beat Oakland 4-0 with two two-run homers and 4-3 with a single.