An back almost kept Steve Carlton of Philadelphia (5-3) from facing St. Louis. "You'll have to nurse him along." Pitching Coach Ray Rippelmeyer warned Catcher Tim McCarver. As it turned out. Carlton needed no nursing, striking out 14 Cardinals and singling twice during an 11-4 win.
Four days earlier Carlton had homered and singled as he won his 20th game, 11-1 in Pittsburgh. Other nifty pitchers were Larry Christenson, who beat New York 6-2 on two hits, and rookie Randy Lerch, who needed only 97 pitches to subdue St. Louis 3-1.
Rich Gossage of Pittsburgh (4-4) was almost untouchable, allowing one hit and striking out 10 in 6‚Öî innings of relief. In the process, he racked up his 19th and 20th saves. Gossage got his 10th win when Dale Berra. Yogi's son, singled in the 11th to knock off the Phillies 5-4.
With Reliever Bruce Sutter's split-fingered fastball at its dive-bombing best and pinch hitters coming through, Chicago (4-3) held third place. Sutter received credit for two wins after batters who had hit for him scored, Dave Rosello singling in the 10th and coming across on Bill Buckner's sacrifice fly to topple Montreal 3-2 and Gene Clines slamming a two-run homer in the ninth to defeat New York 10-8. Against the Expos, Sutter struck out six batters in a row, including three in the ninth on nine pitches. Sutter also earned his 27th save after pinch-hitter Jose Cardenal drove in the go-ahead run in the eighth inning of a 2-1 win in San Diego.
St. Louis (2-5) beat San Francisco 8-2, thanks to former Giants Ken Reitz (three doubles, four RBIs) and Dave Rader (three runs. two hits and an RBI). Ted Simmons walloped three home runs, one as Tom Underwood held off the Cubs 3-1.
Ellis Valentine of Montreal (4-3), returning after missing 22 games because of a bruised foot, hit a two-run homer to zap New York 4-3 and homered twice to beat Pittsburgh 4-2. Don Stanhouse tossed 8‚Öì innings of scoreless relief while saving three games. Despite allowing a runner to walk home from third when no one covered the plate and executing a two-out "double play," the Expos beat the Cubs 4-2.
About the only goal the Mets (2-5) have is to avoid 100 defeats for the season. Steve Henderson's three RBIs enabled them to throttle the Expos 5-3, and a five-run ninth gave the New Yorkers a 7-2 win over the Cubs.
PHIL 88-53 PITT 81-62 CHI 75-65 ST.L 74-68 MONT 65-76 NY 55-86
With a 12½-game lead, the Dodgers (5-2) contemplated postseason award possibilities: Comeback Player of the Year for Dusty Baker, MVP for Reggie Smith and the Cy Young award for Tommy John. All three enhanced their prospects last week. Baker, who had four homers and 39 RBIs in 1976, hammered his 22nd home run and Smith his 27th as John beat Pittsburgh 8-2. Smith hit No. 28 in a 3-2 win in San Diego. Baker homered in the next three games and increased his RBIs to 71. Again benefiting from one of Baker's clouts, this one a three-run shot, was John (18-5, 2.48 ERA), who beat the Reds 4-1. Getting in some pokes of his own was Ron Cey, whose three homers gave him 28.
While the Dodgers reduced their magic number to eight, Willie McCovey of the Giants (2-5) increased some pertinent figures of his own. Hitting like the Stretch of bygone days, the 39-year-old McCovey slammed five homers and had a dozen RBIs. In the process he picked up his 2,000th hit and his 26th homer, the 491st of his career.
Following 5-1 and 8-3 losses by Cincinnati (3-4) in Houston, Sparky Anderson said he felt "humiliated" and added, "It takes a lot to embarrass me." Pete Rose was within 25 hits of his latest goal: a ninth 200-hit season that would equal Ty Cobb's record. George Foster (page 18) erased Johnny Bench's team mark for right-handed sluggers with his 45th and 46th home runs.
Excellent pitching enabled Houston (6-1) to close to within 3½ games of second-place Cincinnati. In those victories, the Astro staff yielded only seven runs and six extra-base hits, struck out 20, walked 10 and held batters to a .173 average. Among the wins were a three-hitter by Mark Lemongello and Joe Sambito against the Giants, five-and four-hitters by Joe Niekro over the Expos and Giants, and a six-hitter by Lemongello against the Reds. Since becoming a starter on July 24, Niekro has been 8-2 with a 2.57 ERA. After Art Howe, a .260 batter, was walked intentionally, Roger Metzger, a .187 hitter, slammed a bases-loaded triple that ensured a 7-1 win over San Diego. It was Metzger's fifth triple, all against the Padres.
Catcher Dave Roberts of San Diego (2-5) topped off his .417 hitting with a three-run homer to topple Houston 9-5. Rollie Fingers got his 32nd save in that game. Rookie Bob Owchinko did not allow a Dodger beyond first base as he nailed down a two-hit 1-0 win.
With Gary Matthews providing much of the offense, Dick Ruthven of Atlanta (4-3) was a double winner. Matthews drove in two runs as Ruthven beat the Giants 4-0 while allowing only three singles. Matthews had four RBIs when Ruthven held off the Padres 9-6. Two homers by Jeff Burroughs brought his total to 37, and 12 strikeouts by Phil Niekro gave him a club-record 231.
LA 87-55 CIN 75-68 HOUS 71-71 SF 65-78 SD 63-81 ATL 53-89
All three contenders came through with a pair of shutouts, and two of them—the Red Sox and Orioles—walloped 13 and 12 home runs, respectively. The Yankees (5-3) hit only five homers and had to scramble for their "wins. Don Gullett returned from the disabled list to pitch a two-hit 4-0 victory over Minnesota, in which Cliff (Drop Over Some Time) Johnson hit a grand slam. Johnson homered again as Mike Torrez (16-12) beat Toronto 2-0 on three hits. In between were a pair of 4-3 squeakers in Cleveland. Reggie Jackson may finally feel at home. After a three-run homer during an 8-3 defeat of the Indians, Jackson was greeted warmly by several Yankees. One was archrival Thurman Munson. who said, "September's the time to play ball and not worry about other stuff."
Boston (8-1) played magnificent September ball and moved to within two games of New York. Rookie Don Aase (5-1) yielded only eight hits as he won twice, 8-0 in Toronto and 7-1 over Detroit. Reggie Cleveland concluded a doubleheader whitewashing of the Blue Jays with a 6-0 five-hitter. The Red Sox took another twin bill, 5-1 and 8-6 against the Tigers, as Bill Campbell recorded his 25th and 26th saves. When Carlton Fisk and George Scott hit back-to-back homers, it was the 16th time the Sox had accomplished that feat this season, a big league record. Three homers by Jim Rice, who hit two in one game for the seventh time this year, gave him the league lead with 37.
Ken Singleton of the Orioles (7-2) batted .424, had three homers and extended to 46 the number of consecutive games in which he had been on base. Rookie Catcher Dave Skaggs drove in five runs as the Birds beat the Tigers 6-2 in 11 innings behind Scott McGregor. Eddie Murray homered three times, finishing off Detroit 7-5 with a two-run shot in the ninth. He also had a game-tying single in the bottom of the ninth against Cleveland, a game Doug DeCinces ended moments later with an RBI single for a 6-5 victory. Rudy May (16-12) defeated Detroit 5-0 and Cleveland 7-1, and Jim Palmer (15-11) shut out the Tigers 4-0.
Detroit (2-8) unveiled three newcomers, Catcher Lance Parrish, Shortstop Alan Trammell and Second Baseman Lou Whitaker. They combined for 12 hits in 24 trips to the plate, and Parrish homered and drove in five runs during a 12-5 drubbing of Baltimore.
On Hate the Yankees Day in Cleveland, the Indians (2-6) swept a doubleheader. Jim Kern earned his 18th save in the opener, a 4-3 victory, and won his eighth game as the Indians scored twice in the eighth inning of the second game for a 5-4 win.
Sixto Lezcano, who missed 48 games because of a broken hand, homered and had two singles on his first day back to carry Milwaukee (2-3) to a 6-5 decision over California. Moose Haas evened his record at 10-10 with a three-hit 3-1 triumph in Oakland.
Toronto's only two wins in eight tries were both noteworthy. The first, Dave Lemanczyk's 3-2 victory over Boston, ended an 11-game losing streak. Then the Blue Jays set club records for hits (20) and runs as they flattened the Yankees 19-3. Roy Howell drove in nine runs (the most by anyone in the league this year) with his fifth and sixth homers, two doubles and a single. In that game Ron Fairly became the 96th player to reach 1,000 RBIs.
NY 87-55 BOS 85-57 BALT 83-58 DET 67-76 CLEV 65-78 MIL 60-86 TOR 47-92
Will Kansas City (7-0) rollicking to a team-record 11-game win streak and virtually locking up first place, everything became a cause for levity, even a beaning of Hal McRae. "You can get drunk tonight and not have to worry about a hangover," George Brett told McRae. "Your head's going to hurt anyway." A $5 fine was levied against Pitcher Randy McGilberry, recently up from Omaha, for asking if the second games of doubleheaders were seven-inning affairs as they are in the minors. Mitigating that financial setback were McGilberry's two scoreless innings of relief in Paul Splittorff's 10-0 win over the Mariners.
For the most part, it was Kansas City opponents who suffered lumps and losses. Darrell Porter, who hit three homers last season, slugged four in two days in Seattle to increase his total to 15. He batted .524 during the week. Al Cowens was also on a rampage, unloading his 20th and 21st home runs, scoring nine times, driving in 10 runs and hitting .407. After a 10-1 laugher in Minnesota, Splittorff (14-6) had a 13-2 record since May 20.
It was not Centerfielder Chet Lemon's fault that Chicago (4-5) fell eight games back. Lemon threw out two runners at the plate during a 2-1 win in Oakland, and in a 7-2 defeat of the A's, he reached over an eight-foot wall to turn a home run into an out.
Texas (3-4) swept a doubleheader in Seattle, Doyle Alexander (14-10) taking the 5-1 opener on a four-hitter and Roger Moret breezing 7-1. With the Twins' infield over-shifted, Willie Horton took two rare shots to the opposite field. The results: his 13th homer and a run-scoring double as the Rangers prevailed 4-3.
Despite 5-4 and 7-4 triumphs over Texas, Minnesota (2-4) skidded to fourth place. Paul Thormodsgard (11-10) was the victor in the first of the wins, and Dave Goltz (17-8) got the decision in the other.
Arm problems caught up with Nolan Ryan and Frank Tanana of California (5-2). After giving up just one hit in 61A innings, Ryan was tagged for successive Chicago hits as his forearm "tightened up." To the rescue came Dave LaRoche, who got his 14th save while wrapping up a 2-0 win for Ryan. That was the first shutout loss for the White Sox, who were trying to become the first team since the 1932 Yankees to go through a season without being blanked. The victory was Ryan's 19th, and lowered his ERA to 2.63, second only to the league-leading 2.54 of Tanana, who was told to rest his weary arm for 10 days. Bobby Bonds socked his 34th homer and stole his 33rd and 34th bases. Don Baylor hit three homers and batted .409.
Because they said they wished to play elsewhere next season, Doc Medich and Bill North of Oakland (3-4) were reprimanded by owner Charlie Finley. Medich was placed on irrevocable waivers, and North was benched. No team claimed Medich, so he was used in relief, hurled four scoreless innings and gained his second win of the week as the A's beat the Brewers 4-1. Mitchell Page drove in two runs and stole three bases in Medich's earlier 8-7 victory over Chicago and hit his 18th and 19th homers to help beat Detroit 7-5. The A's mini-surge moved them out of the cellar. Said the unimpressed North, "I see a light at the end of the tunnel. It is called October."
What Seattle (2-6) pitchers saw were more home runs. Fifteen gopher balls gave the Mariner staff 176, 44 short of the major league mark set by Kansas City in 1964. But Seattle hit eight homers of its own, including three by Lee Stanton, who raised his total to 23.
KC 86-54 CHI 78-62 TEX 77-63 MINN 77-65 CAL 67-71 OAK 55-84 SEA 56-89
PLAYER OF THE WEEK
CARLTON FISK: Realizing he wasn't "as strong as in May," the Boston catcher opened his stance and hit with renewed vigor: a pair of two-homer games, 18 RBIs (seven in an 11-2 rout of Toronto) and a .577 average.