Sparky Anderson's recent remark about the Giants, "Don't worry, they'll wilt in the heat," haunted him after West Division-leading San Francisco (4-4) upstaged Anderson's Reds (4-3) in 80° weather at Cincinnati's Riverfront Stadium. Willie McCovey helped win the first game of the series on Friday night with a home run, as Tom Seaver's record dropped to 9-7 and Vida Blue's soared to 12-4. Then McCovey, who hit a pinch homer earlier in the week to rescue a game with San Diego, singled in the winning run against the Reds on Saturday. Pete Rose's hitting streak was still alive at 25 games, and George Foster banged out 10 hits and eight RBIs in five games before going 0 for 10.
Just two games out of first were the Dodgers (5-3), who swept a doubleheader in Houston for their 21st and 22nd wins in their last 30 games. Houston (1-6) beat Cincinnati when James Rodney Richard pitched a four-hitter and fanned nine, but otherwise it was a bad week. The Astros dropped into last place, losing a 2-1 game to the Reds when they loaded the bases with none out in the ninth and failed to score.
Only once before in the 9½-year history of the team had San Diego (4-4) been above .500 in July. Flushed with success, the Padres promptly lost four straight before Eric Rasmussen's second win of the week, a three-hit shutout of the Braves, stopped the slide.
July 16, 1978
Atlanta (5-3),the most entertaining team in baseball this side of the Boston Red Sox, continued to play them all for fun. The Braves got six RBIs in one game from First Baseman Dale Murphy, who hit a grand slam off Vida Blue. They also rallied for six runs in the ninth inning—all on singles—to startle the Dodgers 9-8. To make certain he would give his indefatigable relief pitcher, Gene Garber, a day of rest, Manager Bobby Cox wrote Garber's name on the lineup card as the Braves' starting centerfielder, then pinch-hit for Garber when he was due up in the top of the first inning.
In the NL East, during a week of frenzied activity for the Philadelphia (5-3) bullpen, no Philly reliever looked sharper than Rawly Eastwick, seldom used as a Yankee, who was picked up by the Phils just before the trading deadline. "When he first came over here it was like spring training for him," said Manager Danny Ozark. Against the Mets, Eastwick hurled two scoreless innings to earn a victory. Two nights later against the Expos he surrendered only one hit in 4⅖ innings for another win. The Phillies' offense remained in high gear as Greg Luzinski hit three homers for the second consecutive week and two pinch hitters—Jose Cardenal and Bake McBride—won games with home runs. The second-place Cubs (4-3) owe their lives to Bruce Sutter, the fork-balling bullpen ace, who saved all four Chicago victories without giving up a run.
Pittsburgh (3-3) pitching was airtight, yielding only 14 runs in six games. But the Bucs' hitters, minus injured Dave Parker for at least two more weeks, were shut out twice.
Montreal (3-6) should have fared better, considering the yeoman work done by Pitcher Steve Rogers and Rightfielder Ellis Valentine. Rogers stopped the Phillies 7-4 for his fourth win over them this season, then saved a game for rookie Hal Dues. Valentine supported Rogers with a 5-for-5 night against the Phillies and had a dozen hits, including a pair of homers, during the week, along with 10 RBIs. He also has an extraordinary arm, and when the Phillies' Jerry Martin made too wide a turn coming around first base on a single, Valentine threw behind him and nailed him trying to get back to the bag.
The Mets (3-3) stayed ahead of St. Louis (4-4), thanks to Centerfielder Lee Mazzilli, who cracked four homers. The Cardinals might get somewhere if they could learn how to beat the Cubs, who swept a three-game series at Busch Stadium to run their record to 9-0 against St. Louis this season.
Boston (5-1) continued to overpower the rest of the league, scoring 49 runs and lengthening its East Division lead to nine games. This time the main perpetrators were Jim Rice, Carl Yastrzemski, Carlton Fisk and Fred Lynn, who contributed all eight of the team's home runs and 34 of the 46 RBIs. At one point last week the Red Sox had gone 12 games without a loss, except in extra innings. When Yaz homered in the ninth inning at Cleveland (3-6) to cap a four-run rally and tie the game at 9-9, it appeared that the Indians, too, might have to go to extra innings to beat the hottest team in the majors. But in the bottom of the ninth Shortstop Tom Veryzer's fourth hit of the game—and his 10th in his last 15 at bats—scored Paul Dade from second base with the winning run.
Milwaukee (2-4) held onto second place when Larry Hisle smashed four homers and knocked in eight runs in the Brewers' victories over New York aces Ron Guidry and Rich Gossage. Hisle's first homer was a three-run shot in the first inning Friday that saddled Guidry with his first defeat of the season after 13 straight wins—two shy of the American League record for consecutive victories from the start of the season. After its third successive .500-or-worse week, New York's (3-4) chances of catching Boston were looking fainter and fainter. Baltimore (3-4) wasn't going anywhere, either, and Manager Earl Weaver was twice ejected by umpires.
As a team, the Tigers (5-3) outhit even the Red Sox (.320 to .307) as Rusty Staub and Jason Thompson knocked in 12 and 10 runs, respectively. Toronto pitchers threw a pair of shutouts and the Blue Jays (5-4) were shut out once themselves.
The Twins have the finest singles hitters in baseball and they capped off their best week of the season (7-1) with 23 hits—19 of them good for only one base—in a 9-8 victory over Oakland. Roy Smalley and Willie Norwood both had four-hit games, as did Rod Carew, who was closing in on 2,000 career hits—he now has 1,996 in his 11½ seasons. Minnesota was still three games under .500, but only 4½ games out of the West Division lead.
On top and seemingly beginning to find themselves after several years of preparation, anticipation and frustration were the Angels (6-2), who may be tough to reckon with if Joe Rudi is truly his old self again following a nagging muscle pull. "I just keep hacking away at the ball," says Rudi, whose season average was only .226 but who had 19 hits and 18 RBIs in his last 16 games.
Kansas City (5-3), Texas (1-6) and Oakland (4-5) changed places in the standings almost every day. The Royals were second as the week ended, thanks largely to a 14-for-33 hitting binge by Third Baseman George Brett. The Rangers lost their fourth straight game this season at Chicago's Comiskey Park, where Texas sluggers Richie Zisk and Bobby Bonds, both former White Sox players, are 0 for 28. And it was business as usual for Charlie Finley's A's, who won four in a row, then lost four in a row.
Chicago (3-5) had other moments to revel in. Trailing the Rangers 6-5 with one out in the ninth, White Sox Second Baseman Jorge Orta socked a two-run homer to enable Larry Doby to win his first game at Comiskey Park as a manager. Seattle (2-6) might have come up empty-handed except for Tom Paciorek, who was brought back from the minors and went 4 for 4, including a home run, in his debut at the Kingdome. He was 15 for 33 during the week and singled in two runs to beat Oakland 3-2.
PLAYER OF THE WEEK
Carl Yastrzemski, 38, got his 2,800th major league hit—a double. He also socked four home runs on four consecutive nights, batted .500 for the week, knocked in 12 runs and raised his season RBI total to 52.