"Believe in everything you say and do," went the lyrics to a song blasting inside the St. Louis clubhouse. "That's the way it is with us," said Catcher Steve Swisher. "We all believe in each other." Lou Brock agreed wholeheartedly. "Last year we were a stand-up club," he said. "That's a team that doesn't want to get its uniforms dirty. But this team is scrappy. We're diving into third base, diving into second base and diving into first base." As a result, St. Louis (4-2) dived into first place for the first time since 1977, tying Montreal with a 30-21 record. The Cards raised their team batting average from .280 to .291 as Garry Templeton (15 for 27), Ken Reitz (12 for 24), George Hendrick (10 for 24) and Keith Hernandez (9 for 27) all continued on batting tears. In fact, they all hit safely in every game last week. Ted Simmons had a hit or two or three in five other games, and a .450 average for the week. Hernandez—who batted .255 last season, a year he calls "purgatory"—has bashed out 50 hits in 131 trips to the plate since May 2, lifting his average from .213 to .317. However, Hernandez is more excited over Templeton's hitting. Following Templeton's four-hit performance against Los Angeles, his fourth in seven games, Hernandez gushed, "He might be the next guy to get 4,000 hits."
Montreal (2-4) beat Atlanta for Bill Lee's 100th career win and, in the fourth inning of a 12-2 win over the Braves, exploded for a team-record nine hits and 11 runs. But otherwise good news was scarce: four pitchers in six starts lasted only 34‚Äö√Ñ√∂‚àö√±‚àö¬® innings and had a 4.24 ERA; Steve Rogers was winless in two starts; and in 63 "clutch" situations, Expo batters got only nine hits—a .143 average. After Rogers' 5-4 loss at Houston, Second Baseman Rodney Scott, who went 0 for 4, rode the press bus back to the hotel. "I don't deserve to be on the players' bus," he said. "I'm not helping the team." Nor was Manager Dick Williams, who was interviewed in a men's magazine. "Other teams are in the Sporting News" Catcher Gary Carter said disgustedly, "but we're right in there where it counts for the discriminating sports reader."
Pittsburgh (4-2), nine games out of first place three weeks ago, moved to within 2½ games of the lead largely on the longball hitting of Dave Parker, Bill Robinson and Willie Stargell. Parker had four home runs to gain a place among the league leaders with 12. Robinson also hit four homers, two apiece in a 7-0 win over San Diego and a 5-4 defeat of Los Angeles. Stargell pinch-hit an eighth-inning two-run homer to tie the Giants at 2-2, and then Parker's bases-empty homer won the game. In the 7-0 defeat of the Padres, Pirate Pitcher Bruce Kison angrily raised his fist toward the press box and scorer Dan Donovan after Donovan ruled that Barry Evans' eighth-inning double, which was touched by Pirate Third Baseman Phil Garner, was a hit, not an error. It was the Padres' only hit. "We're in our home park," Kison whined. "It could have gone either way."
June 17, 1979
Chicago (4-2) and Philadelphia (3-4) tried group therapy. The Cubs' Bruce Sutter got saves No. 10, 11 and 12, but after a sloppily played 11-3 loss to San Diego, the Cubs turned a routine clubhouse meeting into a soul-searching session. Philadelphia Manager Danny Ozark called a similar team meeting. "Everyone in that room has talent coming out of the nose," Ozark said later. "It's disheartening to see the effort they're putting out." The most-troubled Phillie was Reliever Ron Reed, whose ERA, once 0.43, ballooned to 4.97; in his last 17 innings Reed has allowed 35 hits and 23 runs. In 12 appearances, the Phillie bullpen pitched 16⅖ innings, gave up 16 runs and walked a dozen batters. The bright note was Steve Carlton, who beat Houston 8-0 on a one-hitter.
Craig Swan beat ex-Met Tom Seaver and shut out Houston 4-0 for New York (4-2).
MONT 30-21 ST.L 30-21 PITT 28-24 PHIL 30-26 CHI 24-28 NY 21-31
Remember when People took to saying National League Least because West teams were dominating their rivals in the East? Well, it would have sounded pretty hollow last week. In interdivisional play San Diego, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Atlanta all dropped four of six games to Eastern rivals.
At San Francisco, Los Angeles and Atlanta, the problem was pitching. Vida Blue had a complete-game victory over the Pirates, a predominantly lefthand-hitting team, but the Giants' all-lefty starting staff has lately been bombarded by everyone else. Before beating Pittsburgh, San Francisco had lost 11 of 13 as opponents hit a sizzling .320. Dodger Pitchers Doug Rau and Andy Messersmith visited the team doctor, Frank Jobe, on the same day because both were suffering minor pains. It turned out that Messersmith had an injured nerve and Rau a rotator cuff injury—Messersmith will be out for 21 days and Rau for the remainder of the season. "I'm in shock," muttered Manager Tom Lasorda.
In lopsided losses to Philadelphia (9-3), New York (9-4) and Montreal (8-1 and 12-2), Atlanta's staff saw its ERA soar to 4.75 by week's end. Even worse, the Braves gave up 13 unearned runs, making for a total of 50 in their 57 games. Lack of hitting hurt San Diego, which was shut out twice. Aside from Dave Winfield, 9 for 24 for the week and batting .356, no other regular Padre was hitting over .300. After a loss to St. Louis and its six .300 hitters, Winfield summed up the difference between the two teams. "They're just ripping and slashing, and we're playing too close to the vest," he said.
Houston (4-2) climbed to an Astro-record 11 games above .500 and increased its divisional lead to 1½ games over Cincinnati, thanks in good part to knuckleballer Joe Niekro. He defeated Montreal 5-4 and then shut out New York for his eighth consecutive victory, which ties a team record set 10 years ago by the late Don Wilson. "Right now he's the best pitcher in the National League," said Manager Bill Virdon. Tom Seaver of Cincinnati (4-3), once acclaimed as the league's best, beat Montreal on a three-hitter to end a 7½-week drought in which he had not won a game. The Reds' Mike LaCoss beat the Expos 7-2, his seventh victory without a loss. It was also his 12th start this season, all of which have resulted in Cincinnati victories. Red pitchers got extraordinary support from George Foster and Dan Driessen. Foster banged out five homers and hit .379, while Driessen hit four homers, batted .444, scored eight runs and had six RBIs.
HOU 35-25 CIN 32-25 SF 28-31 LA 28-32 SD 27-34 ATL 21-36
California extended its divisional lead to a team-record three games in a 4-2 week. Surprises were everywhere. Frank Tanana, heretofore unable to last beyond seven innings, pitched a four-hit shutout against Toronto. Nolan Ryan, sidelined since May 30 with a pulled calf muscle, returned against Detroit and fired a four-hitter, striking out 16. In another win over Detroit, seldom-used 39-year-old Willie Davis banged out four hits in four at bats and First Baseman Dan Ford, subbing for Rod Carew, who is out with a thumb injury, drove home the go-ahead run in the fifth inning and then broke the game open with his first major league grand slam. In Ryan's triumph, Willie Mays Aikens broke out of a slump, singling twice and hitting a home run. Aikens says a recent visit with former high school rival Jim Rice helped him crack the slump. "He told me to watch the ball right into the catcher's mitt," Aikens said. Chicago (2-4) had surprises, too, but unfortunately most of them were bad. Ken Kravec, coming off six straight wins, suffered a 9-2 loss to Boston; Pitcher Mike Proly had a recurrence of elbow trouble in a loss to New York; and Ross Baumgarten, the White Sox' brightest rookie pitcher, played with a cold in losing to Milwaukee and wound up in the hospital with a sore throat. On the plus side were the performances of rookie Pitcher Fred Howard, who beat Boston for his first major league victory, and Reliever Steve (Rainbow) Trout, who had two saves, including one in Fenway Park, where his father, Dizzy Trout, won the last of his 170 victories.
Marty Pattin of Kansas City, a slow starter used sparingly this season, got two of the Royals' three wins for the week. After beating Milwaukee 6-1 on five hits, he said, "Who knows whether I can pitch early in the season if they don't use me?"
Johnny Grubb extended his hitting streak to 21 games, the longest this season in the majors, Texas won five of seven games. Minnesota (30-26) dropped 3½ games out of first, while Oakland was a perfect 0-6, discouraging even by its modest standards.
Seattle's Willie Horton finally hit his 300th career home run in a 4-3 victory over Detroit. The night before, Horton cracked a shot toward leftfield off Detroit's John Hiller that appeared certain to land in the Kingdome's second deck. But at a point about 95 feet above the field, the ball smacked into a loudspeaker, one of 13 that hang over the Kingdome field. As Horton rounded first base in his home-run trot, the ball rebounded back onto the infield. Tiger Shortstop Alan Trammell fielded it and held Horton to a single. "It's funny," said Hiller, "before the game a bunch of us pitchers were looking up at those speakers and I said, 'Anytime a ball hits one of those and saves a game for a pitcher, he ought to go to church the next day.' I guess you know where I'll be tomorrow."
CAL 35-23 KC 32-26 MINN 30-25 TEX 31-26 CHI 27-29 SEA 23-36 OAK 18-40
While pitching kept Baltimore (page 18) in first place, Boston, in a batting slump since mid-May, erupted for 58 runs and 13 homers, won six of seven games and closed to within a game of the Orioles. Fred Lynn (.343) and Jim Rice (.393) each walloped four homers, and Carl Yastrzemski batted .440 and drove in 10 runs, giving him a career total of 1,564 RBIs and lifting him ahead of Tris Speaker into 17th on the alltime list. Rice was elated. "Now the pitchers won't know what to do," he chortled. In the amateur draft, Boston's No. 1 selection was University of Florida Catcher Marc Sullivan, the son of Red Sox owner and general manager, Haywood Sullivan. "Marc isn't 21 so I had to co-sign his contract," Haywood said after his son agreed to terms. "At least I know what he's making."
New York (4-3) and Milwaukee (3-3) continued running in place. Tommy John won his 10th game against one loss, 8-3 over Kansas City, and Lou Piniella was 13 for 32, but the Yankee bullpen continued to struggle, especially against the Royals in an 11-10 win and a 9-8 loss, both in extra innings. The pitching of Mike Caldwell was typical of the Brewers' week. He shut out Chicago 6-0 and then lost to the White Sox 6-2. After the victory, Caldwell said, "One reason I pitched well was that San Diego was in town to play the Cubs. I broke in with those guys and I knew they'd be watching me on TV." Sorry, Mike, the game wasn't televised.
Rookie Phil Huffman of Toronto (3-3) lost his sixth consecutive game, 4-2 to California, and in a 3-0 defeat by the Angels the Blue Jays failed to score for the second straight game for Tom Underwood, who is 0-8 and winless in 12 starts since Aug. 8, 1978. But Jesse Jefferson beat California 5-4 to end his 12-game losing streak; then Huffman pitched eight innings of five-hit ball to shut out Oakland, and Toronto had three straight wins for the first time since April 14—as well as its best week of the season.
Cleveland (5-1) had its best week, too, as Duane Kuiper hit .375, Bobby Bonds .368 and Paul Dade .368. Reliever Sid Monge won two games and lowered his ERA to 1.87, second-best in the league, by yielding no runs—and just three hits—in 9⅖ innings against Seattle and Oakland.
Detroit (2-4), after having won nine of its last 11, returned to earth, dropping three games to Seattle and California. With injured Mark Fidrych doing television commentary, the rest of the Tiger pitching staff surrendered 11 home runs, including six to Seattle in an 11-2 defeat. Former Tiger Willie Horton had two of the Mariners' homers, and he was quick to dedicate one four-bagger to ex-Tiger Manager Ralph Houk. "It's for Houk's getting rid of me," he said. "I thought about that as I rounded the bases."
BALT 36-21 BOS 34-21 MIL 32-27 NY 31-27 DET 25-26 CLEV 27-28 TOR 16-42
PLAYER OF THE WEEK
WILLIE McCOVEY: San Francisco's 41-year-old slugger smashed two home runs—the 511th and 512th of his career—which boosted him past Mel Ott as the National League's alltime lefthand-hitting home-run champion.