A pall hung over the Houston (2-6) and Cincinnati (4-4) pitching staffs. It was bad enough that the Astros allowed 32 runs and 45 hits while dropping three straight to Atlanta. It was more depressing still that Nolan Ryan's 3,000th career strikeout came in an 8-1 loss to the Reds. Cincy Pitcher Tom Seaver returned home from San Francisco after yielding seven hits and five runs in four innings in an 8-4 loss to the Giants. Amid reports of retirement—Seaver said it was "conceivable"—he was put on the 21-day disabled list with tendinitis in his right shoulder.
While their rivals wilted, the Dodgers (5-3) took the lead for the first time in four weeks. Don Sutton shut out the Giants 4-0 and lowered his earned run average to 2.27. Using a shortened swing, Reggie Smith hit .375 in his last four games and took the batting lead with a .331 average. The Giants (4-4) bade farewell to Willie McCovey, who was ending his outstanding 22-year career. Before leaving, he beat the Dodgers 4-3 with a one-run double and got a run-scoring base hit in a 4-3 win over the Reds. In the latter game, his last at Candlestick Park, a crowd of 39,445 gave him six standing ovations.
Taking three apiece from San Diego and Houston, the Braves (6-1) averaged seven runs a game, climbed from fifth to fourth and gained 3½ games on the league leaders. Dale Murphy led the 17-tater attack with four homers and eight RBIs. Hitting as if he were facing his own inept staff, Dave Winfield of San Diego (2-5) batted .452. Despite being rocked for 15 homers and 35 runs in seven games, the Padre pitchers didn't lose their sense of humor. When asked what he was carrying in three large cardboard boxes, reliever Rollie Fingers said, "Home run balls."
LA 46-33 HOUS 44-33 CIN 41-37 ATL 36-40 SF 36-43 SD 34-46
For a first-place team, the Expos (3-5) looked like stumblebums. When he was called to the dugout for an interview, Pitcher Bill Lee caught the cleats of his right shoe in the laces of his left and fell, injuring his right knee. Expo fielders were just about as ungraceful. Third Baseman Larry Parrish cost Montreal one game by hobbling a throw, Shortstop Chris Speier set up a big inning in another defeat by booting a double-play ball, and the Expos committed five errors in a 9-5 loss to the Mets.
Philadelphia (5-3) Pitcher Bob Walk had better support. "Instead of trying to strike everybody out, I threw fastballs and let them hit it into one of those Gold Gloves," he said after setting down St. Louis 8-1. His teammates played errorless ball both in that game and in Walk's 5-2 win over the Mets. But when the Phillies had a chance to catch Montreal, Steve Carlton pitched his worst game of the year and lost 6-1.
There was little joy in Pittsburgh (4-4). The Pirates dropped a doubleheader to the Cubs and got virtually no hitting from anyone but Mike Easier, who didn't come to bat often enough (8 for 20) to really help. The only real high point was Jim Bibby's 5-3 win over the Cubs. It was Bibby's 10th victory in 11 decisions, and his .909 won-lost percentage leads both leagues.
The confusion atop the standings ignited a joyous—if premature—bout of Saturday night fever in New York. The Mets (4-3) edged within one game of .500 by beating the Expos 7-5 before 51,097 Saturday night revelers at Shea Stadium. Said Centerfielder Lee Mazzilli, who homered in four consecutive games and ran his hitting streak to 16 games, "I've said it before and nobody seems to listen. Whether people realize it or not, we're in a pennant race. We're going into the All-Star break and we're still in the thick of things. This is a pennant race." We get the idea, Lee.
The acme of Chicago's 3-4 week was the play of Pitcher Doug Capilla. As Pittsburgh Third Baseman Bill Madlock charged in, anticipating a sacrifice, Capilla faked a bunt and bounced the ball past Madlock to score Scot Thompson. That hit and Capilla's pitching—he allowed only two hits in seven innings—led to a 2-1 victory. The nadir was Dave Kingman's play. Kong was booed by Wrigley Field fans for failing to drive in runs and allowing two Cardinals to score when he dropped a fly ball in a 9-7 loss. For their part, the Cardinals (4-4) were uncharacteristically alert, especially Shortstop Garry Templeton, who raced into centerfield to snare a fly ball and start a double play. "He actually outran the ball," said Pittsburgh Manager Chuck Tanner. "That has to be one of the greatest fielding plays I've ever seen."
MONT 41-34 PHIL 40-35 PITT 41-37 NY 38-39 CHI 33-42 ST.L 34-45
Minnesota (5-2) led the division in wins and recorded some other eye-catching numbers as well. Ken Landreaux tied a major league record with three triples in one game, Rick So-field batted .520, and Manager Gene Mauch won his 1,500th game. But Mauch, an also-ran in each of his 20 seasons as a major league skipper, said, "It would have meant something if I'd won a pennant or two."
Some other notable numbers: Rod Carew's 18-game hitting streak was halted, but California (4-3) recorded its first winning week of the season. Buddy Bell (12 games) and Mickey Rivers (17) kept hitting streaks alive for Texas (3-4), while Chicago (2-5) went 21 innings without scoring. Rickey Henderson of Oakland (4-3) got his 55th walk, and Rick Langford shut out Chicago 5-0 to roll up his ninth straight complete game. The A's staff has 42. But the most critical statistic belonged to A's Pitcher Brian Kingman, who was to be married during the All-Star break. "I needed a shutout to be able to say 'I do' with feeling," said Kingman. He got one, beating Chicago 2-0.
There was depressing—and not so depressing—news for Kansas City (3-4). Disappointed when he was left off the All-Star team despite a .321 average, Catcher John Wathan took out his frustration on Minnesota and went 4 for 5 to spark a 4-3 win. The last time Wathan felt so blue—the night before this year's strike was supposed to begin—he got a home run and four RBIs. After the Royals lost 12-3 and 2-1 to the Twins, Manager Jim Frey closed the clubhouse door for 12 minutes and lectured his players. "I started out calm," he said, "but I didn't end that way." Dan Quisenberry's two wins and a save lifted Frey's spirits.
Seattle (3-4) players have long suspected that you can't see well in the Kingdome, and last week it was confirmed. In a study requested by the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, a physicist, Dr. Roger Freedman, backed up a statement made by Boston's Jerry Remy that "it's the worst park in the American League for lighting." Freedman pointed out that the level of light is low and the intensity uneven, and that players lose high flies against the background of the ceiling and lights. Kingdome facilities manager Ron Cline responded that the park meets the minimum league lighting standards, and Seattle Manager Darrell Johnson claimed that the home team has no advantage over the visitors, because the conditions are the same for all players. On the second point, Boston Catcher Carlton Fisk disagreed, saying, "In a three-game series in this park, you spend the first game trying to get adjusted. In the second game it gets a little better, but by the time you're used to it in the third game, you're all but gone." The lighting conditions didn't bother the Mariners' Tom Paciorek, who in four home games and three on the road batted .414.
KC 47-32 TEX 37-41 CHI 36-41 OAK 36-43 MINN 34-44 SEA 34-45 CAL 28-48
New York (6-1) arrived in Boston for a three-game series that the Red Sox (2-4) hoped would catapult them into the race. Instead the Yankees swept them 6-3, 3-2, 6-0 and left even the former Fenway faithful chanting, "So long, Boston, we're sad to see you go." In the ultimate humiliation Goose Gossage preserved Tommy John's 6-3 win by striking out five men in 2‚Äö√Ñ√∂‚àö√±‚àö¬® innings and fanning Tony Perez on three pitches with the bases loaded to end the game. Later in the week Baltimore hitters got off to rousing starts twice, KOing starters Chuck Rainey and Mike Torrez on nine and 16 pitches, respectively. The sore-armed Rainey suffered further when he was unable to locate team physician Arthur Pappas, who was off on a Maine vacation. As the Red Sox dropped from third to fifth, Manager Don Zimmer said, "If I thought crying would help, I'd do it."
After leaving Boston, the Yankees were greeted at the Indians' cavernous Cleveland Stadium by 73,096 fans—the largest major league crowd since 1973. They got more than their money's worth—a two-hit, 7-0 shutout performance by Wayne Garland and a glorious fireworks display. Otherwise the Indians (2-5) fizzled.
Led by Richie Hebner's .360 hitting, the Tigers (4-3) climbed briefly into second. After Dan Petry and Aurelio Lopez landed them there, combining for a four-hit, 4-3 win over Toronto, the Detroit Free Press ran a comparison of their May 28 last-place standing and their July 5 second-place record. The paper neglected to note that in the interim the Tigers had gained just 1½ games on the Yankees. And no sooner was the newsprint dry than the lowly Blue Jays (2-5) dropped Detroit to third, 5-3. In that game Tiger runners Rick Peters and Alan Trammell arrived on third base at the same time.
Steve Stone of Baltimore (4-2) became the league's first 12-game winner, besting Boston 10-3 and throwing seven shutout innings at Toronto in a game the Orioles eventually won 9-7. Stone (12-3) has won 10 straight. Milwaukee's Reggie Cleveland got his third straight win since leaving the bullpen, 5-2 over California, but the Brewers (4-3) couldn't keep pace with New York because Manager George Bamberger mishandled his pitching. When Bamberger removed starter Lary Sorensen after nine strong innings against Oakland, reliever Bob McClure lost 5-3 in the 10th. "I threw better in the ninth than I had all night," Sorensen complained. "I tried to talk George out of taking me out, but I couldn't." The next night Bamberger left Mike Caldwell in, and Caldwell surrendered six straight hits in the fifth inning to transform a 5-0 lead into a 6-5 deficit.
NY 51-26 MIL 43-33 DET 41-33 BALT 42-35 BOS 40-36 CLEV 36-39 TOR 33-42
PLAYER OF THE WEEK
MARK CLEAR: The Angel righthander had one win and three saves to figure in all four California victories. In his last seven appearances, covering 13‚Äö√Ñ√∂‚àö√±‚àö¬® innings, Clear has surrendered only four hits and one earned run.