Bone-weary after playing five games in four days (and losing four of them), the San Francisco Giants staggered into Los Angeles on Friday to meet the well-rested Dodgers, their once-comfortable lead shaved to two games. As it turned out the Giants were playing possum. They landed on Dodger Ace Don Drysdale for five runs in the first two innings, coasted in behind the shutout pitching of Sam Jones. It was perhaps the National League's most important night of the year. Failure of the Los Angeles Dodgers to knock off the Giants in their series opener was the only blight on an otherwise perfect week. Sandy Koufax pitched a splendid game and Johnny Podres a good one against the Phils. When Drysdale collapsed on Friday (see page 30) the entire Dodger team looked dead. But when the series resumed on Sunday (there was an off day Saturday as the pro footballers took over the Coliseum) the Dodgers were ready again. They beat the Giants 7-6 with two runs in the ninth inning, capitalizing on two errors by San Francisco's new whiz kid, Willie McCovey. The Milwaukee Braves, with a chance to make up some ground, dropped four out of seven instead. Their big hitters finally broke the home run famine with nine in four days (three each by Aaron and Adcock), but only old faithfuls Spahn and Burdette could pitch well enough to win. Almost forgotten after their disastrous slump in late July, the Pittsburgh Pirates came roaring back into contention with a 15-4 record on the long home stand, treating league leaders and tail-enders alike. Bob Friend won his fourth straight with masterful control; Vernon Law (15-7) looked more and more like one of the league's best; Smoky Burgess swung a big bat. But the spurt was really triggered by the hitting of Rocky Nelson, who boosted his average from .234 to .300, surprised almost everybody but himself. "All I needed," said the Rock, "was a chance to play regularly." Slumping badly, the Cincinnati Reds managed to extract one victory when Rookie Jim O'Toole pitched a five-hit shutout, struck out 10 Cubs. Explained Manager Fred Hutchinson: "He just plain threw hell out of the ball." Only Tony Taylor's hitting (.390 in last 19 games) kept the Chicago Cubs from complete collapse as the pitching staff came apart. Ken Boyer was named first St. Louis Cardinal captain since Schoendienst left, promptly fired up the club by extending hitting streak to 19 games. He had ample help from Joe Cunningham, who closed in on Henry Aaron in the batting race, celebrated his 28th birthday with four hits. The Philadelphia Phillies continued to do things no major league team should do, caused Manager Eddie Sawyer to moan: "We make mistakes some of my minor league teams didn't make."
Standings: SF 73-57, LA 71-59, Mil 70-60, Pitt 70-62, Cin 63-68. Chi 62-67, StL 61-72, Phil 54-79
The pennant race was over for six of the eight teams, and all eyes were on Cleveland where the two leaders ran head-on into each other (see page 31). The Chicago White Sox, choice of most observers because of their poise and remarkable speed and defense, rose to the occasion. With Turk Lown and Gerry Staley brilliant in relief of the weakened pitching staff, the Sox warmed up with three victories over the also-rans, then lit into Cleveland as if the whole season depended on this one series. The Cleveland Indians, riding the crest of an eight-game winning streak which had cut Chicago's lead at one point to one game, lost their momentum in a hurry. Big hitters (Colavito, Francona and Power) failed to come through, and Indian pitchers, who had been toying with noncontenders, couldn't get the usually light-hitting Sox out when it counted. Elsewhere, there was a dog fight for the first division, with no team able to gain an edge. The New York Yankees discovered that their best pitcher was Art Ditmar (2.98 ERA); the rest of the high-priced staff (Ford, Turley, Larsen, etc.) was miserable. The Detroit Tigers had a so-so week despite their cast of stars (Frank Lary, first American Leaguer to win 17 games; Harvey Kuenn, .351, and Al Kaline, .333, one-two in the batting race; Jim Bunning, league leader with 156 strikeouts; Eddie Yost, a 17-homer, 100-runs-scored leadoff man). The Baltimore Orioles did an about-face, came up with good hitting instead of bad, bad pitching instead of good, found the new combination was worse than before, fell from third place to fifth. Continued improvement of the Boston Red Sox was due to hitting from unexpected sources (Gary Geiger, Pumpsie Green, Dick Gernert) and a pitching lift supplied by Jerry Casale and Bill Monbouquette. The Kansas City Athletics' hopes for a first-division berth were kept alive by the .300 hitting of Bill Tuttle, long one of the game's best center fielders, and a big comeback by Bob Cerv (26 hits in 65 trips, 16-game hitting streak, club lead in RBIs and home runs). The Washington Senators really looked like the old Washington Senators when even the home runs stopped. They produced only three in 11 games, one of which was Harmon Killebrew's No. 38.
Standings: Chi 80-49, Clev 75-55, Det 65-65, NY 64-66, Bait 61-66, Bos 61-69, KC 59-70, Wash 52-77
Boxed statistics through Saturday, August 29
HOT BAT (.440) gave Card Joe Cunningham a good shot at the NL title, while Tiger Harvey Kuenn held wide AL lead.