While BALTIMORE (page 16) continued its leisurely stroll toward the championship, the DETROIT pitching staff finally was making noises like, well, Tigers. The 1968 world champions got one complete game from Mickey Lolich and another from Les Cain, who went the distance twice in a row after failing 14 straight times. But the big newsmaker was none other than Denny McLain. He won, finally pitching a complete game in his 13th start. Earlier, he was ejected for the first time ever over an incident precipitated by—of all things—organ music.
Pitching against the Athletics in Oakland, the combative righthander became irritated, then balked after organist Lloyd Fox rolled the organ while McLain was taking his signals from Catcher Bill Freehan. Complaining bitterly, McLain was shown to an early shower, but in a review afterward, music critic and Umpire Nestor Chylak panned Fox. Said Chylak: "That organist [Fox, presumably] should have his fingers broken. If he'd come down here I'd break 'em for him."
New York lost four of seven starts to hold fast in second place. One bright spot was the pitching—and batting—of Mel Stottlemyre. In beating Minnesota 4-3 for his 12th win, he knocked in the lead run with a two-run triple. The Yankees' other hitters have not done as well lately, so the club announced that Mickey Whatshisname will rejoin the team as batting coach.
The fence at Municipal Stadium was moved in this season in hopes of increasing the Indians' modest home-run total—and it has done exactly that, modestly. Of 137 homers hit by CLEVELAND, 94 have been at home—including four each inconsecutive wins over Oakland last week. While Reggie Smith of BOSTON extended his hitting streak to 15 games, big Frank Howard of WASHINGTON was complaining "I haven't had any hot streaks yet." Then he hit two homers to beat the Twins 5-4.
BALT 80-45 NY 69-56 DET 68-57 BOS 63-60 CLEV 61-64 WASH 60-65
A couple of unlikely hitters helped the MINNESOTA Twins end their recent slump and steady their hold on first place. First, Jim Holt, whose average is hanging up there around .250, hit a two-run single in the ninth to beat the Yankees 8-7. Three nights later Tom Tischinski (.182) hit his first major-league home run to defeat Washington 4-3. "I was so surprised and shocked," said Tischinski, "I didn't know whether to run or walk, go forward or backward."
Pitchers Chuck Dobson and Catfish Hunter each had his problem for OAKLAND. After allowing only one home run in 43 innings, Dobson gave up three in a row during the A's 6-5 loss to Cleveland. Hunter was wondering what a guy has to do to win in August. Last season he was 0-7 for the month, this year he has lost three straight.
The old singing cowboy, Gene Autry, opened his mouth last week, and out came a surprising note. Said Autry, the chairman of the CALIFORNIA Angels, "I'd like to see Jim Fregosi become our playing manager." This did not set too well with the Angels' current nonplaying manager, Lefty Phillips. Asked about Autry's remarks, Phillips snapped: "Everyone has a boss. I have mine."
Kansas City rehired Manager Bob Lemon and also had a message for his players that sounded suspiciously like a threat. "The future of every player will be affected by his performance in the remaining games." While MILWAUKEE General Manager Marvin Milkes was figuring out ways to boost the Brewers' home attendance over a million, his team went 0-for-six and Pitcher Skip Lockwood watched his record drop to 1-10. Said the undaunted Lockwood, "I'm learning something every time I pitch." The most improbable turn of events of the week came in Boston when previously hapless CHICAGO scored 11 runs in the top of the ninth (tying a league record) to beat the Red Sox 13-5 and end a six-game losing streak.
MINN 73-50 CAL 69-56 OAK 68-58 KC 48-77 MIL 46-80 CHI 46-83
Montreal failed to get out of the cellar, but it was still a good week. The Expos won for the first time ever in Cincinnati. The victory, their 52nd, tied their total for all of last year. On Friday, in the opening game of a home series against Atlanta, Carl Morton beat the Braves 6-4 for his 15th win, putting him ahead of Cincinnati's Wayne Simpson as the league's winningest rookie. And on Saturday night the Expos not only beat the Braves 4-1 to match their longest winning streak in 1970; they also drew a near-capacity crowd of 27,037 to go over the million mark in home attendance.
League-leading PITTSBURGH split six starts last week but did have Bob Robertson to solace Pirate spirits. He now has 19 homers in 294 at bats. At that rate, he could hit 35 to 40 homers a season. "I think I'd help more if I played more," Robertson said.
The NEW YORK Mets stayed in second, although there were games in which they fumbled and bumbled in the best Marvelous Marv tradition. Even Shortstop Bud Harrelson got caught up in the general ineptness, making two errors in one game after tying a league record with 54 straight errorless games.
Chicago bombed San Diego 12-2 and San Francisco 15-0 but lost ground in a mediocre week. Bob Gibson of ST. LOUIS complained of lack of sleep, then almost pitched a no-hitter while beating San Diego 7-0. Gibson has won six in a row and 16 of his last 18, which is almost as impressive as his .326 batting average and 17 RBIs.
PITT 70-57 NY 66-59 CHI 65-62 ST. L 60-66 PHIL 57-69 MONT 55-70
Instead of The Big Red Machine, CINCINNATI played more like The Big Red Edsel, as one sign in New York's Shea Stadium had it, but Catcher Johnny Bench stayed in high gear. His two-run double in the top of the ninth beat the Mets 3-2 on Saturday, and the next day, in a 5-4 loss, he hit his 42nd home run of the year to break the alltime record for home runs by a catcher in one season (set by Roy Campanella in 1953). LOS ANGELES was still a safe 11½ games behind. The Dodgers won nine of 12 during one stretch, and their .274 team batting average is only a point behind Cincinnati's.
Rico Carty of ATLANTA is apparently in his team's doghouse. He first upset Brave officials by failing to show up for an exhibition in Columbus, Ga. Then he and Pitcher Ron Reed got into a fight when Carty apparently removed two Little League bats from Reed's locker.
After finally moving up to .500 in the standings during a road trip, SAN FRANCISCO returned to Candlestick Park and 7,086 fans and knocked off the Cubs 5-1. Earlier, Juan Marichal (8-9) topped Pittsburgh 7-4. Although he gave up 13 hits and struck out only three, Marichal called the game his best performance of the season. "I wish next year was now," he said. So, probably, does HOUSTON'S Don Wilson. The winner of 16 games last season, Wilson beat the Phillies 9-1 for only his sixth triumph. Said Wilson: "There's got to be something to that talk of a livelier ball. Then there's the smaller strike zone and most important the lowering of the mound." Ed Spiezio returned to the SAN DIEGO starting lineup and promptly went wild: a three-run homer to top the Pirates, a grand slam to help beat the Cubs and his team's only two hits in a game against the Cardinals' Gibson.
CINN 84-45 LA 70-54 SF 63-62 ATL 62-63 HOUS 56-70 SD 48-79