The most amazing thing about the METS was their batting. All those .200 hitters of the past—Kranepool, Marshall, Harrelson—are suddenly .300 hitters, which would account for the team's 14 wins in the last 17 games. "You can see what it means if you get hitting with our pitching," said Manager Gil Hodges smugly. The CHICAGO Cubs were not doing much hitting, but their pitching was stupefying—five straight complete-game wins. Cub pitchers, in fact, already have recorded 18 complete games, which not only is different from the way things began last season but spares Manager Leo Durocher the embarrassment of looking to his depopulated bullpen. PITTSBURGH'S Luke Walker has not been pitching badly either—12 earned runs in his seven starts—but he does not have those Met bats working for him so his record is an undistinguished 1-4. Two of his losses have been by 2-1 scores, one by 2-0. The lone win was, of course, a shutout, on April 8 against PHILADELPHIA. The Phillies have not had much luck, either. Pitcher Barry Lersch cost himself a win over Atlanta by throwing wild to Second Baseman Denny Doyle on a bunt play. "It kept curving," said Doyle, "and I kept reaching and I never did get my glove on it." "I wish I'd throw that kind of curve to the hitter," said Lersch, retaining his sense of humor. No pitcher has beaten Houston more often—23 times—than Bob Gibson of ST. LOUIS, prompting the Astros' Doug Rader to say, "If I had Gibson's arm, I'd pitch from a wheelchair." Gibson may, in fact, be in need of a wheelchair. He has been complaining of a sore left knee and ankle. MONTREAL has enough trouble just trying to play a game. Eight times the Expos have been rained out. When they do play, Rusty Staub hits. He had four in a row against the Reds, two off broken bats. "I just hit them where they weren't," said he, cleaning up Willie Keeler's grammar.
NY 21-11 PITT 20-14 ST. L. 20-15 CHI 18-17 MONT 13-13 PHIL 10-22
It has been a long time since capacity crowds watched a GIANT-DODGER series in Candlestick Park, but with the stadium's capacity reduced to 34,000 because of construction work, the two teams all but tilled it three days in a row over the weekend. The crowds were duly entertained as San Francisco continued its remarkable winning ways. The team can apparently do no wrong. On Friday, for example, Dodger Manager Walter Alston brought in Bill Russell for defensive purposes at second base and moved Jim Lefebvre to third. In the next inning they both made errors as the Giants scored five runs to win 8-4. On Saturday, the Giants got only two hits off Bill Singer—a double by Willie Mays and a single by Dick Dietz—but both came in the seventh and they were good for a 1-0 win behind Juan Marichal's third shutout of the season. Last year's champions, the CINCINNATI Reds, lost three in a row to the Giants earlier in the week. "I may be down now," said the Reds' belabored manager, Sparky Anderson, "but I will get up off the floor. And if I can't get up," he added, "I'll take what comes when I'm down." Joining Anderson's team is Al Ferrara, who as an outfielder with SAN DIEGO was one floor down from the Reds. In return, the Padres got Outfielder Angel Bravo, who had been playing for the Reds' farm team in Indianapolis. San Diego Manager Preston Gomez figured there was an unseen drawback to the trade. Ferrara is the intelligent sort of player who is always looking for an edge. Said Gomez: "When we play Cincinnati, I'll have to change our signs and our strategy because this man knows me like a book." Many ballplayers visiting New York bring expensive gifts home to their wives. After a losing series with the Mets, HOUSTON'S Norm Miller brought his wife a rubber chicken. ATLANTA'S Henry Aaron was ready to give Astro Manager Harry Walker the bird for saying he now only swings for home runs. "I don't think I need Harry Walker to tell me how to hit," said two-time batting champion Aaron, but Aaron's average had dropped to .262.
SF 27-10 ATL 17-18 LA 18-19 HOUS 16-19 CIN 13-21 SD 10-24
Washington's Denny ML McLain survived a perilous two-run ninth-inning rally to beat his old DETROIT teammates 3-2 in their first confrontation of the season. It was sweet revenge for McLain, who admitted that all he needed for inspiration was "to see those Detroit uniforms." But beating the team that traded him away after his suspension of a year ago did not compare with winning the sixth game of the 1968 World Series for Detroit, said McLain. In fact, he said, his wife probably got more out of the win over Detroit than he did. "Everything I went through last year, she went through," he said. "This must mean a lot to her." The next day, without McLain, Washington won 4-3. Part of the Tigers' troubles, says Manager Billy Martin, is onetime slugger Willie Horton. After an 0-for-9 performance at bat and some sloppy play afield, Horton was benched for one game. Next day, when Martin put him back in the lineup, Horton benched himself, complaining of a sore shoulder. "This is something I can't understand," said an angry Martin. "I played for the Yankees when I had the flu, pneumonia, broken bones and a few other things wrong with me. My salary was $20,000, and I was hungry." Said the well-fed Horton, who gets $80,000: "Maybe it's a good sign that I've got McLain's old locker. Maybe I'll be the next one to get the hell out of here." Down in the cellar, where the CLEVELAND Indians live, life was more peaceful. Ray Lamb, an off-season movie extra, defeated NEW YORK 2-1 in the first complete game of his brief major league career. When he was rewarded with a promotion to the starting rotation, the grateful but slightly uneasy Lamb said, "It's funny. Nobody talks to the starting pitcher before the game because they think he's lost in mental preparation. Actually, I'd like to talk to anybody to get my mind off it all."
BOST 20-11 BALT 19-13 DET 16-17 NY 15-16 WASH 15-19 CLEV 12-20
Nothing seemed to come out right in KANSAS CITY. The team lost four in a row. The new girl cheerleaders were cheerless—"People got mad when we stood up to cheer," said one. "They said they couldn't see the game." And Outfielder Carl Taylor went on a dreadful tear. Irked when Umpire Jerry Neudecker said he trapped, rather than caught, a Brooks Robinson line drive, Taylor charged the ump. Teammate Cookie Rojas intervened and was punched in the jaw for his trouble. Two nights later, Taylor took himself out of a game with the Orioles, burned his sweatshirt in the clubhouse and disappeared. He turned up in Sarasota, Fla., where he said his mother was sick and he was sorry. Jim Fregosi of CALIFORNIA was sorry, too—sorry about the sore foot that keeps him out of the Angels' lineup. Pondering surgery, the shortstop arrived at a mathematical equation—"The question is whether they want me at 100% for 20% of the season or 50% for 100% of the season." Ignoring the percentages, Manager Lefty Phillips said patiently, "Fregosi will tell me when he thinks he can play." That's exactly what MINNESOTA'S Cesar Tovar told his manager, Bill Rigney. "My friend," said Cesar, who had been in Caracas, Venezuela, for his father's funeral, "I am ready to play." True to his word, he hit a triple and two singles against the Red Sox. MILWAUKEE'S rookie Pitcher Bill Parsons also came to play, and virtually his entire family came from nearby Riverside to watch him as he beat the Angels 4-1 in Anaheim. It was Parsons' third straight win, and the best thing about it, he said, was that "this was the first time my parents had seen me pitch as a professional." CHICAGO had been playing so poorly at home—two wins, 14 losses—that Manager Chuck Tanner was about to suit the White Sox up in road uniforms for a weekday doubleheader with the Senators. He didn't, though, and the Sox won both games. Charlie Finley, the OAKLAND owner, told Cleveland owner Vern Stouffer he was so anxious to trade for Sam McDowell he did not care how many runs the Indian pitcher gave up in the game they were watching. McDowell gave up six runs as the A's won 8-1.
OAK 25-14 MINN 18-17 CAL 18-19 KC 18-19 MIL 14-18 CHI 13-20