Before the season began, it was Johnny Bench's stated intention not to tip his cap to the fans after hitting home runs this year, but the applause of euphoric Cincinnati has changed his mind. Ripping and tipping for the divisional leaders, Bench blasted three homers, the third being No. 18, and lifted his RBI count to 50, both figures tops in baseball. His RBI output was 11 shy of his entire 1971 production. Winners in 27 of their last 33 games, the Reds began the week with an 11-1 triumph at Montreal that concluded an 11-1 road trip. And after three successive victories over Philadelphia they beat the Mets 8-2 before 51,617—the second largest crowd in Cincinnati history.
Houston matched Cincy's 5-1 splurge and dropped Los Angeles to third place. Jerry Reuss faced only 31 batters in a six-hitter against Montreal. Fined $100 for throwing his helmet over a fourth-inning strike call, Jim Wynn struck back with an 11th-inning homer to beat the Phils 1-0, and he helped do them in again in a subsequent game with his 10th of the season.
The Dodgers, averaging less than two runs per game over their last 12, had one victory to show for five road games. That one came at St. Louis, where 34-year-old Manny Mota stole home and helped with a sacrifice in a 2-1 win. Errors also plagued the Dodgers as Frank Robinson, among others, dropped a fly ball.
Henry Aaron homered on successive nights for Atlanta, moving two ahead of Willie Mays on the alltime list, to 651. Sixty three to go to Ruth. Rico Carty extended his hitting streak to 18 games and Ron Reed threw a shutout as the Braves went 4-3.
San Diego's 4-3 win over St. Louis ended a 10-game losing streak, and the Padres played to the same score two days later in their first win at Chicago's Wrigley Field since 1970. Atypically, the Padres also beat Pittsburgh, on Nate Colbert's 13th homer.
The highlight of the lowly Giants' 3-3 week was Sam McDowell's 3-1 victory over the Pirates. Pitching in his hometown for the first time, Sudden allowed Pittsburgh but five singles.
CIN 35-20 HOUS 33-23 LA 32-24 ATL 27-28 SD 19-37 SF 20-42
With every but the bat boy hitting .300 or so, it was merely a matter of time before Pittsburgh went into the lead. That the Pirates took over first place when they did, however, was due partly to their only slumping hitter and partly to a penchant for winning doubleheaders.
It was on Thursday that the Bucs passed the Mets with a twin defeat of the Giants—their fifth straight sweep of a doubleheader—against whom Bob Robertson got three hits in four at bats. He had been hitless since June 2 and was batting .113. The next day Steve Blass (8-1) threw a three-hitter at San Diego, retiring 16 Padres in succession along the way. Pittsburgh also beat the Dodgers on a Roberto Clemente home run.
The Mets fell to a mirror image of Pittsburgh's 4-2 week, marked embarrassingly by two losses reminiscent of their formative years. Both occurred in Atlanta, where Tommie Agee borrowed one of Willie Mays' gloves and proceeded to drop fly balls that cost games on successive nights. It was not all bad, however. Bud Harrelson tripled and scored the winning run on a wild pitch in a 2-1 triumph over the Reds.
Chicago's Billy Williams celebrated his 34th birthday by smashing back-to-back homers against San Diego for the festive Cubs. He kept on celebrating with another against the Dodgers and had five homers and 10 RBIs in a four-day period.
For the Cardinals, Lou Brock celebrated his 33rd birthday a few hours early with a sacrifice fly that drove in the winning run against the Giants 4-3. Earlier in the week Brock beat the Dodgers when he singled home a tie-breaking run and robbed L.A. of a score with a superb catch.
Montreal's pitchers continued to look for hitting support and mostly failed to find it, although Mike Torrez pitched a three-hitter to beat Houston and the Expos scored four times in a ninth-inning rally that defeated Atlanta 7-4.
Philadelphia was a winner once in six games thanks to Steve Carlton's eight-hitter that topped Atlanta 3-1.
PITT 35-19 NY 35-20 CHI 31-22 ST. L 24-31 MONT 22-32 PHLA 20-35
Unaccustomed as they are to home crowds exceeding 11,000, the Athletics reacted in comatose ways one night to a sellout house of 50,000. That was when the A's got four hits and a long case of power failure. The malady lingered on until the A's had a four-game losing streak. Ken Holtzman proved the stopper on Friday, however, as the A's beat Cleveland 5-0. It was Holtzman's 10th win. The game also produced Reggie Jackson's 13th home run. Rookie Dave Hamilton beat Gaylord Perry for his fourth consecutive victory Saturday, and the A's were talking World Series once more.
Chicago, stung again by a peculiar road jinx, suffered a 3-0 loss to the Yankees which ended a six-game win streak and marked the first time in 30 days that Dick Allen did not reach first base at least once. Rebounding at Boston, the Sox got a 5-4 victory sparked by Bill Melton's seventh homer of the year while Wilbur Wood became baseball's first 11-game winner.
Minnesota's scoring deficiencies caused Bill Rigney to start rookie Danny Monzon at third base the day after a 3-0 loss to the Orioles. Monzon responded with two hits, but he also got picked off third base with no outs, and Minnesota lost 4-1. In four losses the Twins scored just four runs.
Late innings were dramatic for Kansas City, which won five of six. Of the Royals' last 78 runs, 67 were scored after the fifth inning started. In a 4-2 win over Boston, Kansas City's ninth straight at Fenway Park, the Royals scored four times in the ninth. Amos Otis hit .500 during the week and John Mayberry drove in nine runs in his last three games.
Thanks to the Royals, California fell to fifth in a 2-4 week that included 28 consecutive scoreless innings. The Angels beat Cleveland twice, however—by a single run each time. Texas played at .500 for the second week in succession, and Pete Broberg pitched a three-hit shutout against Skip Lock wood of Milwaukee shortly after receiving an A.B. degree from Dartmouth.
OAK 35-17 CHI 32-21 MINN 27-23 KC 25-28 CAL 25-30 TEX 23-32
With hitting that was timely, if not awesome, Detroit stayed dead even with the Orioles in what may continue to be an exciting divisional race—especially if the suicide squeeze is Manager Billy Martin's favorite gambit. "The suicide squeeze is baseball at its fullest," Martin said after one such had scored Ed Brinkman with the winning run in a 3-2 game at Minnesota.
Detroit won five of six games but scored no more than three times in any one of them, unleashing Martin's acerbic tongue at the batting cage. The bunt-scoring Brink-man gave Mickey Lolich his 10th victory, and Joe Coleman shut out the Angels with a three-hitter.
The Orioles had a nine-game win streak at week's end, and Oriole pitchers needed relief only once. Against the A's, Pat Dobson beat Vida Blue 1-0. Only one Oakland player got past first base. Then Dobson threw his fifth straight complete game to beat Minnesota 4-1. Weaver also cheered a seven-hitter by Mike Cuellar, who hit a homer, too, a four-hitter over 10 innings by Dave McNally and Jim Palmer's sixth win in a row.
Cleveland heard tales of clubhouse dissension as the Indians lost five of six games and Manager Ken Aspromonte raged at Gaylord Perry when Perry failed to obey a bunt sign. First Baseman Chris Chambliss was the lone source of cheer, hitting .300 in his last 23 games.
With a four-game win streak—their longest of the year—the Yankees moved into fourth place after winning a doubleheader from Texas. They had taken two out of three from Chicago to win their first series since May 25.
Boston, playing .500 ball for the second straight week, got homers from Danny Cater and Carlton Fisk in a win over Kansas City, and Fisk homered again, against California. Poor Milwaukee extended its losing streak to nine straight.
BALT 30-22 DET 30-22 CLEV 23-27 NY 24-29 BOST 22-27 MIL 16-34