Ah, those pirates! Aided by Roberto Clemente's two-run triple, Steve Blass beat Chicago for his eighth straight victory and ninth of the season. Nelson Briles followed suit the next day with a seven-hit 3-1 triumph—his eighth straight over the Cubs as the Pirates finished the week looking stronger than ever.
For the Mets, beaten 15 times in their last 27 games, the week began with Tom Seaver's finest effort this year and ended with his worst. Seaver became the National League's first nine-game winner when he beat Cincinnati 2-1, his first complete game since April. Six days later, however, St. Louis knocked him out after four innings en route to an 11-0 embarrassment of the Mets' Oldtimers' Day crowd. Yogi Berra's men also lost twice to Houston before Jerry Koosman stopped the Astros 5-4.
Chicago extended its winning streak to seven games, during which Ron Santo hit .500 and drove in 11 runs before things turned sour and the Cubs lost three straight. One happy note: the Cubs' much-criticized bullpen saved five of the seven victories.
St. Louis lost but once in four outings, an especially noteworthy triumph being a 14-3 rout of San Diego. The contest marked Bob Gibson's 211th career victory, giving him the club record formerly held by Jesse Haines. Gibson helped his historic cause by hitting a three-run homer.
The hottest team of all was Montreal, which won five of six as Mike Torrez continued to pitch surprisingly well. Torrez stopped Atlanta 2-1 on a two-hitter and beat the Phils by the same score five days later to lift his record to 8-3. The Expos also beat the Reds twice. Philadelphia ended a six-game losing streak at Atlanta 9-7.
PITT 38-21 NY 37-23 CHI 34-25 ST. L 27-32 MONT 27-33 PHIL 21-38
Apparently convinced that a race is more electrifying when it runs on alternating current, Houston and Cincinnati traded first place five times in succession before the week ended with the Astros in front, winners of five of seven games.
Houston's up and down climb began when Jerry Reuss beat the Phils 10-0 with a one-hitter the day before his 23rd birthday. Larry Dierker came right back with a one-hitter the next day to beat the Mets 3-0 and he set down Cincy 4-1 with a seven-hitter on Saturday. Along with good pitching the Astros had a redoubtable batsman in Cesar Cedeno, who has gotten 15 hits in his last 24 at-bats against the Reds.
Hoping to help Johnny Bench end a mild hitting slump at Riverfront Stadium, a friendly maintenance man made some lighting changes in the Reds' park. Result: with no glare to stare at, Bench hit his 19th homer in a 7-1 win over Houston. It wasn't all dazzling, however, for Johnny struck out twice the next night. Cincy was beaten five times in seven games.
No more illuminated were the Dodgers, who won two of six and had ace Don Sutton beaten twice. One bright note, however, was Frank Robinson's 513th career homer in a 2-1 win over the Braves.
Henry Aaron continued to revise the record book for Atlanta, but the Braves lost three times in five games. Aaron hit his 13th homer of the season (No. 652 career, if you're keeping track) to help beat L.A., and also got a pair of singles and a double to increase his hit total to 3,317, the fifth best in history.
For pitching, few could match San Diego's Steve Arlin, who shut out the Pirates with a 1-0 two-hitter and followed with a 4-1 one-hitter against the Giants. But on the three occasions that Arlin did not pitch, the Padres were beaten. San Francisco's second straight .500 week was highlighted by Ron Bryant's two-hitter over the Cubs—and a salaam to Bryant from Manager Charlie Fox. In baseball, however, the Giants remained in 24th place.
HOUS 38-25 CIN 37-25 LA 34-28 ATL 29-31 SD 21-40 SF 23-45
Despite a sudden attack of bullpen breakdown and the persistent problem of not scoring runs, Detroit retained its narrow lead over the Orioles by breaking even in six games. The Tigers scored but 16 runs for the week, topping their season average of three a game, however when they beat the A's 5-2 on Tom Timmerman's five-hitter. Homers by Norm Cash and Jim Northrup produced a 2-0 win over California (Mickey Lolich's 30th career shutout) and Ed Brinkman's bases-loaded fly beat the Orioles 2-1 in 12 innings.
Baltimore's nine-game win streak came to an end at Minnesota, and the Birds lost thrice more while getting only two victories. Baltimore also lost at the box office when Friday night's Detroit game, with an advance sale of 30,000, was drowned out under Agnes. The O's, however, got a six-hit, 4-1 triumph at California from their stopper, Jim Palmer, now the team's top pitcher at 9-3. Six of his victories have come after a Baltimore loss.
Cleveland, 1-4 for the week and loser of 21 of its last 27 games, brought up Ron Lolich, Mickey's 26-year-old outfielder cousin, from Portland, Ore., where he had a .349 average. "What is there to do?" asked Manager Ken Aspromonte. "Nobody is hitting much. Anybody who can deliver some punch has to be in there." The Indians' sole victory, 4-2 against Minnesota, was the 11th of the year for Gaylord Perry.
Perhaps aided more than hurt by record rains, the Yankees played but twice, yet moved into third place as their winning streak stretched to six games. It is the longest string of Yankee wins since 1970. Sparky Lyle got his 14th save in a 4-2 triumph over K.C. and Fritz Peterson's third straight complete game topped Cleveland 4-1.
Boston won two of six as poor pitching continued to plague the Red Sox. The only note of hope was Sonny Siebert, who tossed a three-hitter in a 12-0 rout of Texas. Milwaukee ended a nine-game losing streak when Skip Lockwood beat the Royals 3-0, and their 7-1 win over the White Sox was the Brewers' first conquest of Wilbur Wood since 1970.
DET 33-25 BALT 32-26 NY 26-29 BOST 24-31 CLEV 24-31 MIL 20-36
For the Oakland Athletics there was Vida Blue's first victory (cheers!) and then his fourth defeat (ugh!) when Dick Williams' boys again forgot how to hit for their onetime holdout. In Blue's 9-0 win over Cleveland the A's got 16 hits and all nine starters scored. Six days later against California they got five hits in a 3-1 loss. Homers, however, kept the A's at .500 for the week. Joe Rudi borrowed a bat for an 11th-inning blast that beat Detroit 3-2, Mike Epstein hit four for the week and Reggie Jackson two. He has 15 for the season.
Chicago sent Wilbur Wood out to pitch twice within four days, but he was victimized by bad base running and an absence of clutch hitting, and lost to both Milwaukee and Texas. The Sox did beat Boston 8-4 on Rick Reichardt's three-run homer, downed Milwaukee 9-3 as Dick Allen sparked an eight-run rally with a bases-loaded single, and bested the Brewers again on Stan Bahnsen's 10th win.
Minnesota, thanks to the best start ever by Jim Kaat, won four of six as he threw back-to-back complete games and raised his record to 9-2. A six-hitter gave Kaat a 7-3 win over Cleveland and he took Kansas City 4-1. Kaat also raised his batting average from .290 to .316 with three hits.
California moved into fourth place with a 4-2 week highlighted by good pitching and Bob Oliver's bat. Clyde Wright stopped a four-game losing streak when he beat the Orioles 4-3 and he later downed Oakland with a five-hitter. Nolan Ryan also defeated the A's 2-1 as Oliver hit a homer for the winning run. In a 6-3 win over Baltimore, Oliver had three RBIs.
Rain and open dates held Kansas City to four games, which was just as well. The Royals won only once, when John Mayberry hit a three-run homer against the Twins.
Home runs accounted for two of Texas' three victories in a five-game week. The wins came after Ted Williams reportedly fined at least 10 players $100 each after a curfew check. "I thought this might shake 'em up a little," said Ted. Seems it did.
OAK 38-20 CHI 35-24 MINN 31-25 CAL 29-32 KC 26-31 TEX 26-34