Despite his anemic .197 batting average, skinny Shortstop Eddie Brinkman remained Mr. Indispensable in the Detroit lineup. Besides setting a major league fielding record when he handled his 298th consecutive chance without committing an error, Brinkman also won a game with his puny bat. The Tigers had stunned Milwaukee in the first game of a doubleheader on Norm Cash's three-run homer with two out in the ninth, then Brinkman won the second game with a two-run single in the eighth.
"Maybe they'll call us Mr. Outside and Mr. Inside," Cash cracked. "Brinkman is the most underrated player in the league," said Mickey Stanley. "If we win it, he should be the MVP." Brinkman now has won five games for the Tigers with clutch stickwork—hits or bunts—in late innings.
Although they lost their next two games to the Brewers, who got a strong pitching job from Jim Lonborg, the Tigers still led Baltimore by 1½ games. The Orioles, who had dropped only 24 home games in each of the last two seasons, lost Nos. 21 and 22 for 1972 as Cleveland beat both Pat Dobson and Dave McNally. Tom McCraw's pinch-hit home run with a man on in the ninth ruined Dobson, and Gaylord Perry's squeeze bunt in the 10th beat McNally.
Losing in such sudden, late-inning fashion obviously nettled Manager Earl Weaver. He asked the umpires to check Perry for the lubrication that all the hitters claim he carries. "Our guys saw Perry getting his slickum from his left wrist," Weaver said. "When the umpire went out, Perry rubbed it on his pants and let them inspect him." Mr. Clean now has a 17-8 record and a 1.69 earned run average, while the other Indian pitchers have a combined 21-44 record.
The Yankees stalled the recent Red Sox surge by taking three of four in New York. Sparky Lyle saved his 20th game, but then lost his third when substitute Boston Catcher Bob Montgomery hit an opposite-field, ninth-inning, three-run homer. Regular Catcher Carlton Fisk also hit a home run for Boston, but the heart of the batting order—Carl Yastrzemski, Reggie Smith and Rick Petrocelli—failed to drive in a single run in New York.
DET 53-39 BALT 51-40 BOST 46-44 NY 45-44 CLEV 38-52 MIL 37-54
Flying into Oakland, the Minnesota Twins figured they were ready to make a pennant charge against the Athletics. For one thing, Harmon Killebrew was unhappy at being omitted from the All-Star team, and when Harmon gets mad he usually vents his anger on baseballs. Also, the Twins still had 13 games left to play against the A's, and, as Manager Frank Quilici said, if they won 10 of the 13, Minnehaha.
But Vida Blue was mad, too. At himself. And at his 2-5 record. "My attitude has changed, believe me," Blue said before pitching the opener against the Twins. "The fans are going to see a new Vida. I'm going to equal last year's first half [17-3] in this year's second half." Blue shut out the Twins for eight innings, then Killebrew smashed a two-run homer in the ninth. Exit Blue. Enter Rollie Fingers. And the A's held on to win 4-3. Few knew it was Vida's birthday because league records mistakenly show he was born June 28th—instead of July 28th. Killebrew hit another homer the next night to beat Ken Holtzman, but the A's took the third game of the series and sent the Twins home talking about next year.
By winning three of four from Kansas City, Chicago extended its home record to 36-13, the best in baseball. Dick Allen continued to confine his batting practice to live games and hit three more home runs—25 so far this year. Asked what he thought was a realistic home-run goal, Allen answered, "How about 25?" In the one game Kansas City won, Roger Nelson shut out the White Sox and scored the winning run after breaking up Stan Bahnsen's no-hitter with a two-out single in the eighth.
California shot down the Texas Rangers in three straight games, starting with Nolan Ryan's two-hit, 14-strikeout shutout, and finally gave Second Baseman Sandy Alomar a rest after 565 games. The Rangers, meanwhile, began their latest youth movement by recalling three more minor league players and demoting three veterans. On a positive note, the Rangers finally went ahead of Washington's 1971 attendance for a corresponding number of dates.
OAK 58-36 CHI 52-42 MINN 46-44 KC 45-48 CAL 42-52 TEX 37-55
Cincinnati, giving some hope to the Astros and Dodgers, lost two of three games to San Diego, including the longest played so far in Riverfront Stadium. In that 17-inning, four-hour, 4-3 defeat, four Reds were caught stealing and another was picked off first base. Catcher Fred Kendall of the Padres twice threw out Joe Morgan trying to steal. "I had never been thrown out twice in one game before," the All-Star MVP said sorrowfully. The Reds also lost to San Diego's Clay Kirby, who stopped them on live hits, and their record at Riverfront fell below .500. On the road the Reds are 22 games over .500.
Bill Buckner and Manny Mota, who share left field for the Dodgers, fashioned a 1-2 KO for the Astros. Pinch-hitting, Mota drove in a run and then scored moments later on Buckner's homer off Fred Gladding, who had not thrown a gopher pitch in almost two years. However, the Dodgers' knack of bunching errors was evident again in a 2-2 week. They committed five in three games.
Luman Harris still was managing the struggling Atlanta Braves, but Eddie Mathews was said to be ready and available to replace him. Meanwhile, Denny McLain, lately of the Birmingham A's, picked up the first save of his career by getting the last batter out in a 4-3 win over San Francisco. Faced with a twi-night doubleheader followed by an afternoon doubleheader, Atlanta and San Francisco players both protested and the twi-nighter suddenly became a single game. And once again Giant Owner Horace Stoneham denied reports that he plans to sell the team. He said, "I'm fed up denying the rumors."
CIN 56-35 HOUS 52-43 LA 49-43 ATL 43-50 SF 42-53 SD 35-57
After only one game as manager of the Chicago Cubs, Whitey Lockman clearly was a genius. Taking over from Leo Durocher, 66, whose extraordinary career may or may not have reached a final punctuation point, Lockman immediately banned all card games from the clubhouse and notified the players they would have a strict curfew on the road. Then Ferguson Jenkins went out and pitched a one-hitter against the Phillies in Philadelphia. The hit was a fourth-inning double by Willie Montanez. Said Shortstop Don Kessinger after the game, "If I knew then what I know now, I would have dived for the ball. But it was only the fourth inning so I played it a little cautious." Lock-man's genius lost some sheen thereafter as the Cubs lost two in a row.
All right, now, who is the best pitcher on the Mets? Tom Terrific, right? Wrong. Remember this name: Jon Trumpbour Matlack. The rookie left-hander shut out the Pirates for 10 innings, improved his record to 10-5 and lowered his ERA to 2.08. He has allowed only one earned run in his last 36 innings. Not surprisingly, Matlack was hardly confident before facing the Bucs in Pittsburgh. "I read that they had a 14-4 record and a .336 batting average against lefthanders," he said. "I almost jumped out the hotel window."
After losing to Matlack, the Pirates got mean and beat both Jerry Koosman and Seaver. Willie Stargell homered against each, then hit another against the Phillies. Ted Simmons finally signed a contract with St. Louis, and Bob Gibson—after 11 straight wins—lost a game. It was Bill Stoneman over Gibson for Montreal, and Mike Torrez followed with a win in New York as the Expos closed to within six games of .500—Gene Mauch's definition of respectability. In Philadelphia, Steve Carlton won his 10th straight, shutting out the Cubs 2-0.
PITT 58-35 NY 50-41 CHI 48-46 ST. L. 46-45 MONT 42-48 PHIL 34-59