NATIONAL LEAGUE WEST
Johnny Bench was literally back on center stage—in a This Is Your Life episode—as Cincinnati marched ever closer to the playoffs. In six games Bench hit three home runs, one a grand slam, and drove in 13 runs, putting him well ahead of the minimum goals of 30 homers and 100 RBIs that he set for himself this year; he has 33 and 110.
Houston got hot briefly, winning three in a row, once after trailing 5-0, but then along came two LA pitchers—and two Astro defeats. First, Claude Osteen won his 17th game, 4-2, on a four-hitter. Then Don Sutton pitched his seventh shutout and 16th win in a 10-0 romp. That moved the Dodgers to within three games of the Astros.
The Braves split doubleheaders at the beginning and end of the week and lost everything in between, including the interest of their fans. For the first time since they came to Atlanta in 1966 the Braves will fall under the million mark in attendance. Hank Aaron hit his 29th and 30th home runs in a loss to Cincinnati, giving him a record 14 straight seasons of 30 or more.
Rarely robust, attendance was dipping also in San Francisco. A two-game series with the Dodgers, part of a four-game Giant winning streak, drew only 10,347. The 4,840 who turned out on Sept. 13 were an alltime low for a game against the Dodgers, and that includes spring training.
San Diego took a 9-7 season edge over the lofty Reds when Fred Norman beat them for the fourth time, 1-0. Norman struck out 15 Reds while 13 Padres fanned, setting a major league nine-inning record of 28. Steve Arlin dropped his 10th in a row.
CIN 86-54 HOUS 78-62 LA 75-65 ATL 65-76 SF 63-78 SD 52-86
NATIONAL LEAGUE EAST
Pittsburgh swept three straight from the Cubs in Wrigley Field, and the only race left was for larger salaries. Roberto Clemente, who collected eight hits against Chicago and 10 for the week, moved within 13 of 3,000.
Then the Mets came to Chicago with a five-game winning streak, and suddenly the Cubs could do no wrong. In the first two games of their series Chicago hit eight homers and scored 27 runs. Milt Pappas won his eighth straight, and 199th of his career, in the first. New York's Tom Seaver was clobbered in the second, an 18-5 slaughter that was the worst defeat ever for the Mets.
St. Louis ended a four-game losing streak when rookie Jorge Roque, an .083 slugger, pinch-hit his first major league home run in the 11th inning to beat Montreal 5-4. That knocked the Expos out of fourth place, where their one-day stay prompted a red-ink headline in the Montreal Gazette: WELL, HOW ABOUT THAT...WE'VE GOT A FOURTH-PLACE BALL-CLUB.... Thereafter Montreal dropped four in a row, St. Louis won four and life resumed its normal course.
Philadelphia's Steve Carlton won his 24th on the same day that Rick Wise, the player he was traded for, got his 15th win for St. Louis. Phillie Manager Paul Owens said Carlton could write his own ticket for 1973. Rookie Catcher Bob Boone whipped off his mask to find a passed ball and jammed his plastic helmet down over his eyes, dislodging both of his contact lenses. No ticket writer he. Don Money handled a league-record 162 errorless chances but at the end of the week was on the bench with an "injury." "It's in my backside from sitting," he grumbled.
PITT 89-50 CHI 77-64 NY 72-66 ST.L 68-74 MONT 64-76 PHIL 51-89
AMERICAN LEAGUE WEST
"We can't lose in the stretch run," said Oakland Pitcher Ken Holtzman. "Any one of our first four pitchers can stop a losing streak." As the A's moved 4½ games ahead of Chicago, Blue Moon Odom shut out the Twins on six hits, Holtzman beat Texas 12-3 for his 17th win of the season, a personal high, and Vida Blue two-hit the feeble Rangers. "I can't call it a great game, not against that ball club," said Blue.
When Dick Allen homered, the White Sox won; when he did not, they did not. His three home runs last week brought him up to 36 for the season and broke the club record of 33 that Bill Melton set last year. Stan Bahnsen pitched two shutouts, but Wilbur Wood twice failed to become the first Chicago pitcher in 51 years to win 25 games.
Minnesota swept a doubleheader from Oakland when Rich Reese doubled home the winning run in the ninth inning of the first game and walked it home in the eighth of the second. Rumors surfaced that Manager Bob Lemon, who last year led his team to the first over .500 season in Kansas City's 17 major league years, would not be rehired.
California won four of six and should have won the others for Nolan Ryan. Ryan gave up only six hits while striking out 15 against Texas and four hits while whiffing 11 in eight innings against Chicago, but lost 3-0 and 2-0.
The Rangers twice failed to score to move within three games of the American League record for most shutouts suffered. The week's lone victory came when Bill Gogolewski, a 3-9 pitcher with a 4.46 ERA, one-hit the Angels 3-0.
OAK 83-57 CHI 78-61 MINN 71-68 KC 67-71 CAL 66-73 TEX 52-88
AMERICAN LEAGUE EAST
While Boston asserted itself and New York faded in the four-team scramble for a playoff spot (page 16) Milwaukee battled Cleveland to avoid the cellar. Both played patsy to the contenders, but down in their own class the Brewers reigned supreme. Or at least were supreme when it rained. In the second game of the doubleheader that opened their four-game series, Milwaukee led the Indians 4-2 after eight innings. Cleveland rallied for three runs in the top of the ninth, but a downpour washed that out.
Milwaukee routinely beat 20-game winner Gaylord Perry the next day and then completed the first four-game sweep in its four-year history in magnificent fashion. Tied 3-3 in the bottom of the 15th, the Brewers sent George Scott home on a suicide squeeze. Joe Azcue squared to bunt, but did nothing else. "I froze," he admitted later. So Scott screeched to a halt midway between third and home and, while contemplating yet another inning of baseball (the game took four hours and 31 minutes), watched Catcher Jerry Moses throw the ball into left field. The astonished Scott eased in with the winning run. "Well, it worked," said Brewer Manager Del Crandall. When it rains, it pours.
BOST 76-62 DET 76-64 BALT 76-65 NY 74-67 CLEV 63-79 MIL 58-85