"This whole business of pressure is crazily overrated," said Walter Alston, whose Dodgers have been accused of succumbing to it in recent weeks. But last week they flourished, winning four of five and increasing their margin over the Reds to 3½ games. Andy Messersmith won his 15th and 16th and Steve Garvey had five hits in a 7-6 squeaker over the Cubs.
With Joe Morgan out with a hand injury and Johnny Bench going 2 for 18, Cincinnati was 3-2. Taking up some of the slack were Pete Rose, whose two-run single overcame the Expos 3-1, and Terry Crowley, who doubled across the decisive run in a 4-3 tussle with the Phillies.
Atlanta split six games, twice beating Montreal behind the slugging of Ralph Garr, who tripled across two runs in the ninth in a 4-2 win and had a three-run homer in a 7-2 game.
"Sugar is going up in price, and the only way I can eat candy is to play every day," said Houston's Cliff Johnson, a lover of sweets. All season he has sought to impress other clubs enough to trade for him and, he hopes, make him a well-paid full-time player. His fifth pinch homer of the year, which put him within one of tying the major league mark, left the Mets with a sour taste and a 3-2 loss. In all, the Astros were 3-3 as Don Wilson opened and closed the action with victories over the Phillies.
Like Johnson, Dave Kingman of San Francisco was trying to bolster his trade value. On a .476 hitting spree, he tripped up the Cubs with a ninth-inning single, finished off the Pirates with another game-winner in the 11th and slugged a three-run homer against the St. Louis Cardinals. Long-suffering Randy Jones was again victimized by lack of offensive support from his San Diego teammates. Seven times this year the Padres have failed to score when Jones was the starting pitcher, and last week came the sixth and seventh games in which they have provided him but one run.
LA 83-48 CIN 80-52 ATL 73-59 HOUS 68-63 SF 59-73 SD 50-83
Only two Eastern clubs had winning records for the week: Pittsburgh (page 24) and New York. The Mets utilized fine pitching and timely hitting to win five of six games. Tom Seaver defeated Houston 7-0, but Ray Sadecki upstaged him, tossing his first shutout since 1971 and driving in the game's only run as he downed the Braves, then beating them again 4-2. It took a three-run bottom of the ninth for the Mets to nip the Astros 5-4 as Felix Millan brought in the tying run with a squeeze bunt and Rusty Staub singled across the clincher. And Benny Ayala became the first National Leaguer since Cuno Barragan in 1961 to hit a home run in his first major league at bat.
St. Louis, 2-3, fell to second place despite five stolen bases by Lou Brock, who increased his total to 93. Lynn McGlothen stymied the Padres 5-1, and John Curtis squelched them 3-1 with a one-hitter.
Montreal and Chicago were both 2-4, but the Expos did smite the Reds 11-3 as Bob Bailey drove in five runs. And the Cubs took a doubleheader from the Padres, 5-1 in 12 innings and 4-3 with the aid of two errors.
Philadelphia, 1-4, scored a mere 12 runs. Asked if team morale was holding up, Manager Danny Ozark replied, "Morality at this point isn't a factor."
PITT 69-62 ST. L 68-64 PHIL 64-67 MONT 60-69 NY 58-71 CHI 54-75
Strange things happened to Boston. Oh, the Red Sox did knock off the White Sox twice, but in three other games—all losses—they scored only twice. It almost seemed that Boston had banned the home run, for the Sox did not hit any last week and have had just one in their last 18 games. Rightfielder Dwight Evans, who had not erred in 192 games, had two miscues in one inning. Worst of all was the growing roster of ailing pitchers. Added to Rick Wise (already on the disabled list) were Dick Drago (arm trouble), Bob Veale (bursitis') and Juan Marichal (prostate problems).
New York, 4-1, moved to within four games of Boston with victories that came in a variety of ways. Pat Dobson blanked the Twins 5-0, lowering his ERA for his past 13 starts to 2.25. A pair of four-run seventh-inning uprisings put down the Twins and White Sox, the latter outburst featuring three errors and only one hit. And Larry Gura earned his first Yankee win by beating Nolan Ryan and the Angels 2-1.
Ross Grimsley picked up his 15th victory and Mike Cuellar his 16th, but Baltimore scored only four times in three other contests and lost them all.
Cleveland's Rico Carty, recently obtained from the Mexican League, had 17 hits in 30 times up as the Indians won four of seven games. Jim and Gaylord Perry both stopped the Royals with five-hitters.
Why has Milwaukee lost 22 of 37 since the All-Star break? Because the Brewers have averaged only 2.8 runs a game. Last week: seven runs, one victory, four defeats.
With two out in the ninth and a 3-2 count. Gene Lamont of Detroit homered to tie Texas 5-5. Ron Leflore followed that with a double, and Gary Sutherland won the game with a single. The victory went to John Hiller (15-8) and left him just one short of equaling the league record for relief wins.
BOS 72-58 NY 68-62 CLEV 65-64 BALT 65-65 MIL 62-70 DET 61-70
With the Royals getting too close for comfort, the A's spurted to a 4-1 week, widening their lead to 6½ games. Catfish Hunter got his 20th win by beating the Brewers 3-1. And Claudell Washington went 5 for 5 the day before his 20th birthday, exhibiting his newfound ability to hit inside pitches, as the A's pounded the Tigers 10-5.
Also hitting vigorously was Kansas City's Hal McRae, but he alone could not keep the Royals from losing four of six. Even though he had five doubles and seven RBIs in a doubleheader with Cleveland, the best Kansas City could do was split.
Ranger home attendance surpassed the previous full-season high for the Washington-Texas franchise, reaching 1,038,994. Ferguson Jenkins won for the 19th time, and Dave Nelson became the first player since 1969 to steal second, third and home in one tour of the bases.
Chicago, 3-3, swept a twin bill from Cleveland by identical 8-5 scores and beat Boston 3-0 as Bart Johnson pitched his second straight shutout.
Bert Blyleven won a pair of four-hitters for Minnesota, the second a 3-2 game in which he struck out 14 Red Sox.
California's Nolan Ryan became the first pitcher to' get 300 strikeouts in three consecutive years, leaving nine Brewers in a froth as he won his 17th game, 9-2.
OAK 76-56 KC 69-62 TEX 68-65 CHI 65-67 MINN 64-68 CAL 52-80