Burt Hooton of the Dodgers (4-3) ran his victory string to nine games, beating the Giants 3-1 and the Braves 5-2. And Doug Rau tamed the Mets 5-2 and the Reds 3-2. Losers were Don Sutton, who was 11-5 in mid-June and is now 16-12, and Andy Messersmith, whose record has worsened from 12-4 to 15-14. Reliever Mike Marshall, who reinjured rib cartilage, and Outfielder Bill Buckner, who had surgery on his left ankle, were through for the year. Johnnie LeMaster of the Giants (also 4-3) hit an inside-the-park homer in his first big league at-bat as Ed Halicki stymied the Dodgers 7-3. And John (the Count) Montefusco eased past Philadelphia 5-4 and Houston 2-1 for his 12th and 13th wins.
Back from a road trip, the Braves played before record-setting crowds. Alas, the records were for the sparsest attendance since the team moved to Atlanta in 1966. An all-time low of 1,119 saw the Padres take the first game from the Braves 10-9 with a five-run ninth, the clincher coming on a single by Dave Roberts. Smaller yet was the next day's gathering of 1,062, which was treated to a 2-1 Brave win when Ed Goodson and Marty Perez drove in runs in the ninth. Carl Morton won his 16th and 17th games for Atlanta with relief help from Bruce Dal Canton.
Eight homers helped keep the fourth-place Padres two games in front of the Braves. So did Pitcher Brent Strom, who beat the Expos 6-0 and the Astros 2-1, and Randy Jones, who slowed down the Reds 2-1 for his 18th victory.
For Cincinnati (4-3) Don Gullett won his eighth in a row, downing San Diego 10-4. The Reds gave the Dodgers an even worse drubbing, 13-2, thanks to a 10-run inning, three L.A. errors and 11 walks.
CIN 94-47 LA 75-67 SF 70-71
SD 64-78 ATL 62-80 HOUS 54-89
As first-place aspirants returned to intradivisional play, none inspired complete confidence. Alone among them, front-running Pittsburgh (5-2) had a winning week. But the Bucs were not very swashbuckling in Montreal, losing one game 4-3 when Kent Tekulve issued four walks in the 10th, dawdling along until the 11th in another before overkilling the Expos with seven runs. Dropping six lengths back were the Phillies (2-5), victims of assorted oddities and misfortunes. Like Catcher Johnny Oates retrieving a wild pitch and firing it over the head of Pitcher Tom Hilgendorf, who was covering home plate. Like losing five one-run games, including a 7-6er to the Cubs in which the Phillies had led 5-0. Like Tug McGraw committing a balk when a moth flew into his eye. And it did not help that Jay Johnstone, the team's leading hitter (.335) was sidelined by a minor fracture of his right wrist. But there were little things to be thankful for: Greg Luzinski snapped an 0-for-24 slump and Mike Schmidt ended an 0-for-20 skid. Also struggling were New York (page 24) and St. Louis (3-3). On Bob Gibson Day in St. Louis, Boy and Girl Scouts formed a "251"—the number of Gibby's lifetime wins—and President Ford sent a congratulatory letter. Gibson said he was proudest that "what I did I was able to do my way." Sadly, Gibson coughed up a grand-slam homer two days later, Pete LaCock of the Cubs smashing it to break open a 7-6 game. But Bob Forsch and Al Hrabosky of the Cardinals teamed up for 6-3 defeats of the Cubs and Mets, giving Forsch 14 victories, Hrabosky 21 saves. Lou Brock stole four bases to bring his total to 53. This is the 11th year in a row in which he has had 50 or more and his lifetime mark of 806 is just 86 short of Ty Cobb's record.
Andy Thornton of Chicago (5-3), who has doubled his home-run output to 14 in the past two weeks, sent four balls out of the park. His 14th was a three-run drive that zapped the Phillies 4-3. With the Pirates and Phillies virtually handing them games, the Expos (3-4) clung to the notion that they still had a chance of wresting fifth from the Cubs.
PITT 79-60 ST. L 74-66 PHIL 74-67
NY 73-67 CHI 66-76 MONT 61-78
Instrumental in Oakland's trio of wins, Reggie Jackson hit them long and he hit them short. In an 8-6 defeat of Boston, Jackson had three hits and five RBIs, his jazziest blow a bases-loaded double that caromed off first base. Jackson slugged his 30th home run as the A's clipped the Angels 6-3 and hit No. 31 to put down the Rangers 2-1. In two other games, however, the A's were beaten.
Kansas City (8-1) refused to roll over. Indeed, the Royals whacked three games off the A's lead Al Cowens had 10 RBIs, John Mayberry tied Jackson for the league home-run lead with his 30th and 31st, and George Brett and Harmon Killebrew also did some swinging. Brett, who bedeviled Chicago with a 12th-inning go-ahead single in a 4-1 game and with a homer in a 5-4 verdict, stung California with five hits and four RBIs in a 5-2 game and walloped a two-run homer in a 6-3 victory. After Hal McRae hurt his rib cage fouling off a White Sox pitch, Killebrew finished his turn at bat for him by socking a two-run homer that brought a 3-1 triumph. Paul Splittorff had a pair of "bookend" decisions, breezing past Chicago and New York by identical 7-0 scores.
After the Twins had voted overwhelmingly that former teammate Jim Kaat of the White Sox (3-4) was the best lefty in the league, he helped sustain their opinion with a 5-2 win, his 20th. Rich Gossage chalked up his eighth triumph as well as his 23rd and 24th saves; he has accounted for a remarkable 47% of Chicago's 68 victories. Although committing nine errors and giving up 15 walks in two games against Texas, Minnesota (2-2) took both. Rookie Jim Hughes held off the Rangers 5-3 for his 13th win.
California and Texas were both 2-5. Frank Tanana of the Angels struck out 14 as he stopped the A's 4-1, and Lee Stanton had five RBIs in a 6-4 decision over the Rangers. Nolan Ryan was expected to undergo surgery for bone chips on his pitching elbow. Gaylord Perry of Texas was a winner for the 15th time, knocking off Oakland 4-2 on a two-hitter. But Ferguson Jenkins lost twice as he was tagged for three home runs, which increased his total to 35, highest in the majors.
OAK 83-56 KC 79-61 TEX 69-73
CHI 68-73 MINN 65-72 CAL 64-78
"Choke. Choke. Choke." That was the chant taken up by some Boston fans during a two-game series in Baltimore, their derisive retort to Oriole Manager Earl Weaver's comment that the Red Sox would collapse in the stretch. The Sox (4-3) showed no signs of folding the way they did late last season, beating the Birds 3-2 and 3-1. In the first game the Sox got a gift run when Jim Palmer lost his usually impeccable control and walked four batters in a row. Boston won it in the 10th on Cecil Cooper's homer, giving Rick Wise his 18th win, the 13th in his past 16 decisions. Boston let it all hang out in a week-ending 24-hit, 20-6 blitz of the Brewers, in which Dwight Evans had five of the hits. Injury-hampered Catcher Carlton Fisk somehow managed to slightly aggravate his split ring finger while caring for the tomatoes he grows at home, but he was healthy enough to drive in seven runs last week.
By taking four of six one-run games, Baltimore (4-3) kept its faint hopes aglimmer. Three games were settled on late-inning hits by Bobby Grich, Doug DeCinces and Don Baylor.
Cleveland (4-2) zoomed to within two games of third-place New York (3-5). An eighth-inning homer by Rico Carty stunned the Orioles 2-1. Then, against the fast-crumbling Brewers, the Tribe romped 11-3 and 10-5. Catfish Hunter of New York mastered Detroit 8-0 for his 19th win and 26th complete game, the most by a Yankee since Carl Mays had the same number in 1921. Thurman Munson, trying to become the first Yankee to amass 100 RBIs since Mickey Mantle in 1964, had 10, bringing his total up to 89.
Pete Broberg of Milwaukee (3-4) disposed of Texas 4-1 and Boston 4-2, giving him four route-going games in five starts since resorting to a no-windup delivery. In 25 previous outings, Broberg had gone the distance just once. George Scott polished off the Tigers 6-5 when he exploded for five hits. But Detroit (2-4) also displayed some fireworks, beating Milwaukee 5-4 with a four-run seventh and erupting for a seven-run inning in an 11-2 rout of Cleveland. Getting into the swing of things, Willie Horton slammed his 22nd and 23rd home runs for the last-place Tigers.
BOS 83-56 BALT 77-63 NY 70-71
CLEV 65-70 MIL 61-80 DET 54-85