St. Louis won seven of its first nine games. Richie Allen started with four home runs and 10 RBIs. Mike Torres beat Montreal twice, once on a one-hitter, and new Cardinal Jose Cardenal was hitting .436. After hitting .169 as a team and losing three of its first four games, CHICAGO won five in a row. It took a bit of chewing and wriggling in the beginning of the streak—the first four victories were by one run—but the fifth win was an 8-1 enjoyment. Jim Hickman (.385) hit safely in nine straight games, inimitable Ernie Banks was batting .344 and Billy Williams—zero for 19 at the start—went on a more usual six-for-seven streak. Has anyone thought of giving all those young NEW YORK pitchers a saliva test? After Tom Seaver shut out the Phils, Nolan Ryan, the Mets' No. 5 starter, looked not quite real as he set Philadelphia down 7-0 on a one-hitter, striking out 15 men. That made five straight times over two seasons that the Mets had shut out the Phils. Willie Stargell, whose fried-chicken emporium gives away a free fowl every time the boss hits a home run, fell on evil times. With a three-porthole average after 20 at bats, Willie ordered his hen house to dispense free eats for any kind of hit. It worked twice, but then Stargell reverted to one for 27 and was soon perched on the bench. His replacement, Bob Robertson, was impressive. The Mets' Ron Taylor, remembering that he had embarrassed Robertson with a curve Opening Day, tried another as his first pitch. Robertson, waiting, smacked it over the fence to set up an extra-inning win. PHILADELPHIA'S youngsters suffered seven straight losses and 64 consecutive innings without even holding the lead, but new Manager Frank Lucchesi wasn't yanking his slumping kids. "There are too many flippin' managers who give up on young ballplayers too early," he said. Richie Allen pounded a homer to aid in one of MONTREAL'S defeats. Said Manager Gene Mauch, "There are two things you don't want to give Allen. One's a high fast ball. The other's a fast high ball."
ST. L 7-2 CHI 6-3 PITT 5-4 NY 6-5 PHIL 4-8 MONT 1-8
Cincinnati sprang off to an 11-4 record on its usual good hitting and surprisingly sound pitching, though bellwether Jim Maloney tore his Achilles' tendon. He won't be back till September, if then. (Holding out this spring, Maloney rejected a contract based on the number of innings he would pitch, settling for a flat salary and no raise instead.) Don Gullett, in his first major league decision, came in for Maloney and won, yielding no runs in five innings. Wayne Simpson won his third straight by one-hitting the Giants 6-0. Simpson had allowed seven hits and one run in 25 innings for a 0.36 ERA. Consistently the world's best hitting second-place ball club, SAN FRANCISCO (.293 as a team) had three men at the very top of the National League averages—men whose names are household words, like Ken Henderson, Alan Gallagher and Dick Dietz, but all seven San Francisco victories (in 14 games) were achieved by coming from behind. Twenty-five home runs were hit in the first nine games in the Astrodome, and only 90 had been hit there in 81 games all last year. HOUSTON hit most of them (13). The management was kept busy painting toy cannons (for Jim Wynn) and red roosters (for Doug Rader) on far-out seats. Most people suspected that the experimental ball was somehow involved, but Tommy Davis had another notion. "Watch this," he said, tossing some Astrodome dirt into the Astrodome air. Grains drifted toward the pitcher's mound. "There's a breeze in here now, and it blows toward the outfield." Along with worrying about Ron Reed's broken collarbone and Cecil Upshaw's nearly severed finger, ATLANTA can start fretting about Phil Niekro's knuckles. Last year's 23-game winner was this year's three-game loser. Niekro fluttered away a 4-1 lead to the unfrightening Padres, and the whole staff floundered as the Braves fell to 5-7. Nate Colbert had five homers and 12 RBIs in 5-8 SAN DIEGO'S first 10 games. Vitamin C itself in the grapefruit league, LOS ANGELES developed scurvy in regular-season play. The Dodgers lost seven of 10 before knocking off Atlanta twice.
CINN 11-4 HOUS 7-6 SF 7-7 LA 5-7 ATL 5-7 SD 5-8
Mickey Lolich pitched three straight "opening" games for DETROIT and completed his first four starts, serving up sliders and pizza (he had slices with pepperoni delivered to the locker room). Lolich also stole third base. Stealing third base is uncommon for pitchers, especially those who like pizza and beer. Who was that other guy who used to pitch for Detroit? Dave McNally, the man the BALTIMORE Orioles call Super Tarpon, showed how he earned his nickname by getting off the hook twice; he was 3-0 for the season. Tom Phoebus pitched a two-hitter—the third consecutive year he's opened with a two-hitter—but because of the way open dates fell in the early schedule Baltimore planned to go with a three-man rotation. Wondering what he had to do to start regularly, Phoebus fretted, "Maybe I shouldn't have let them get the two hits in the same inning." Then rain spun Earl Weaver's carefully planned rotation into a tizzy, and Phoebus was as happy as the rest of the fast-starling Orioles, BOSTON stood 5-5 after 10 games, and two of the wins belonged to retired skier Jim Lonborg. Southpaw Ken Brett and ex-White Sox star Gary Peters pitched strongly, too, but Second Baseman Mike Andrews and Third Baseman Luis Alvarado weren't hitting worth beans. Down in Winter Haven sore-armed Jose Santiago and lackadaisical 1969 Rookie of the Year Mike Nagy were trying to work their way off the sick list and the blacklist, respectively. Ted Williams' WASHINGTON Senators were hitting more than 100 points below their spring-training average. Cleanup man Ken McMullen was batting .200, and only three Senators were above .250. Dick Bosnian, the league's ERA leader in 1969, was as bad as the hitters. Bosnian walked only one man per five innings last year; this season he walked 18 in 16? innings. The Senators considered themselves lucky to be 4-4 and unimpeached. Last year CLEVELAND won only one of its first 16 games. Three out of the first nine this time looked like sunshine, particularly when Second Baseman Vern Fuller was in bed with bronchitis, Tony Horton's back was hurting and injured Ken Harrelson was not even around. New Outfielder Roy Foster, an ex-Met farmhand, did cheer bride-groom Dark with eight hits in 18 at bats. The finest NEW YORK Yankee team of the 1970s broke the Orioles' three-game losing streak the day after snapping its own. The New Yorkers stayed among the major league stragglers in winning percentage (.300), hitting (.217) and keeping fans off the field.
DET 7-3 BALT 7-4 BOST 5-5 WASH 4-4 CLEV 3-6 NY 4-8