Cincinnati's Machine was developing a Big Red face as it played without fire, and the early-season runaway days became only sweet memories. The Reds have won only as many games as they have lost since the All-Star Game, and last week was no exception. They were defeated twice in extra innings, and their two victories were one-run squeakers. Jim Merritt became the National League's first 20-game winner by a 6-5 score over the Phillies, while Lee May's two-run, 11th-inning homer provided the deciding run in a 4-3 victory against the Expos, LOS ANGELES' Dodgers, continuing as the surprise hitters in either league, trailed the Reds by only .002 in the team batting race and credited former Brooklyn Outfielder Dixie Walker, now the team's full-time hitting coach, with their high estate. "Dixie tells you little things," says Outfielder Bill Russell. "For example, on a high pitch he tells me I'm not raising my arms properly. On low pitches, I don't bend my knees enough." Those little things have added up to something big. As a team, the young Dodgers are hitting 18 points higher this year than they did in 1969. With the best record in the league since mid-July SAN FRANCISCO is making its annual grab for second place, where it has finished in each of the past five seasons. Last week the Giants edged within four games of the Dodgers as Juan Marichal pitched his sixth straight win and the 200th of his big-league career. Henry Aaron picked a clutch situation to break a two-week span in which he had failed to hit a home run. He clubbed a 3-2 pitch in the ninth inning against the Mets to drive in the winning runs of a 9-7 victory. HOUSTON'S Wade Blasingame saved a similarly dramatic performance for the Mets, beating them 2-1 on four hits. Blasingame's major league record is only 36-37, but he is 9-0 against the Mets, and his last three major league wins—his only victories for the past three years—have been against them, SAN DIEGO swept a two game series with the Pirates as Infielders Dave Campbell and Ed Spiezio drove in the winning runs.
CINN 86-49 LA 72-58 SF 69-63 ATL 65-67 HOUS 62-70 SD 50-82