Before the season began, it was Johnny Bench's stated intention not to tip his cap to the fans after hitting home runs this year, but the applause of euphoric Cincinnati has changed his mind. Ripping and tipping for the divisional leaders, Bench blasted three homers, the third being No. 18, and lifted his RBI count to 50, both figures tops in baseball. His RBI output was 11 shy of his entire 1971 production. Winners in 27 of their last 33 games, the Reds began the week with an 11-1 triumph at Montreal that concluded an 11-1 road trip. And after three successive victories over Philadelphia they beat the Mets 8-2 before 51,617—the second largest crowd in Cincinnati history.
Houston matched Cincy's 5-1 splurge and dropped Los Angeles to third place. Jerry Reuss faced only 31 batters in a six-hitter against Montreal. Fined $100 for throwing his helmet over a fourth-inning strike call, Jim Wynn struck back with an 11th-inning homer to beat the Phils 1-0, and he helped do them in again in a subsequent game with his 10th of the season.
The Dodgers, averaging less than two runs per game over their last 12, had one victory to show for five road games. That one came at St. Louis, where 34-year-old Manny Mota stole home and helped with a sacrifice in a 2-1 win. Errors also plagued the Dodgers as Frank Robinson, among others, dropped a fly ball.
Henry Aaron homered on successive nights for Atlanta, moving two ahead of Willie Mays on the alltime list, to 651. Sixty three to go to Ruth. Rico Carty extended his hitting streak to 18 games and Ron Reed threw a shutout as the Braves went 4-3.
San Diego's 4-3 win over St. Louis ended a 10-game losing streak, and the Padres played to the same score two days later in their first win at Chicago's Wrigley Field since 1970. Atypically, the Padres also beat Pittsburgh, on Nate Colbert's 13th homer.
The highlight of the lowly Giants' 3-3 week was Sam McDowell's 3-1 victory over the Pirates. Pitching in his hometown for the first time, Sudden allowed Pittsburgh but five singles.
CIN 35-20 HOUS 33-23 LA 32-24 ATL 27-28 SD 19-37 SF 20-42
With every but the bat boy hitting .300 or so, it was merely a matter of time before Pittsburgh went into the lead. That the Pirates took over first place when they did, however, was due partly to their only slumping hitter and partly to a penchant for winning doubleheaders.