Were it not for the fact that the Riverfront rug tends to handicap singles hitters such as Rose and Morgan, Cincinnati's record this season would be an enigma. By winning their series from the Braves last week, the Reds finally lifted their home record to .500 for the season, 25-25. The team's road record is 36-14, virtually a complete reverse of the standard process by which pennants are won.
But few things really seem to make sense in the National League West this season. Every team but the Braves has either been in the lead or shared it at one time or another. Los Angeles and Houston were the two most prominent teams during the early going, but uncharacteristic deficiencies arose in each. For years theorists explained that "The Dodgers never beat themselves." They do this year. Consequently the team with the best overall pitching staff in the division found itself last week 9� games behind the Reds because of shabby fielding. The Glasshouse Gang from Houston was supposed to thrive because needed power had been added to a pitching staff rich in talent and promise. Houston's power has indeed come through; its pitching certainly has not. Youngsters Ken Forsch and Jerry Reuss, who were supposed to lift some of the pressure off experienced starters Larry Dierker, Don Wilson and Dave Roberts, have completed only five of 39 games and compiled a record of 13-13.
In Cincinnati there is still some apprehension about a staff which has yet to pitch two consecutive complete games, but concern about pitching in recent seasons has been as common in Cincy as finding hordes of hippies in Fountain Square. Word last Saturday that number one starter Gary Nolan (13-3) was again having arm problems did not help the morale of Red fans.
But Cincinnati still has Reliever Clay Carroll, The Hawk. In each of the last four seasons Carroll has swooped into over 60 games. So far this year he has made 42 appearances resulting in five wins and 23 saves. "Whenever I walk by him," says Sparky Anderson, "he says, 'The Hawk is sittin' in the tree.' That means that he's ready to fly."
There is still plenty of flying time left before the race is decided, particularly in view of baseball's newest asterisk. Due to the strike at the beginning of the season, teams will finish the schedule with different numbers of games played. The Reds are a 154-game team, Houston will play 153 and the third-place Dodgers 155. If the Reds and Morgan run into any snags, that "all-important" lost column may be as all-important as all get-out to the Astros and Dodgers.