NATIONAL LEAGUE WEST
Johnny Bench was literally back on center stage—in a This Is Your Life episode—as Cincinnati marched ever closer to the playoffs. In six games Bench hit three home runs, one a grand slam, and drove in 13 runs, putting him well ahead of the minimum goals of 30 homers and 100 RBIs that he set for himself this year; he has 33 and 110.
Houston got hot briefly, winning three in a row, once after trailing 5-0, but then along came two LA pitchers—and two Astro defeats. First, Claude Osteen won his 17th game, 4-2, on a four-hitter. Then Don Sutton pitched his seventh shutout and 16th win in a 10-0 romp. That moved the Dodgers to within three games of the Astros.
The Braves split doubleheaders at the beginning and end of the week and lost everything in between, including the interest of their fans. For the first time since they came to Atlanta in 1966 the Braves will fall under the million mark in attendance. Hank Aaron hit his 29th and 30th home runs in a loss to Cincinnati, giving him a record 14 straight seasons of 30 or more.
Rarely robust, attendance was dipping also in San Francisco. A two-game series with the Dodgers, part of a four-game Giant winning streak, drew only 10,347. The 4,840 who turned out on Sept. 13 were an alltime low for a game against the Dodgers, and that includes spring training.
San Diego took a 9-7 season edge over the lofty Reds when Fred Norman beat them for the fourth time, 1-0. Norman struck out 15 Reds while 13 Padres fanned, setting a major league nine-inning record of 28. Steve Arlin dropped his 10th in a row.
CIN 86-54 HOUS 78-62 LA 75-65 ATL 65-76 SF 63-78 SD 52-86
NATIONAL LEAGUE EAST
Pittsburgh swept three straight from the Cubs in Wrigley Field, and the only race left was for larger salaries. Roberto Clemente, who collected eight hits against Chicago and 10 for the week, moved within 13 of 3,000.
Then the Mets came to Chicago with a five-game winning streak, and suddenly the Cubs could do no wrong. In the first two games of their series Chicago hit eight homers and scored 27 runs. Milt Pappas won his eighth straight, and 199th of his career, in the first. New York's Tom Seaver was clobbered in the second, an 18-5 slaughter that was the worst defeat ever for the Mets.