Cincinnati was making the rest of the division see Reds, winning four of five to elbow closer to the front-row Dodgers. The Reds, losing only five games in three weeks, have picked up five games on LA since July 1. Pete Rose, with 45 hits in his last 110 at bats, took the league lead among regulars (.335). Johnny Bench sacked Atlanta, driving in six runs to increase his total to 77. That, too, topped the NL. And when lefthander Fred Norman beat the Braves it was his eighth win since he joined the team in June. Righthander Gary Nolan, who had been on the disabled list with a sore shoulder since Opening Day, reported for work, but Shortstop Dave Concepcion broke an ankle in a game with Montreal. He could be lost for the season.
Leo Durocher may have been celebrating his 67th birthday, but the crusty Houston manager's hearing was still acute. He overheard a remark by a disgruntled pitcher, Don Wilson, that was unflattering to him, and responded with discipline. Wilson paid a $300 fine, then threw a good seven-hitter at Atlanta, but the Astros lost 3-1 when Henry Aaron singled home the winning run in the ninth inning. Having home run No. 700 under his belt, Aaron displayed other offensive powers: he stole a base on Johnny Bench.
LA's Tommy John, fully recovered from off-season elbow surgery, won his 10th game and his first standing ovation by beating the Astros. "That's the first time it's ever happened to me," said John. "I tipped my hat but I really wanted to take it off and wave to all those wonderful people. The fans would love it—but the players would have called me a hot dog." The Dodger defense was a little doggy in a loss to San Francisco, making six errors.
Shortstop Enzo Hernandez returned to the Padres' lineup and San Diego ended a seven-game losing streak. All-Star MVP Bobby Bonds cracked three homers as the Giants won four of five.
LA 64-39 CIN 60-43 SF 59-44 HOUS 53-52 ATL 47-59 SD 34-68
Montreal slowed galloping Philadelphia to a walk by sweeping a three-game series after the Phils had crept to within 5� games of first place. Phillie Shortstop Larry Bowa suffered a broken leg in one of the losses, causing despondent Manager Danny Ozark to mutter, "This has to be my lowest point." Wayne Twitchell ended the Phillie slump with a shutout of the Pirates, disdaining his fastball and afterward explaining his lack of a pitching cannon with a cerebral canon: "Batter after batter, they're a fastball team."
The wilting Chicago Cubs were the only Eastern team with a losing record for the week, dropping four of five and falling 2� games out of first place. Their lone victory was over Pittsburgh, the completion of a game suspended on April 21 because of darkness, a time when the Cubs were playing superlative baseball. In one pair of losses Cub pitchers gave up 34 hits.
The Pirates' young outfielder, Richie Zisk, was hammering the ball at .383 for the month and his team won four of six during the week, bringing the sound of footsteps to the Cubs and the division-leading Cards (page 20). The Mets ran to excess, losing to St. Louis 13-1, then two days later trumping Montreal 11-3 as the division race bowled on with only 8� games separating the top and bottom teams. "Nobody is going to open up a sizeable gap between themselves and the rest," said Gene Mauch. "It hasn't happened in 100 games, so why should it happen the rest of the way?"