- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
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Losing three games out of six, Pittsburgh moved into second, despite a locker-room outburst by Richie Hebner and the customary losses to Cincinnati and San Francisco, which have defeated the Pirates in 13 of 21 games. Major league home run leader Willie Stargell slugged numbers 34 and 35, the only ones his team hit all week.
Gene Mauch brought his mother to Montreal after the Expos lost four of their last five games in California, but even mom could not help him win more than once. Poor Pepe Frias, whose real name is Jesus and whose wife's name is Mercy, was strictly a three-day starter at second base as the Expos tried to plug the hole left by Ron Hunt's injury. After Frias hit into a double play with the bases loaded, then booted a grounder to break the game open and finally struck out with the bases loaded against the Dodgers, Mauch chanted a litany from the dugout, "Jesus...mercy...free-us...."
Chicago won a game last week, two to be precise, a considerable achievement after 11 days of nothing but losses. And as if the defeats were not bad enough, the Cubs seemed to be getting worse, particularly after 15-1 and 10-2 losses to Atlanta. When they finally stopped the skid with a 5-1 win over Los Angeles, the Sisters of the Good Shepherd, who live just down Addison Street from Wrigley Field, began tolling the convent bells. And radio station WGN, whose announcers clang a bell for Cub homers, used it to celebrate the victory with the Hallelujah Chorus playing in the background. Inspired by the din, the Cubs won 2-1 against the Dodgers again the following day on Billy Williams' two-run homer.
A year ago Steve Carlton, then the hottest pitcher in the National League, celebrated his wife's birthday by winning his 20th game and his 15th in a row for Philadelphia. The encore this year—hardly Carlton's best—was fairly impressive, too. Carlton beat Houston 8-3, ending a personal three-game losing streak; the flourish was that he hit a home run for what proved to be the winning margin. It was only Carlton's 11th win in 25 decisions.
The New York Mets lost four of six but still had two comforting days. Tom Seaver shut out San Diego 7-0 on just two hits, and Jon Matlack defeated the Reds 12-1 as John Milner hit his second grand-slam home run of the year.
ST. L 62-61 PITT 58-61 MONT 58-63 CHI 58-64 PHIL 56-66 NY 54-66
With Ken Holtzman winning his 18th game 3-2 over Milwaukee, Reggie Jackson hitting his 30th homer and both injured Catfish Hunter and ineffective Blue Moon Odom apparently at full strength again, the A's were back in first place and climbing fast. Odom lasted a strong 7? innings while beating Boston 3-1. When Dick Williams took him out, the manager said, "You're back in the starting rotation as of now." It all added up to seven straight wins for Oakland, a turn of events that so cheered ailing Owner Charlie Finley that he promised to be off his own disabled list in time for the stretch drive.
Kansas City's streak of nine victorious series ended when the Royals dropped two straight to the Red Sox, but sinkerball Pitcher Al Fitzmorris kept his own string alive. He won his fifth straight since being called up from Omaha of the American Association (he has allowed only seven runs in five games), and in his latest win Fitzmorris retired 20 Indians on ground balls in a game played on fast artificial turf.
In a bizarre week, Minnesota sold Lefthander Jim Kaat, who had been a Twin ever since the franchise moved from Washington in 1961, and reacquired Rich Reese, who had been unhappy in the Twin Cities when he played there in 1964-72. Despite the double dealing, Minnesota won three straight with a splurge of 35 runs and 45 hits to bring a seven-game losing streak to a halt. One victory came when Larry Hisle, swinging on the hit-and-run after missing a sacrifice-bunt attempt, broke a tie with a two-run home run. In another win, the Twins scored nine runs in one inning.