As if things were not bad enough in Minnesota, where the Twins have lost 23 games by one run, on Nickel Beer Night the game—won, oddly enough, by the Twins 3-0—lasted only one hour and 57 minutes. That is hardly enough time to blow the foam off a stein of lager. And to think the opponents were the Brewers.
The Angels' Nolan Ryan became the third pitcher in baseball history to strike out more than 300 batters in consecutive seasons—Sandy Koufax and Rube Waddell were the others—when he fanned five Red Sox in the first two innings. All too typically, however, Ryan lost the game 4-0, his 16th defeat of what has been for him an extraordinary season of triumph and loss.
Jim Kaat, newly sold from the Twins to the White Sox, told everybody how happy he was to be in Chicago because "the Twins had a rebuilding program and I didn't fit in." The Sox, he added, were "the sort of team that will make use of a veteran." These unprophetic words were scarcely out when the White Sox announced that for the rest of this season they would be rebuilding—making use of young players, not veterans. They really do not have much choice since most of their veterans are injured, anyway. At week's end they announced that Dick Allen, who broke his left leg in June, would be out for the rest of the season. He joins Ken Henderson (bad knee) on the season-long disabled list.
"It would be nice for a change not to be down 9-0 in the fifth," said Texas Rangers Manager Whitey Herzog, summing up his team's entire season.
OAK 76-52 KC 73-57 MINN 60-67 CAL 58-67 CHI 59-69 TEX 43-83
The Cardinals, losers of 13 out of 17 games, continued to hold on to the division lead. Asked if under the circumstances he would mind being called a "cheese champion," Manager Red Schoendienst philosophized, "If you win a pennant, you can buy a lot of cheese—Limburger, Cheddar, Wisconsin, Swiss." On those rare occasions when the Cardinals do win, the credit must go to sometime starter Jose Cruz, who twice won games during the week with homers, one as a pinch-hitter. Cruz, batting only .232, leads the team with 12 game-winning hits.
One reason for the Cardinals' unwarranted ascendancy was the Pirates' reluctance to overtake them. With opportunity knocking, they just cannot seem to get the door open. Reliever Dave Giusti typifies this stop-and-go syndrome. On Friday he gave up a game-winning homer to Atlanta's Dusty Baker in the ninth, only to come back the following day and pitch three scoreless innings to record his seventh win.
The Cubs, meanwhile, have been regaining some of the ground they lost during their dreadful midseason retreat. They won five of six games with Western Division contenders Los Angeles and Cincinnati and were playing the heads-up baseball they did during the first weeks of the season. Paul Popovich won one game against the Reds with his first homer of the year and the 13th of his major league career. In the clubhouse afterward, he was greeted by this inscription on the blackboard: RUTH, 714. AARON, 704. POPOVICH, 13.
"Injuries are part of the game," said Montreal Manager Gene Mauch, mouthing a bromide that nevertheless most aptly describes his team's fortunes this season. Since July 8 the Expos have lost, for various periods of time, Shortstop Tim Foli, Second Baseman Ron Hunt, Centerfielder Jim Lyttle, First Baseman Mike Jorgensen and now Catcher John Boccabella, who went on the disabled list with a fractured little toe on his left foot. Cruelly enough, all of these regulars were at the top of their game when struck down. The Expos are getting the breaks, for sure, the sort they put casts on.