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Most of the talk was about 34-year-old Lou Brock, the larcenous Card. Five more stolen bases increased his total to 22, well ahead of Maury Wills' pace when he filched a record 104 in 1962. "The only reason Brock might, slow down," said Montreal Manager Gene Mauch, "would be so that he wouldn't hit both doors going into the Hall of Fame." St. Louis was also stealing hits from opposing batters as former Red Sox Lynn McGlothen and John Curtis threw back-to-back shutouts and the Cardinals won three of five. Reggie Smith, another Red Sox alumnus, was hitting .372 and was league runner-up in RBIs.
New York won four of seven, and Jon Matlack and Jerry Koosman together had just one loss in nine decisions. But Tom Seaver (1-4) and George Stone (0-3) couldn't get going, although the Mets managed to climb to fourth. Perhaps they might have benefited from the mind-expanding experience of Philadelphia Pitchers Dick Ruthven and Jim Lonborg, whose wins led the Phillies into a tie for first. After beating both the Dodgers and Pirates, Ruthven disclosed that he had been a "mental midget" last year as a rookie. "Things would snowball," Ruthven said. "People around here thought I was insane. Now I'm relaxed. No more getting excited." Lonborg shut out the Padres 4-0 and credited teammate Steve Carlton for having taught him to think positively.
All Chicago, Montreal and Pittsburgh could think of was staying above water. The Cubs left 24 men on base in two losses to New York and Burt Hooton's ERA ballooned to 6.62. Pirate pitchers allowed three runs or less in every game but one, but their batters only once had more than six hits. That was when a 14-hit Pirate attack went for naught in a loss to Houston. Montreal's Steve Rogers (5-1) pitched his fourth complete game to beat St. Louis 5-4 and break a 1-9 team slump.
ST. L 16-14 PHIL 16-14 MONT 12-11 NY 13-17 CHI 11-15 PITT 9-18
Cincinnatians were becoming a bit red-faced, and it wasn't just from chilly temperatures. As the defending champs lost three of four at home and went 21 innings without scoring, Tony Perez was 1 for 14, Joe Morgan 0 for 12, Pete Rose 1 for 12 and Dave Concepcion 2 for 11. Even when the Reds got it together, it fell apart. Fred Norman struck out 13 Cardinals but deprived himself of a possible win when he threw wildly to first, the Cardinals taking that game 1-0. As a further embarrassment, two Riverfront spectators ran around the infield and another knocked the wind out of Umpire Satch Davidson by hitting him in the back with a can of beer. "We've got a club that doesn't play well in bad weather," said Manager Sparky Anderson. "The Dodgers go home from spring training, have good weather and good pitching and are off and running."
He seemed to have a point. In the chill, moist East for a few games, Los Angeles handed Philadelphia a series when Mike Marshall walked home two runs in the ninth inning. Rained out twice in Montreal, the Dodgers returned to California and swept three straight, the sweetest win Don Sutton's 6-0, one-hit shutout of San Diego.
Tom Griffin's one-hitter and four-hitter, and three timely drives by league batting leader Greg Gross against the Reds helped keep Houston in second with a 3-3 week. San Francisco won six of seven, getting complete games from Mike Caldwell and Tom Bradley, and took third. The bad news was talk of trading Bobby Bonds.
With a circus coming to Atlanta Stadium, the Braves had a step on the clowns. A ball hit by the Giants' Garry Maddox struck a clump of dirt, hopped over the glove of First Baseman Frank Tepedino and beat the Braves 5-4. Next day the Braves erred four times in an 8-7 loss to the Giants.