The division was the classiest in baseball. Four teams had winning records, Cincinnati leading the way with seven victories in eight games. "By August first, first place," predicted Reliever Pedro Borbon after his 11th save helped Cincy move within eight games of the lead. Indeed everything was coming up rosy for the Reds. Rookie Tom Carroll won his first two major league starts, and Johnny Bench, who had been slumping, slammed two home runs and four doubles and drove in 10 runs. That brought his RBI total to 60 and prompted another prognosticator, Manager Sparky Anderson, to say, "If he drives in 120, we'll win this thing."
Those were brash statements to be sure, since first-place Los Angeles was hardly collapsing. The Dodgers won five games and Jim Wynn hit his 20th home run to take back the league lead. His clout helped Andy Messersmith beat the Mets 2-1. It was Messer-smith's 10th win and dropped his ERA to 1.96. Over his last 10 starts it has been a paralyzing 0.76.
Houston received strong pitching from Claude Osteen, who defeated the Cubs 4-0 for the 40th shutout of his career, and Tom Griffin, who stopped the Cardinals 4-1. That victory ran Griffin's record to 10-3, one win short of his alltime high.
Atlanta slipped a notch to fourth place, and Buzz Capra, who had won nine straight, lost to the Cubs and was bombed for nine runs in the first inning of his next start.
San Francisco's Gary Matthews hit a home run—at least the third-base umpire, Chris Pelekoudas, thought so. But when Expo Manager Gene Mauch challenged him Pelekoudas admitted he had not seen the flight of the ball. The plate ump then ruled Matthews' hit was foul. Matthews was consoled somewhat when the Giants won 5-4.
San Diego took four of six, but still could not earn any respect. Dan Spillner defeated the Mets 5-4 and appeared on TV afterward. The next day a young fan called and said, "I saw you, and you were pretty nervous."
"Yes, but I did my best," said Spillner.
"Just the same, you made a fool of yourself," concluded the youngster.
LA 61-29 CIN 52-37 HOUS 48-41
ATL 48-43 SF 40-50 SD 40-53