The Cardinals were living dangerously—but boisterously—as they put together a 4-2 week and increased their division lead to 2� games. They topped the Padres 6-5 in 13 innings and on two successive nights beat the Giants in the ninth, first 2-1 on Joe Torre's two-run single and then 5-3 on Reggie Smith's two-run homer. Relievers Al Hrabosky, Rich Folkers and Mike Garman gave up just two hits in nine innings as they won twice and improved their combined record to 16-4. And the Cardinals strengthened themselves for the stretch drive by obtaining Pitcher Claude Osteen from the Astros.
Although the Phillies pirated games from Atlanta (6-3 as Dave Cash tripled in the go-ahead runs in the ninth) and San Francisco (6-5 on Mike Schmidt's two home runs), they were menaced by the real article. Pittsburgh, winner of five of six, drubbed Cincinnati 7-4 and 14-3, Dock Ellis beat Los Angeles 5-2 and Jerry Reuss won twice. The Pirates' .324 hitting for the week was particularly attributable to Al Oliver (.500, nine RBIs) and Willie Stargell (.435).
ST. L 64-57 PHIL 61-59 PITT 61-59 MONT 56-61 NY 52-64 CHI 49-68
Remember when the Dodgers had a 10�-game lead? The margin dwindled to a sobering 3� as they lost five games in a row. Said Willie Crawford: "We're just dead. The bench doesn't say anything; even the guys who have been cheerleaders all season are quiet." Jim Brewer, fresh off the disabled list, told Manager Walt Alston, "I can't make it, Skip. My back has gone out again." Centerfielder Tom Paciorek moaned, "I messed it up," after his two-base error in the ninth inning gave the Mets the tying run and, moments later, a 3-2 win on Rusty Staub's hit. Los Angeles was swept by New York, succumbing 3-1 as Harry Parker pitched his first complete game in the majors and losing 3-0 to Jon Matlack's four-hitter. About the most encouraging thing Alston could say was, "If we're going to have a slump I'd rather have it now and get it over with."
Cincinnati Manager Sparky Anderson offered some chilling words on Los Angeles' plight. Alluding to last year's Dodger collapse and the current crisis, he said, "A team can't afford to let it happen two years in a row. If it does, they're in deep trouble." But the Reds were none too ruddy themselves and labored to split six games. A run-scoring 10th-inning double by Cesar Geronimo gave them a 3-2 win over the Pirates, but the only score they managed in a 2-1, 12-inning loss to the Mets was built around, of all things, a bunt single by Johnny Bench. For the second game in a row the game-winning hit for the Mets was delivered by Staub. In two other meetings, however, the Reds handled the Mets with dispatch, Bench driving in five runs in a 10-4 win and Jack Billingham picking up his 15th triumph with a 6-2 decision.
In a week of interdivisional play the only West team to come out ahead was Atlanta, which strengthened its grip on third place by winning four times. Tom House twice beat the Phillies in relief—6-5 on a two-run single by Dave Johnson and 7-6 on Dusty Baker's 12th-inning hit.
Houston and San Diego continued to sag, both losing four of six. The only Astro home run was supplied by Doug Rader, who drove in four runs as Houston defeated the Expos 8-3. Dave Winfield, 22, a 6'6" 220-pound Padre slugger, hit .400 and drove in the winning runs in his team's victories. He had both RBIs in a 2-1 win over the Cardinals and his two-run homer beat the Cubs 4-3.
Echoing the White Sox, the Giants got nine home runs—and lost four of seven games. Bobby Bonds, who was rumored to be a central figure in an off-season trade with the Phillies, showed them two reasons why they might want to make the deal. He hit a two-run ninth-inning homer that beat Philadelphia 6-4 and in another game turned on his speed and scored all the way from second on a bunt-and-run play.
LA 75-45 CIN 72-49 ATL 64-55 HOUS 60-59 SF 54-67 SD 48-73