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"This whole business of pressure is crazily overrated," said Walter Alston, whose Dodgers have been accused of succumbing to it in recent weeks. But last week they flourished, winning four of five and increasing their margin over the Reds to 3� games. Andy Messersmith won his 15th and 16th and Steve Garvey had five hits in a 7-6 squeaker over the Cubs.
With Joe Morgan out with a hand injury and Johnny Bench going 2 for 18, Cincinnati was 3-2. Taking up some of the slack were Pete Rose, whose two-run single overcame the Expos 3-1, and Terry Crowley, who doubled across the decisive run in a 4-3 tussle with the Phillies.
"Sugar is going up in price, and the only way I can eat candy is to play every day," said Houston's Cliff Johnson, a lover of sweets. All season he has sought to impress other clubs enough to trade for him and, he hopes, make him a well-paid full-time player. His fifth pinch homer of the year, which put him within one of tying the major league mark, left the Mets with a sour taste and a 3-2 loss. In all, the Astros were 3-3 as Don Wilson opened and closed the action with victories over the Phillies.
Like Johnson, Dave Kingman of San Francisco was trying to bolster his trade value. On a .476 hitting spree, he tripped up the Cubs with a ninth-inning single, finished off the Pirates with another game-winner in the 11th and slugged a three-run homer against the St. Louis Cardinals. Long-suffering Randy Jones was again victimized by lack of offensive support from his San Diego teammates. Seven times this year the Padres have failed to score when Jones was the starting pitcher, and last week came the sixth and seventh games in which they have provided him but one run.
LA 83-48 CIN 80-52 ATL 73-59 HOUS 68-63 SF 59-73 SD 50-83
Only two Eastern clubs had winning records for the week: Pittsburgh (page 24) and New York. The Mets utilized fine pitching and timely hitting to win five of six games. Tom Seaver defeated Houston 7-0, but Ray Sadecki upstaged him, tossing his first shutout since 1971 and driving in the game's only run as he downed the Braves, then beating them again 4-2. It took a three-run bottom of the ninth for the Mets to nip the Astros 5-4 as Felix Millan brought in the tying run with a squeeze bunt and Rusty Staub singled across the clincher. And Benny Ayala became the first National Leaguer since Cuno Barragan in 1961 to hit a home run in his first major league at bat.
St. Louis, 2-3, fell to second place despite five stolen bases by Lou Brock, who increased his total to 93. Lynn McGlothen stymied the Padres 5-1, and John Curtis squelched them 3-1 with a one-hitter.