During spring training St. Louis Reliever Al Hrabosky told a TV announcer the Chicago Cubs were "Teddy bears." Last week they cuffed Hrabosky around, handing him his first defeat since June 1974. "When we scored the winning run," said Chicago's Rick Monday, "25 Teddy bears got up and yelled."
Chicago was just as overbearing against Philadelphia. A normally slick-fielding shortstop, Larry Bowa, let a grounder roll through his legs, allowing the go-ahead run to score in a 4-1 defeat. Steve Stone scattered eight hits for his third win. The game left Phillie Sportscaster Richie Ashburn, well, ashen. "If Stone beats the Phillies today," Ashburn had said, "I'll feel like grabbing a bat myself." All in all, the Cubs won four in a row after losing three straight.
Pittsburgh's pitfall was left-handed pitching. Montreal Manager Gene Mauch bypassed a right-handed starter, Steve Rogers, to throw Woodie Fryman and Dave McNally at the Pirates. Fryman shut them out for the second time in a row 5-0—the first pitcher since Christy Mathewson to do so—and McNally beat them 4-3. Montreal's lefthanders are 5-0, but its righthanders are 0-8. The Pirates weren't worried—or were they? "If you're a good hitter," said Al Oliver, "it shouldn't make any difference how they throw." In Oliver's opinion, his teammates were overswinging.
Winning five straight and climbing from sixth to second, New York was the only unbeaten team last week. John Matlack won twice, Randy Tate once and Tom Seaver and Jerry Koosman pitched complete games as hitting support (a six-run average) finally materialized. Ed Kranepool, Del Unser, Dave Kingman, Jerry Grote and Felix Mil-Ian all batted better than .300. Even when they gave Matlack just three hits, the Mets beat Montreal 5-3, thanks to the five walks Rogers gave up. "I can't remember so many runs with so few hits," said Matlack. "I can only remember the games we got 10 hits and two runs."
CHI 11-4 NY 7-6 PITT 7-6
PHIL 6-9 ST.L 6-9 MONT 5-8
Andy Messersmith, who really does do it all, tied a major league pitcher's record with three doubles to give Los Angeles a 6-5 win over San Francisco. That was fortunate, because the injury-ridden Dodgers needed hitting wherever they could get it. Ken McMullen provided another welcome surprise by stroking a pinch-hit grand slam to help beat San Diego 11-6.
The front-running Padres won for the second time on national TV, for whatever that's worth, and drew a club-record average of 22,685, which is worth plenty. When they weren't getting wins from youngsters, they got one from 38-year-old Sonny Siebert, who stopped the Braves 5-3. "We've played every team in the West," said Manager John McNamara, "and I think we've proved that we are competitive." Most competitive of all was Outfielder Dave Winfield, who had five homers and 14 RBIs in the first 16 games and was hitting .377.
Another record of sorts was set in Cincinnati, where an umpire, Ed Vargo, finally had enough courage to call an obvious base-running interference. When the Reds' Merv Rettenmund slid far out of his way to upend Houston Shortstop Roger Metzger, Vargo ruled an automatic completion of the double play. Cincinnati protested the game, won 6-4 by the Astros, who otherwise were the least successful team in baseball.