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Despite frequent substitutions and a carefree attitude—Manager Sparky Anderson complained that one player was loafing and another was clowning around—Cincinnati ground out five more wins in six games. Three of the victories came in San Francisco, where Anderson rested three regulars a day and still won 7-5, 6-3 and 12-5. With a 15�-game lead, Sparky was looking ahead to the playoffs, naming Pitcher Don Gullett, who has been out for two months and is not expected back until next week, to start the first game.
After defeating Houston in the first game of a doubleheader on Aug. 3, San Francisco was momentarily in second place, ahead of Los Angeles. Then the Giants started a six-game losing streak in which their pitchers allowed 51 runs. They were in no immediate danger of falling to fourth, however, since San Diego was losing four of six.
While Atlanta was winning four of eight. Third Baseman Darrell Evans learned there are some days you should not get out of bed, and Pitcher Carl Morton learned there are other days when you don't have to. In a doubleheader with Chicago, Evans made three errors, left eight runners stranded and was caught stealing. On Saturday, Morton got his second win of the week without making a pitch. That happened when Reliever Phil Niekro completed a game that had been suspended on June 12.
Not a single person was on hand to greet Houston's return from yet another losing road trip. "Can you believe we are this bad?" asked Tommy Helms. "There isn't even one wife here. I've been in baseball 15 years and I've never seen that happen. We must really be terrible." The shock was therapeutic, however, since the Astros (5-3) proceeded to stun Pittsburgh by winning three straight.
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This most competitive of divisions found itself in a genuine pennant race as front-running Pittsburgh lost five of eight games and second-place Philadelphia won four of six. Doing even better than the Phillies was third-place St. Louis (5-2), which took two of three from the Pirates and pulled to within 6� games of the top.
Pittsburgh's margin over Philadelphia shrank to two when the Pirates managed but 15 hits in three straight losses to Houston, 6-1, 5-3 and 5-0. Mike Schmidt's five home runs highlighted the Phillies' week. Two of them came in a 13-5 defeat of Chicago, in which Philadelphia scored 10 runs on 10 hits in the first inning. "Our guys were hitterish," said Outfielder Jay Johnstone. Dick Allen seemed his old self. After his ninth-inning single beat San Francisco 5-4, he said, "Don't bother talking to me."