Burt Hooton of the Dodgers (4-3) ran his victory string to nine games, beating the Giants 3-1 and the Braves 5-2. And Doug Rau tamed the Mets 5-2 and the Reds 3-2. Losers were Don Sutton, who was 11-5 in mid-June and is now 16-12, and Andy Messersmith, whose record has worsened from 12-4 to 15-14. Reliever Mike Marshall, who reinjured rib cartilage, and Outfielder Bill Buckner, who had surgery on his left ankle, were through for the year. Johnnie LeMaster of the Giants (also 4-3) hit an inside-the-park homer in his first big league at-bat as Ed Halicki stymied the Dodgers 7-3. And John (the Count) Montefusco eased past Philadelphia 5-4 and Houston 2-1 for his 12th and 13th wins.
Back from a road trip, the Braves played before record-setting crowds. Alas, the records were for the sparsest attendance since the team moved to Atlanta in 1966. An all-time low of 1,119 saw the Padres take the first game from the Braves 10-9 with a five-run ninth, the clincher coming on a single by Dave Roberts. Smaller yet was the next day's gathering of 1,062, which was treated to a 2-1 Brave win when Ed Goodson and Marty Perez drove in runs in the ninth. Carl Morton won his 16th and 17th games for Atlanta with relief help from Bruce Dal Canton.
Eight homers helped keep the fourth-place Padres two games in front of the Braves. So did Pitcher Brent Strom, who beat the Expos 6-0 and the Astros 2-1, and Randy Jones, who slowed down the Reds 2-1 for his 18th victory.
For Cincinnati (4-3) Don Gullett won his eighth in a row, downing San Diego 10-4. The Reds gave the Dodgers an even worse drubbing, 13-2, thanks to a 10-run inning, three L.A. errors and 11 walks.
CIN 94-47 LA 75-67 SF 70-71
SD 64-78 ATL 62-80 HOUS 54-89
As first-place aspirants returned to intradivisional play, none inspired complete confidence. Alone among them, front-running Pittsburgh (5-2) had a winning week. But the Bucs were not very swashbuckling in Montreal, losing one game 4-3 when Kent Tekulve issued four walks in the 10th, dawdling along until the 11th in another before overkilling the Expos with seven runs. Dropping six lengths back were the Phillies (2-5), victims of assorted oddities and misfortunes. Like Catcher Johnny Oates retrieving a wild pitch and firing it over the head of Pitcher Tom Hilgendorf, who was covering home plate. Like losing five one-run games, including a 7-6er to the Cubs in which the Phillies had led 5-0. Like Tug McGraw committing a balk when a moth flew into his eye. And it did not help that Jay Johnstone, the team's leading hitter (.335) was sidelined by a minor fracture of his right wrist. But there were little things to be thankful for: Greg Luzinski snapped an 0-for-24 slump and Mike Schmidt ended an 0-for-20 skid. Also struggling were New York (page 24) and St. Louis (3-3). On Bob Gibson Day in St. Louis, Boy and Girl Scouts formed a "251"—the number of Gibby's lifetime wins—and President Ford sent a congratulatory letter. Gibson said he was proudest that "what I did I was able to do my way." Sadly, Gibson coughed up a grand-slam homer two days later, Pete LaCock of the Cubs smashing it to break open a 7-6 game. But Bob Forsch and Al Hrabosky of the Cardinals teamed up for 6-3 defeats of the Cubs and Mets, giving Forsch 14 victories, Hrabosky 21 saves. Lou Brock stole four bases to bring his total to 53. This is the 11th year in a row in which he has had 50 or more and his lifetime mark of 806 is just 86 short of Ty Cobb's record.
Andy Thornton of Chicago (5-3), who has doubled his home-run output to 14 in the past two weeks, sent four balls out of the park. His 14th was a three-run drive that zapped the Phillies 4-3. With the Pirates and Phillies virtually handing them games, the Expos (3-4) clung to the notion that they still had a chance of wresting fifth from the Cubs.
PITT 79-60 ST. L 74-66 PHIL 74-67
NY 73-67 CHI 66-76 MONT 61-78