- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
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The White Sox weren't the only surprise in Chicago. Led by Manny Trillo's three homers, the Cubs (5-1) racked up 43 runs. Their pitching was not bad either. Ray Burris shut out the Astros 9-0 on five hits, and Bruce Sutter's 3?-inning relief stint preserving a 4-1 victory over Cincinnati earned the following accolade from Johnny Bench: "He's got only one pitch, the forkball, but that's still one too many, because no one can hit it." Unfortunately, Bill Buckner couldn't hit any pitch—or field or run—after tendinitis in the left ankle sidelined him again. There was more bad news when Burris was hit by a pitch on a finger of his throwing hand. Still, the Cubs moved from fifth to third and edged above the .500 mark.
Montreal (4-2) was no less surprising. The Expos even stopped an eight-game Dodger winning streak, beating them 6-2 on two homers by Gary Carter and one by Del Unser. Despite hitting two homers and driving in six runs during the week, Unser wasn't sure he had earned a starting job in the outfield. With Berra-like wit and wisdom, he maintained, "All you've got to do is prove you can do what you can do." Further proof the Expos can at least hit for real came from Ellis Valentine (9 for 24) and Warren Cromartie (7 for 20 with four doubles).
Though they have stolen 50 bases (compared to four at this time last year), Pittsburgh (6-0) looked like the Lumber Company of yore. Willie Stargell twice had two homers in one game, and Dave Parker had a pair in another as Pittsburgh moved into first place, smacking Houston 4-3, Atlanta 11-1, 8-7 and 8-0 and Cincinnati 6-3 and 12-10. Parker, with eight RBIs and a .481 average for the week, was the most unabashed basher, and his spirit was catching. Reliever Grant Jackson drove in what proved to be the winning runs with a two-run double in the 12-10 defeat of the Reds.
St. Louis had a 3-2 week as its pitchers allowed just seven earned runs. Unfortunately, one of them, 5-0 ace John Denny, pulled a hamstring and will miss a couple of turns. The Cardinals were lucky no one else was hurt in a 20-minute free-for-all with Houston. The brawl started in the ninth inning of a 4-1 win when, predictably, the Astros' Cesar Cedeno charged Al Hrabosky, who had just hit him with a pitch. Predictably, Hrabosky denied any evil intent and, predictably, no one believed him. A more pleasant note was struck by rookie Tony Scott, who homered before his mother and 15 other relatives to help beat the Reds 8-1.
It wasn't so bad that the Mets (2-5) dropped four straight to Los Angeles. That's happening a lot to teams this year. But it was bad that two of the Mets' biggest names were name-calling. After Dave Kingman took himself out of the lineup with bruised ribs. Pitcher Jon Matlack said, "If he doesn't want to play, the hell with him." When Board Chairman M. Donald Grant supposedly sent a "must-win" edict to Manager Joe Frazier about the Mayor's Trophy exhibition game with the Yankees, Tom Seaver let loose. "The man [Grant] is a maniac," he said. "The man is image-conscious, that's all. Here we are in the worst slump of the season, and all he's worrying about is an exhibition. I never wanted to leave this organization. Never. But the time is now." Seaver later apologized, telling a news conference he was not misquoted but adding, "There was a time difference between the time I thought Grant said what he said and the time he actually said it."
Winning on alternate days, the Phillies had only a 4-3 week, but were bragging like champions. Though Ollie Brown scored the winning run in a 10-inning, 4-3 win over the Padres, his biggest thrill was throwing out Jerry Turner at third base in the ninth. "That cat was just passing second base when I picked up the ball," said Brown, "and I told myself. 'I'm going to nail him.' " Pitcher Gene Garber noticed that the ball had a cut on it after the throw. "My eyes lit up," he said. " Gene Richards was the next hitter, and with that cut on it, I struck him out with three of the greatest sinkers you'll ever see." Finally, there was Tim McCarver, who smashed a triple and two doubles in the same game. His proudest moment: a pop foul he hit that advanced two runners in a 9-3 loss. "You've got to admit, it's tough creating excitement on a pop foul," he boasted. "It's just another dimension of my talent."
PITT 16-7 ST. L 15-9 CHI 12-10 MONT 12-10 PHIL 11-12 NY 10-14
While the sizzling Dodgers (page 24) were 5-2, every other team in the division had a losing week and stayed below .500. Most pathetic were the Braves, who dropped five and extended their losing streak to 13. The script differed from game to game, but the result was always the same. Dick Ruthven lost his third, in the process tearing ligaments, which may knock him out for the season. Buzz Capra had his first start and his first loss, and winless Phil Niekro lost his fifth and sixth. "We're not going to jump off the highest building," Director of Player Personnel Bill Lucas said. Added Manager Dave Bristol, "It's the worst thing that could happen to Atlanta, Georgia." The Braves gave up 120 runs in the 13 losses.