That setback took place in the first losing week of the season for Los Angeles. The Dodgers, who started the week with the highest batting average in the majors (.294), hit only .216 as they dropped five of seven. Ron Cey slugged his 14th homer to retain the league lead, and Reggie Smith hit his 13th as Rick Rhoden held off the Padres 9-4 for his eighth win. In their first 22 home dates the Dodgers have averaged 37,950 customers, putting them ahead of 1962, when they set the all-time season attendance record by drawing 2,755,184 fans.
Cincinnati (6-2) gained 3� games on L.A. and reclaimed second place. Fred Norman won twice, Johnny Bench slugging a grand-slam homer as Norman beat the Dodgers 8-1, and hitting a two-run shot as Norman blanked the Astros 4-0 on two hits. The former was the first complete game by a Red pitcher in 24 games.
The Reds might not be in such desperate need of pitching if President Bob Howsam had not made one of his rare bad trades a couple of years ago, sending Joaquin Andujar to Houston (4-4) for two pitchers who are no longer playing. Andujar (6-3) stifled the Dodgers 5-3 and the Reds 8-1 last week. He has a 4-0 record and a 2.25 ERA against the Reds since being traded. Second Baseman Art Howe slugged a two-run homer in that 8-1 game. And he had three doubles in a 6-4 victory over Cincinnati, with the last of his two-baggers driving in two runs in the 11th inning and putting Houston ahead for keeps. Bob Watson sent the game into extra innings with a three-run homer in the ninth.
San Francisco (2-7) was mighty on offense and feeble on defense. Willie McCovey and Gary Thomasson each hit three homers and Jack Clark and Darrell Evans two. In all, Clark batted .458 and drove in nine runs. But the Giants committed 15 errors, raising their total for the season to 62 in 51 games. The only complete game by a San Francisco pitcher-was Ed Halicki's 2-0, 11-strikeout conquest of the San Diego Padres.
The Braves (4-4) won four from the Giants and pulled to within two games of fifth place. In the process, they walloped seven homers, including Jeff Burroughs' 13th, a grand slam, in a 7-1 victory. In a 2-1 win over San Francisco, Jamie Easterly and Rick Camp teamed up to toss a six-hitter, and Jerry Royster knocked in both runs with a single in the eighth inning.
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A few weeks ago Cleveland President Ted Bonda said that "only a miracle" would enable Manager Frank Robinson to keep his job. Since then, the Indians have tried to produce the miracle. Last week they won five of eight games and have won 10 of 13 following Bonda's "miracle" message. Robinson's main source of on-field support was Dennis Eckersley. After pitching five innings against the Angels in Cleveland on Memorial Day, Eckersley was well aware that he had not allowed the Angels a hit. From then on, Eckersley said, "I made sure to do exactly the same thing every inning so as not to change my luck. I'd come in, sit down about the middle of the bench, put on my jacket, take off my cap. take a drink, spit out a mouthful of water, go back to the middle of the bench, sit down and put my cap back on. Along about the seventh, I started to get some chills. Maybe it was because of the way the fans were cheering." With one out to go to lock up his no-hitter, Eckersley felt that the Angel batter, Gil Flores, was stalling. So he yelled at Flores. "One more out, and you are it." Flores was it, Eckersley fanning him on four pitches. The Indians rewarded Eckersley with a $3,500 bonus and gave $1,500 to his catcher, Ray Fosse.
Eckersley's no-hitter extended his string of hitless innings to 16?. Four nights later, pitching against the Mariners in Seattle, he had a chance to break Cy Young's 73-year-old record of 23 consecutive hitless innings. Eckersley had begun his streak against the Mariners on May 25, silencing their bats for the final 7? innings during a 2-1, 12-inning victory. This time he pitched 5? hitless innings—putting him within two outs of Young's mark—before Ruppert Jones homered over the center-field fence. That was the only hit off Eckersley, who was replaced by Jim Kern in the seventh inning of Cleveland's 7-1 victory. The two wins for Eckersley, 22, boosted his record to 6-3 and lowered his ERA to 2.87.
Also helping to keep Robinson gainfully employed were Second Baseman Duane Kuiper and Centerfielder Rick Manning. Kuiper beat Oakland 5-4 with a ninth-inning single, tripled and scored the only run, via a suicide squeeze, as Eckersley no-hitted California and Frank Tanana 1-0. He also drove home three runs in a 6-4 win over Detroit. Manning hit .353 and knocked in six runs, four in a 7-5 defeat of Seattle.