For Rollie Fingers of San Diego (2-2) it was a profitable week both on and off the field. On the mound he earned his seventh win and 21st save. During the All-Star break, Fingers went to Las Vegas, where, he said, he won $4,000 playing blackjack.
Despite losing three of four games, Los Angeles gained on Cincinnati (0-4). Doug Rau (11-1) defeated the Padres 4-3, but then the Dodger offense fizzled. The Reds sagged because their pitchers blew leads in three games.
Atlanta (2-2) finally beat San Francisco 11-10, after dissipating an 8-2 lead, when Willie Montanez singled in the bottom of the ninth inning.
LA 59-36 CIN 48-44 HOUS 44-52 SF 44-53 SD 42-56 ATL 35-59
Revenge, slick fielding, blisters, hair and baseball's latest Me and Paul combination figured prominently as the race for the top tightened. Second Baseman Rennie Stennett, who felt snubbed when Cincinnati Manager Sparky Anderson did not select him for the All-Star squad, excelled as Pittsburgh (4-1) swept three games from the Reds. Stennett fielded spectacularly and had six hits in 12 at bats against Cincy as he raised his batting average to .333. Dave Parker brought his average up to a league-leading .338 by going 8 for 14 against the Reds, and Bill Robinson was 6 for 14 to lift his to .312. In an 8-7 win over the Reds, it was Robinson who tied the score with a triple in the 10th and won it with a single in the 12th.
Shortstop Larry Bowa helped preserve a 4-2 Philadelphia win over Chicago by turning two "sure" Cub hits into outs in the last two innings. Steve Carlton won his 13th game, Reliever Tug McGraw saved two victories and the Phillies (3-1) overcame a 6-0 deficit to overhaul the Giants 9-6.
Montreal's oft maligned pitchers baffled Dodger batters as the Expos (4-0) swept a series from them for the first time in their history. Steve Rogers and Jackie Brown developed blisters on their index fingers but hung on for 4-0 and 2-1 wins, both on four-hitters. Montreal's superlative outfielders also showed their skills, Warren Cromartie and Del Unser homering in the 2-1 victory and Ellis Valentine robbing Reggie Smith of a home run with a leaping catch above the eight-foot fence in right field in that game. Stan Bahnsen and Joe Kerrigan then teamed up to limit the Dodgers to seven hits in a 6-4 Expo triumph.
Board Chairman August A. Busch Jr. of St. Louis (2-2) lifted Manager Vern Rapp's ban on facial hair for the Cardinals to accommodate Reliever Al Hrabosky, who had grumbled since having to shave his Fu Manchu and beard. But Busch supported Rapp by signing him to a contract through next season and told Hrabosky, "You said...you can only get batters out by being psyched up with your mustache and beard. Then go ahead and grow it. But, boy, are you going to look like a fool if you don't get batters out." Despite having only stubble when he pitched for the first time after that, Hrabosky was at his demonic best, holding Houston hitless for 2? innings as the Cardinals won 4-3.
Rick Reuschel (13-3) of Chicago (2-2) silenced Atlanta 1-0. A day earlier, Rick's brother Paul was a 4-3 winner in relief over the Braves. Although the Cubs clung to first place, they were sure to miss Reliever Bruce Sutter, who was sidelined by a hemorrhaging shoulder muscle.