An back almost kept Steve Carlton of Philadelphia (5-3) from facing St. Louis. "You'll have to nurse him along." Pitching Coach Ray Rippelmeyer warned Catcher Tim McCarver. As it turned out. Carlton needed no nursing, striking out 14 Cardinals and singling twice during an 11-4 win.
Four days earlier Carlton had homered and singled as he won his 20th game, 11-1 in Pittsburgh. Other nifty pitchers were Larry Christenson, who beat New York 6-2 on two hits, and rookie Randy Lerch, who needed only 97 pitches to subdue St. Louis 3-1.
Rich Gossage of Pittsburgh (4-4) was almost untouchable, allowing one hit and striking out 10 in 6? innings of relief. In the process, he racked up his 19th and 20th saves. Gossage got his 10th win when Dale Berra. Yogi's son, singled in the 11th to knock off the Phillies 5-4.
With Reliever Bruce Sutter's split-fingered fastball at its dive-bombing best and pinch hitters coming through, Chicago (4-3) held third place. Sutter received credit for two wins after batters who had hit for him scored, Dave Rosello singling in the 10th and coming across on Bill Buckner's sacrifice fly to topple Montreal 3-2 and Gene Clines slamming a two-run homer in the ninth to defeat New York 10-8. Against the Expos, Sutter struck out six batters in a row, including three in the ninth on nine pitches. Sutter also earned his 27th save after pinch-hitter Jose Cardenal drove in the go-ahead run in the eighth inning of a 2-1 win in San Diego.
St. Louis (2-5) beat San Francisco 8-2, thanks to former Giants Ken Reitz (three doubles, four RBIs) and Dave Rader (three runs. two hits and an RBI). Ted Simmons walloped three home runs, one as Tom Underwood held off the Cubs 3-1.
Ellis Valentine of Montreal (4-3), returning after missing 22 games because of a bruised foot, hit a two-run homer to zap New York 4-3 and homered twice to beat Pittsburgh 4-2. Don Stanhouse tossed 8? innings of scoreless relief while saving three games. Despite allowing a runner to walk home from third when no one covered the plate and executing a two-out "double play," the Expos beat the Cubs 4-2.
About the only goal the Mets (2-5) have is to avoid 100 defeats for the season. Steve Henderson's three RBIs enabled them to throttle the Expos 5-3, and a five-run ninth gave the New Yorkers a 7-2 win over the Cubs.
PHIL 88-53 PITT 81-62 CHI 75-65 ST.L 74-68 MONT 65-76 NY 55-86