With more than one-fourth of the season completed, some startling statistics indicate a considerable decline in offense. National Leaguers are batting 12 points less (.252) than at this time last season, have connected for 90 fewer homers—a 19.1% dropoff—and are scoring at a 9.3% slower pace. No team was less productive last week than the Astros (3-4), who batted .195 and had only nine extra-base hits and two steals. Nonetheless, Houston beat San Francisco 1-0 behind the pitching of Mark Lemongello and a ninth-inning sacrifice fly by Jesus Alou. Then the Astros nudged the Cardinals 2-1 when Jose Cruz hit a two-run homer in the last of the ninth. It did not help Houston's puny attack that Cesar Cedeno, angered by his failure to hit in the clutch, punched the dugout roof and was sidelined with an injured hand.
Also furious was Manager Roger Craig of San Diego (3-3), who was so upset by the Padres' blundering play and skimpy hitting that he said, "The country club is closed." However, extra workouts ordered by Craig could not prevent another costly boo-boo—a balk by Bob Owchinko that gave the Mets a 3-2 decision. San Diego's Shirley-Jones pitching combination was singing along as it accounted for all the Padre wins. Bob Shirley hummed the ball past Los Angeles for a 3-1 victory, and Randy Jones had two performances of note, beating Cincinnati 3-1 and New York 5-4. Jones, again sporting the Orphan Annie hairdo he wore when he won the Cy Young Award in 1976, has been 4-1 with a 1.67 ERA since the end of April. All three San Diego victories were locked up by Rollie Fingers, who leads the majors with 12 saves.
Reliever Jamie Easterly of Atlanta (2-4) was credited with his first save and first win. After preserving a 5-3 victory over Philadelphia, Easterly became a 4-3 winner against Cincinnati when Gary Matthews homered in the bottom of the 10th. But a crimp was put in the Braves' already vapid attack when Brian Asselstine dislocated his left ankle.
On Senior Citizens Night in Montreal, the crucial moment was a 10th-inning matchup between Willie McCovey, 40, of the Giants, and the oldest Expo, 36-year-old Reliever Darold Knowles. The score was tied 5-5 at the time, but McCovey unknotted it with a game-winning single. Helping San Francisco (4-2) move 4� lengths ahead of third-place Los Angeles was a pinch grand slam by Mike Ivie that decked the Dodgers 6-5. Ed Halicki's 8-1 defeat of Houston left him with a 1.92 ERA during his last 61 innings against the Astros. "I noticed that when Vida Blue kicks to throw, he keeps his right elbow tucked in," Bob Knepper said of his fellow Giant pitcher. "I tried that for the first time against Houston and felt unbeatable." He was. Knepper trimmed Houston 1-0 on five hits.
With Second Baseman Davey Lopes nursing a pulled chest muscle and Rick Monday strained leg muscles, Los Angeles (3-3) sputtered. But Lee Lacy, who filled in for Lopes, slugged home runs in 9-6 and 10-2 wins over the Padres.
Hurting, too, were Johnny Bench, Joe Morgan, Dan Driessen and Cesar Geronimo of Cincinnati (4-2). Still, the Reds stayed within half a game of the top as George Foster had 10 RBIs and four homers. Pinch-hit home runs also helped the Reds, Mike Lum's three-run blast in the eighth beating the Braves 7-5 and Bench's two-out, last-of-the-ninth wallop toppling the Pirates 3-2.
SF 31-17 CIN 32-19 LA 27-22 HOUS 22-26 SD 22-27 ATL 18-29
Silvio Martinez, who speaks little English, and George Hendrick, who speaks little, came through loud and clear for St. Louis (4-4). Martinez, 22, gave up only one hit, Steve Henderson's homer in the seventh, in his first big league start as he beat the Mets 8-2. The only other National Leaguer to pitch a one-hitter in his debut as a starter was Juan Marichal, who like Martinez came from the Dominican Republic. Hendrick broke his policy of silence toward the media by sitting for an interview after being acquired from San Diego. More important, he made superb plays in centerfield and hit a three-run homer.