Third-place Pittsburgh (6-2) mounted its long-awaited run at the Phillies, winning six of seven—two in extra innings over San Diego and two more over old nemesis Los Angeles. Dodger Catcher Joe Ferguson had a hard time against Pittsburgh. In one game he was guilty of interfering with a Rennie Stennett swing. But wait. Although his bat was tipped by Ferguson's glove, Stennett lofted a long fly to right field. Bill Robinson, on third base, tagged up and scored easily after the catch. The plate umpire ordered Stennett to first base and Robinson back to third. Pirate Manager Chuck Tanner argued that in cases of interference the offensive team can opt to take the play. The ump agreed and waved Robinson and Stennett off the bases. The night before, Ferguson passed a teammate on the base path after Pirate Centerfielder Omar Moreno made a spectacular one-handed catch at the wall of a drive by Bill North. Ferguson was called out, the third out of the inning, just as teammate Steve Garvey crossed the plate. When the argument ended, it was ruled that Garvey had scored on the inning-ending double play.
During the Pirate surge, 37-year-old Willie Stargell and Dave Parker, back in the lineup after surgery on a broken cheekbone, had key hits, and Jim Bibby threw a six-hit shutout at San Francisco. But after closing within 4� games of Philadelphia—and Chicago still ahead of them, too—the Pirates made three errors and lost to San Francisco 3-2 to fall 5� back.
The Phillies (5-3) scored only two runs in losing twice to Houston, lowering their season road record to 17-27. Back home, Greg Luzinski hit his 22nd and 23rd home runs and Reliever Ron Reed got his first win of the season as Philadelphia split two games with Cincinnati and swept three from the Astros. Steve Carlton failed for the sixth time to gain his 200th career victory.
Chicago (4-4) held on to second place despite the danger that seemed to lurk at every turn in a doubleheader split with the Giants. In the two games: 1) Giant Catcher Mike Sadek suffered a broken jaw in a collision with Cub Shortstop Ivan DeJesus; 2) DeJesus was knocked cold; 3) Cub First Baseman Bill Buckner twisted his neck and was rendered unconscious while sliding into third base; 4) Cub Catcher Larry Cox left the game early complaining of a fever. Said Cub physician Dr. Jacob Suker: "It was like the first wave at Iwo Jima." The Cubs also split with Los Angeles, as Mike Krukow won his fourth straight since returning from the minors.
Just when New York (6-4) had fallen to within one game of last place, Pitchers Skip Lockwood, Tom Hausman, Nino Espinosa, Mike Bruhert and Craig Swan and sluggers Willie Montanez and Steve Henderson all came to life at once. As a result, the Mets pulled safely away from the last-place Cards by winning five straight, their longest streak since September 1976.
St. Louis (2-6) still had those Ninth Inning Blues. So far this season the Cards have scored only six runs in the ninth, none of which figured in a St. Louis victory. Ninth-inning ineptness might have a lot to do with the Cardinals' 10-22 record in one-run games. Suffering most is Reliever Mark Littell, who has a 2.16 ERA and 96 strikeouts in 74? innings but a 1-7 record. In a game with the Dodgers, the Cards did manage to score two runs in the ninth. Alas, they lost 7-5.
Maybe All-Star Pitcher Steve Rogers of Montreal (4-4) shouldn't have spoken up. Minutes before a game against Atlanta, Expo General Manager Charlie Fox was in the clubhouse upbraiding Montreal batters for what he considered inconsistencies. Most of the tirade was directed at Shortstop Chris Speier, who had but one hit in his previous 18 at bats. Suddenly Rogers interrupted Fox. Whereupon Fox challenged Rogers, the two went belly-to-belly and Fox punched Rogers in the face. "He has no business interfering when I'm talking with one of my players," Fox said later. "I never saw it coming," said Rogers. Speier then went out and hit for the cycle, driving in six runs as Montreal—in an otherwise in-and-out week—breezed to a 7-3 victory.
PHIL 52-39 CHI 48-45 PITT 47-45 MONT 47-51 NY 43-56 ST. L. 38-60