Come September the minor leaguers come up and the managers go down. The honor of being the first casualty went to last year's National League Manager of the Year, Joe Altobelli of the Giants (3-4). San Francisco was 61-79 when he received the bad news; it was 80-58 at the same point last year. The Giants didn't follow tradition by winning their first game under new Manager Dave Bristol, but they triumphed 9-2 the next night, when Vida Blue, whose off-field misbehavior, 5.04 ERA and 13 losses no doubt helped hasten Altobelli's exit, pitched seven scoreless innings against Houston. The following night the Giants knocked the Astros out of first place.
Roger Craig of San Diego (3-4) is no doubt checking his mail for the dread pink slip, the Padres having fallen 23 games under .500 and 21 games out. All of which was too much for Gaylord Perry, the two-time Cy Young Award winner, the winningest active pitcher in either league and noted critic of players who don't try. Perry up and resigned, announcing he wanted to be closer to his North Carolina farm. Slightly more than a thousand miles closer would do it, he said, referring to his hopes of being traded to the Texas Rangers, whose owner, Brad Corbett, seems to have gone the tampering Padre boss, Ray Kroc, one better. Corbett admits that even before Perry's walkout he was already "putting the wheels in motion" to get Gaylord.
Houston (3-4) and Cincinnati (4-3) were jockeying in and out of first place. Astro J. R. Richard struck out nine Padres, bringing his total to 258, and allowed only three hits in a 2-0 shutout. He hasn't given up an earned run in 37 innings and has won nine of his last 10 starts. Joe Niekro, who pitched twice without a win, continued to be troubled by wildness. One errant pitch led to the only run in a 1-0 loss to L.A. Luis Pujols, brought up to catch Niekro after a knuckler broke Catcher Alan Ashby's hand, got a double, a triple and two RBIs in one game and a game-winning RBI in another.
Cincy's pitching, which had been strong of late, faltered, but the Reds' bats more than compensated. Joe Morgan got his 2,000th career hit, Johnny Bench hit in his 18th straight game and the starting lineup batted .310 with nine homers.
Manny Mota of the Dodgers (4-3) set a major league record for career pinch hits with 145, and Gene Garber of the Braves (2-5) established a big league mark for most losses in a season by a relief pitcher—15.
CIN 81-62 HOU 80-62 LA 67-75 SF 63-80 SD 60-83 ATL 55-86
"This is what keeps us going," said Mets Reliever Neil Allen after New York (3-5) began the week by beating Houston. "We hope to decide who gets into the playoffs." Indeed the Mets, who have been out of contention virtually since Opening Day, had a big hand in their own division race; they dropped three straight to Montreal and then tired out the Pirates with two extra-inning games.
The Pirates (4-3) were bushed. That was the third extra-inning game of a tedious week in which they flew from San Francisco, where they had become the first team to sweep a season's series from the Giants since they moved West in 1958, to Pittsburgh for a doubleheader with the Phils, to St. Louis for a two-game series and finally to New York.