Houston (7-0) spent the week playing what seemed to be double-or-nothing—and winning. Altogether, the Astros rapped out 19 two-base hits, five by Cesar Cedeno and four by Danny Heep, who hit .500. Eight two-baggers helped Houston sweep a doubleheader in San Diego, 5-0 behind Ken Forsch and 9-2 behind Joe Niekro. Six more doubles—two each by Cedeno and Jose Cruz—led to a 12-5 drubbing of Pittsburgh. But the most significant hit of the week was an unexpected single in the 17th inning of a scoreless game against Chicago. After Enos Cabell opened the inning with a single, Niekro, in his first relief appearance since 1978, singled in the game's only run. He and two other Houston relievers yielded only one hit in nine innings. That topped off a series of superlative efforts by the Astro bullpen, which accounted for three wins and two saves while yielding just 10 hits in 23? innings. Joe Sambito fired 8? innings of shutout ball, Frank LaCorte five, Bert Roberge 4? and Dave Smith three as the relievers extended their scoreless-inning string to 33?
San Francisco (4-2) also got some hitting from its pitchers and finally moved above .500. Pitcher Tom Griffin homered off Steve Carlton of the Phillies and the Giants went on to win 4-3 in 10 innings. And Allen Ripley tripled in two runs and downed Philadelphia 6-2 on seven hits.
Although Steve Garvey batted .400 and finished off the Expos 5-4 with a homer in the 10th, the Dodgers (4-2) slipped three games behind the Astros. Davey Lopes and Ron Cey also had game-winning hits, and Jerry Reuss beat Montreal 5-1 for his 15th win.
Cincinnati (3-3), which began the week in a virtual tie with Houston for first, fell 3� lengths back. George Foster homered as the Reds knocked off the Dodgers 6-2 and the Cardinals 4-3. Most of the time, though, the offense sputtered, producing only four runs in three defeats. During a 2-1 loss to Pittsburgh's Rick Rhoden, the Reds didn't hit a ball out of the infield until the seventh inning.
Like his brother Joe, Phil Niekro of the Braves (5-1) made a rare relief appearance and became a winner in extra innings when Glenn Hubbard doubled in the 11th to stop the Cubs 5-4. And also like Joe, Phil won as a starter, defeating Chicago 6-4 as Dale Murphy drove in four runs. Murphy, who hit three home runs, had 14 RBIs and batted .458, also had two productive outings in support of Doyle Alexander. Murphy's double, homer and five RBIs helped Alexander breeze past San Francisco 8-2. Alexander, who pitched six hitless innings against the Giants, upped his record to 12-6 as he hurled 7? more hitless innings against the Cardinals and won 7-2. Murphy had four hits in that game, matching St. Louis' total.
Rookie Luis Salazar hit .500 for the Padres (1-6), who ended a run of 32 scoreless innings. Rollie Fingers got his 16th save as San Diego, which trailed 5-0 in the third, beat Philadelphia 7-5. Four Phillie errors enabled the Padres to pull out the game with their biggest inning of the year, a six-run fifth.
HOUS 69-53 LA 66-56 CIN 66-57 SF 62-61 ATL 59-63 SD 51-73