From all appearances, the Reds (1-5) could be dead. Cincinnati fell five games off the pace despite a Herculean week from Ken Griffey, who delivered four home runs and 12 RBIs. But no other regular hit as high as .250.
Although Gaylord Perry will be 40 before the World Series begins, his pitching has enabled San Diego to dream, at least, of overhauling the leaders in the West. Perry's 7-3 victory over the Phillies moved the Padres (4-3) to within seven games of first place and raised his record to 15-5, marking the 13th straight year he has won at least that many. "I can still pitch three or four more years," says Perry, who now has 261 career wins. "I still work on my mystery pitch, and if they ever reinstate it, I'll make a comeback at the age of 50."
Houston (5-2) did the Phillies and Cubs a favor by beating Pittsburgh twice, stopping a 10-game Pirate winning streak that the Astros had helped start by losing six times to the Bucs in five days. By week's end the Astros had won five in a row themselves, giving them 15 wins in their last 17 games in the Astrodome.
Atlanta caved in with six straight losses, wasting three home runs and nine RBIs from Third Baseman Bob Horner.
LA 76-53 SF 75-54 CIN 71-58 SD 68-62 HOUS 61-68 ATL 56-72
With only five games remaining against teams with winning records, Chicago (3-3) has a schedule advantage over the divison-leading Phillies, who must play 12 games against winning competition. However, if the events of last week, not to mention last decade, are any indication, the Cubs are not exactly a shooin to catch Philadelphia. They managed to beat Cincinnati three times thanks to a two-run, ninth-inning double by Catcher Dave Rader, then three RBIs from Pitcher Rick Reuschel, followed by a 4-for-5 day from Outfielder Bobby Murcer. But in between, as has been their wont over the years, the Cubs were swept in Houston by the lowly Astros. Chicago's 14-year record in the Astrodome is now 32-64 and last week's defeats kept them from getting closer than 214 games to the slumping Phils (3-4). Mike Schmidt, a three-time National League home-run champion, was moved to the leadoff spot temporarily to help cure a cold streak. He responded with a 10-for-29 week.
The biggest noise in baseball came from the rampaging Pirates (5-2), who over the course of a 10-game winning streak rose from 10 out to within 3� games of the East lead. Reliever Kent Tekulve saved six of those games, and the Bucs got some heavy hitting from Dave Parker, Willie Stargell and Dale Berra, son of Yogi, who once summed up a pennant race by saying, "You're never out of it until you're out of it."
Since Montreal (2-3) creamed Atlanta 19-0 on July 30, the Expos have averaged only three runs per game. One of the victims of the drought is Steve Rogers, who dropped two low-run affairs last week after not having lost a game from June 16 to Aug. 18. On the brighter side, Ross Grimsley won his 15th game, as Centerfielder Andre Dawson went 4 for 4 and hit a home run.
Talk about hot, the Cardinals (5-1) have been even hotter than the St. Louis weather. Starting three weeks ago when they were giving Seattle and Toronto a run for worst team in baseball, the Cards have gone 16-5. Last week's heroes were Ted Simmons, who took extra batting practice and responded with four hits against the Reds; Gary Templeton, the father of a new baby boy, who hit .458: and George Hendrick, who was simply too hot to handle. He and Templeton had bunt singles ahead of a two-run double by Simmons, which helped beat the Braves 6-4. Hendrick also had four hits in a 14-9 romp over the Reds, a first-inning homer to give St. Louis a lead it never relinquished in a 4-3 win over Cincy, a grand slam and a three-run homer in the next game and, finally, a solo homer in Saturday night's 9-4 victory over Atlanta.