ARLINGTON, TEX., JULY 31 -- The St. Louis Cardinals yet may win the National League East. After all, their seven-game losing streak only cut their lead to four games, which was still bigger than any of the other division leaders. They also have John Tudor back on the mound, so they won't need anyone's sympathy.
Yet despite all of that, the dynamics seemed to have changed, and not just because the New York Mets left Busch Stadium with a three-game sweep this week.
With the Cardinals' Jack Clark leading the NL in home runs, RBI and on-base average, San Francisco Giants Manager Roger Craig told his pitchers to stop pitching to Clark, period.
If there were men in scoring position or if the game was close, Craig wanted his pitchers to let someone else beat them, namely Willie McGee, who bats just behind Clark.
The result was that the Giants swept a three-game series and that McGee twice grounded into rally-ending double plays. The Mets did the same thing in a three-game sweep this week, winning the second game of the series because McGee stranded eight runners.
Clark missed Thursday's game after getting hurt, but as the weekend began he already had drawn 103 walks -- 12 in the last five games. He'll almost certainly break the NL record of 148 by Eddie Stanky in 1945 and Jim Wynn in 1969.
If Clark and McGee don't carry the offense, it might not get done. Rookie Jim Lindeman's season has been a washout because of injuries, as has Tony Pena's. Pena was supposed to give the Cardinals another bat, but has grounded into 15 double plays.
Jackson Losing Ground
The Bo Jackson situation gets worse. He misplayed three more fly balls this week and, in a 2-1 game Tuesday night at Yankee Stadium, he bunted with runners on base and light-hitting Angel Salazar and Mike McFarlane coming up. Manager Billy Gardner, furious over what he saw as selfishness, sarcastically said: "Lou Gehrig and Babe Ruth, huh? He's done that about five times this year when he could have turned around a game with one swing." . . .
As they left New York Thursday, the Royals had lost 17 of 21 games and, since the conclusion of the George Brett Pine Tar game on Aug. 8, 1983, had lost 21 of 24 at Yankee Stadium. Incredibly, their pitching has been tremendous: a 1.80 ERA over their last nine games . . .
It's unlikely many pitchers have ever had the kind of season Houston's Nolan Ryan is having. He has the NL's fourth-best ERA (3.14), is second in strikeouts and is throwing 97 mph. Yet, the Astros are averaging less than three runs per game for him, and he's 0-8 in his last eight starts . . .
Mike Schmidt is hinting he may not retire after this season after all. Certainly, a $2 million salary is a factor, but he is one of many who believe the Philadelphia Phillies may be very close to having a competitive team. That's especially true since youngsters Milt Thompson and Chris James have taken over in center field and left, respectively. Thompson is not only a defensive flier, but he's hitting .340 in his last 44 games; James is hitting .338 in his last 24.
Schmidt was recently asked what he'd miss most about the major leagues. "Room-service french fries," he replied . . .
The Minnesota Twins acquired Steve Carlton from Cleveland Wednesday and will put him into their rotation and hope. Other than Frank Viola, their starters are 2-8 with a 6.46 ERA since July 7. Mike Smithson was sent to the minors this week after winning one of his last 14 starts. Bert Blyleven is struggling, and scouts say he has just about given up on his once-unhittable curve and is now throwing a cut fastball and a sinker . . .
The Milwaukee Brewers are the only team with an assistant general manager on its pitching staff. He's Ray Burris, who only got back into uniform after he saw how thin the Brewers' pitching was. He was promoted this week after rookie Alex Madrid ran up a 15.19 ERA in three games. When Milwaukee reliever Dan Plesac allowed Texas' Ruben Sierra an RBI single this week, it was the first inherited runner he had allowed to score since June 14 . . .
San Diego Padres Manager Larry Bowa blew up in a clubhouse meeting and told his players there'll be a housecleaning. One of the people he is unhappy with is third baseman Chris Brown, who has played in only seven of 21 games since he was acquired. They have made better use of reliever Mark Davis, who came in the same trade. He appeared in 13 of the Padres' 25 games after the trade . . .
The Chicago Cubs don't know what to make of Andre Dawson's numbers. He's hitting more than .320 in day games, with 24 homers and 69 RBI, and .248 with seven homers and 22 RBI in night games . . . When Tommy John, 44, was supposed to pitch against the Royals this week, the marquee at Yankee Stadium said: "The Old Man and K.C., tonight 7:30." . . .
It was another busy week for the Chicago White Sox, especially for General Manager Larry Himes, who fined pitcher Neil Allen $200 for wearing his stirrup socks incorrectly.
Lanier Fed Up?
Houston Astros Manager Hal Lanier and General Manager Dick Wagner have argued publicly, and now clubhouse sources say the two are barely speaking to each another. Lanier also isn't happy with reliever Charlie Kerfeld, who was eating ribs in the bullpen last week . . .
Despite a lack of good seats at Exhibition Stadium, the Toronto Blue Jays are drawing tremendous crowds and will probably finish with about 2.6 million. Club officials say they'll pass three million when they move into their new domed stadium . . .
Dodgers reliever Ken Howell got his first save in 46 games, but he also got a victory as a starter and will replace Rick Honeycutt in the rotation. Honeycutt has lost his last 10 decisions, the longest losing streak since the Dodgers moved to Los Angeles . . . Through Thursday, no team in the NL West had a winning record since April 30. In order, they were Cincinnati (39-41), Houston (38-42), San Francisco (36-43), San Diego (31-48), Atlanta (36-44) and Los Angeles (33-46) . . . Since Jack Morris no-hit Floyd Bannister and the White Sox on April 7, 1984, Bannister is 7-0 against the Tigers. Morris is 0-4 in those games . . .
Atlanta's Gerald Perry has 25 stolen bases, and, if he gets 30, he'll be only the fourth first baseman in 65 years to do it. The others: Rod Carew (49) for the 1976 Twins, Cesar Cedeno (30) for the 1979 Astros and Dan Driessen (31) for the 1977 Reds. Driessen is Perry's uncle . . . Carew charges $100 an hour for private batting instruction at his school in Placentia, Calif.. . .
Reggie Jackson entered the weekend with 10 strikeouts in his last 13 at-bats and blames the umpires, saying: "My strike zone is three or four inches bigger than anyone else's." But there were other indications that the end was near. He has six RBI since June 27, and they've all come on home runs.