''People never look at it that way, but a 162-game season is actually made up of three parts, consisting of 54 games each,'' explained Manager Chuck Tanner of the Pittsburgh Pirates.
''While it's nice to get away well during those first 54 games, it isn't absolutely necessary,'' Tanner continued. ''Mostly it's what a team does during that second 54-game stretch that determines where it is going to finish at the end of the season.
''If a manager has his pitching and his defense set by then and he's also getting consistency from his hitters, then he can generally count on being a pennant contender for the rest of the year. What you have to remember is that baseball isn't a week or a month but a season--and a season is a long time.''
To emphasize Tanner's point, the Atlanta Braves, even though they're still leading the National League West, have played well under .500 ball ever since the end of the 13-game winning streak with which they opened the season.