Montreal, one of the pre-season favorites in the National League East, was just a .500 team after 40 games, prompting this explanation from Manager Bill Virdon:
''We've been good offensively, better in fact than I expected. Defensively we still have some holes to mend, particularly in our infield, although I don't really see that as a lingering problem. What worries me is our pitching, which hasn't come around yet the way I thought it would. If we don't get our pitching staff straightened out by the July 10 All-Star break, the chances of us winning our division would be pretty tough.''
Right-hander Charlie Lea (6-2) has pitched well, but the normally dependable Steve Rogers, who was 17-12 in 1983, is struggling with a 7.11 earned-run average. And overall the staff has produced just two complete games - one each by David Palmer and Bryn Smith.
When Virdon was interviewed during spring training on the question of where Pete Rose, who has been a leadoff hitter most of his life, would bat, Bill replied:
''If we didn't have a fellow like Tim Raines, who stole 90 bases last year and is very good at drawing walks, I wouldn't even think of moving Pete. But the chances are Tim will continue to bat first for us and Rose second.''
Somewhere along the way Virdon changed his mind, though, because Rose is back in his familiar spot at the top of the order, with Raines hitting third.
''I looked over my lineup and, with Al Oliver traded, discovered I didn't have a No. 3 hitter,'' Bill explained. ''Then, when I began to think about the requirements for hitting third - good average, few strikeouts, some power, and the ability to drive in runs - Raines seemed like a natural. I figured if Tim could drive in 71 runs batting mostly leadoff, the No. 3 position might be worth 100 to him. I realize I'm sacrificing some stolen bases, but over a full season I know I'm going to come out ahead. Rose is also happier batting first.'' Matuszek powers Phils on hot road trip
Philadelphia has the best road record so far (15-8) of any team in the National League. While it doesn't quite compare with Detroit's 14-0 start in foreign ballparks, it has taken a lot of pressure off the front office for not re-signing veterans Pete Rose, Joe Morgan, and Tony Perez.
The Phillies, who began a 13-day home stand Tuesday, are coming off a road trip in which they left the league's three California teams in shambles. The club showed an amazing ability to come from behind in the late innings in winning three games each from the Padres, Dodgers, and Giants.
The new Mayor of Philadelphia (well, if he isn't, he should be) is left-handed hitting first baseman Len Matuszek, who hit only .215 in 66 previous games over parts of two seasons. Benched earlier this year for not hitting, Matuszek was returned to the lineup at the start of the California trip on May 11. During the nine-game winning streak Len was 12 for 29 with five homers and 11 RBIs. Manager Paul Owens, explaining the sudden offensive turnaround, says Matuszek is a late bloomer. Len just says what a lot of players have said before him: ''All I needed was a chance to play.'' Cubs riding high; Andujar's turnaround
* The Chicago Cubs, who showed the courage of their convictions earlier this season when they benched first baseman Bill Buckner and replaced him with outfielder Leon Durham, are riding high in the NL East. Durham, who raised his average to .322 recently with three hits and four RBIs against Houston, is rapidly becoming All-Star material. Another big plus has been the bullpen, where all four relief pitchers have winning records.
* Win, lose, or fire me, Manager Yogi Berra of the New York Yankees is always coming up with something different. His latest was starting an all-shortstop infield against the Chicago White Sox. Yogi had Tim Foli playing the position, with Roy Smalley at first base, Andre Robertson at second, and Toby Harrah at third.
* What a difference a year can make. St. Louis right-hander Joaquin Andujar, who slumped from World Series hero in 1982 to 6-16 in 1983, became the National League's first seven-game winner Sunday with a 9-1 victory over the Cincinnati Reds. It was also his seventh complete game of the season. Andujar, a switch-hitter, set a Cardinal record for pitchers earlier this season when he hit a home run right handed off Montreal's Steve Rogers, then a few weeks later hit a grand-slam left handed off Atlanta's Jeff Dedmon.