Wilmington Morning News - April 14, 1980

Expos’ Almon no joy to Phillies


By Rod Beaton, Staff Correspondent


PHILADELPHIA – Mike Ivie, Bob Horner, Kirk Gibson – all three were No. 1 picks overall in the major-league baseball draft and all three are now starters.


Bill Almon, the batting star of Montreal's 5-4 victory over the Phillies yesterday at Veterans Stadium, also was a No. 1 pick by San Diego – in June, 1974. He has been a starter but his path to stardom was not the gilded one foreseen when the Padres plucked him from, of all places, the Ivy League.


After a fine rookie season, the former Brown University standout was a flop in San Diego, never topping the .261 batting average of his first year. Montreal liberated him from Ray Kroc's troubled club over the winter, getting Almon and Dan Briggs for Dave Cash, and Almon seems eager to atone for time squandered.


Chris Speier's abscessed tooth gave Almon a chance to start at shortstop yesterday at the Vet. Almon responded by putting the bite on the Phillies, going 4-for-5 and turning in a game-saving play in the ninth inning to spark the Padres to a 10-inning triumph.


The Phillies, now 2-1, were bumped from first place in the NL East. Still, Manager Dallas Green's rah-rah guys can take solace from a heartening start by Larry Christen-son and a strong debut by rookie right-hander Scott Munninghoff. But for Almon, they might have swept the three-game opening series.


Ellis Valentine drilled a belt-high fastball from Lerrin LaGrow off the tarp in left-center to open the Expos' 10th. The blast subdued the Phillies, who had come from three runs back to tie the game 4-4 in the ninth, thanks in large part to an error by third baseman Larry Parrish.


The home run might not have been possible without Almon's fielding gem. With two on and none out in the ninth, Larry Bowa ripped a shot through the middle. Almon, 27, tracked the ball down and made a diving tag on Bob Boone.


The Phils went on to score twice when Greg Gross' liner caromed off Parrish's glove. They tied it on Bake McBride's single and it could have been worse – namely, another loss for Montreal – but for Almon's play.


“When he (Bowa) first hit the ball, I looked like an easy double play," said Almon. "But it was hit harder than I thought. I got to it and my momentum carried me past the bag. I managed to get Boone."


And reliever Stan Bahnsen almost got out of the inning. Bowa advanced on a wild pitch that catcher Gary Carter kept in front of him to hold Greg Luzinski, who'd singled, at third.


Bahnsen held the runners on Manny Trillo's bouncer to the mound, but Gross, hitting for Munninghoff, smashed a drive in the vicinity of Parrish's head. It caught leather but touched down in left with Luzinski and Bowa scoring.


Lonnie Smith ran for Gross and veteran left-hander Woodie Fryman was summoned to pitch to Pete Rose, who grounded a single to left.


Smith decided to challenge the arm of Jerry White, who came in as a defensive replacement for Ron LeFlore. Smith won, barreling safely into third head-first.


Green elected to let McBride bat against left-hander Fryman and McBride responded with a single to center that scored Smith. Righthander Elias Sosa relieved Fryman and struck out Garry Maddox on a sharp curve to end the inning.


Valentine teed off on LaGrow's 3-1 fastball to open the 10th and the Phils' power – Mike Schmidt, Luzinski and Boone – fell short in the bottom of the inning to give Sosa the win and LaGrow the loss.


"The pitch was right there to hit," said Valentine of his first homer of the year. "I made good contact."


LaGrow is a 31-year-old righthander who pitched sparingly for the White Sox and Dodgers last year. He was philosophical about being the fall guy in his Phillies' debut.


"There's lots you can do with a 3-1 pitch," LaGrow said. "The worst thing to do to start an inning is walk a guy. I didn't walk him. The pitch just had crummy location."


Christenson had decent location in his first action since his knee stopped a line drive by Detroit's Jason Thompson in a preseason game in Florida. Hoping to come back from a disappointing, injury-plagued season, Christenson threw tour strong innings but came undone in the fifth.


The culprit was Almon, a career .255 hitter. His leadoff triple to left-center sparked a three-run outburst that snapped a 1-1 tie. The biggest blow of the inning was Andre Dawson's two-run homer, his first hit of the season.


"I've only had two other days with four hits," said Almon, "and both times we lost. This one, with a new team, our first win, feels much better.


"When Chris (Speier) got on the bus, he told me he had an abscess. At that point, I prepared for starting. The way I look at it, we have two starting shortstops. The only thing different today was I took batting practice with the regulars."


And then he took batting practice against the Phils' staff – during the game. He may look like a No. 1 pick yet.


PHILS FACTS - Munninghoff threw an impressive two innings of relief, allowing one hit and no runs with one walk and one strikeout... Expo starter Scott Sanderson was pulled after four innings because he was weakened and dizzy from an intestinal ailment... Luzinski and Schmidt had stolen bases. Schmidt's came after catcher Gary Carter picked him off second, but he beat the relay to third... Boone had three singles in five trips... Phils fly to St. Louis for a two-game series starting tomorrow, followed by three day games in Montreal over the weekend... Randy Lerch vs. Pete Vuckovich in the series opener tomorrow... Warren Brusstar was examined by Dr. William Granna, an Oklahoma City orthopedic specialist, on Thursday. Nothing new was uncovered and Bru is still in limbo... Rose played his 2.671st came, passing Rabbit Maranville tor sixth on the N L.'s all-time list. Today is Pete's 39th birthday.