St. Louis Post-Dispatch - April 16, 1980
Cards Delete Phils’ Percentage Point
By Rick Hummel of the Post-Dispatch Staff
If there is one play in baseball which is second-guessed by grandstand managers more than the bunt, it is the intentional walk. "The only time it looks good is when it works," said Cardinals Manager Ken Boyer, stating the obvious. "When somebody gets the base hit, you've got egg all over your face."
Boyer was victimized last weekend against the Pittsburgh Pirates and Phillies Manager Dallas Green was doing the wiping Tuesday night. Green tried it both ways against the Cardinals. He chose not to walk eighth-place hitter Ken Oberkfell with a base open in the sixth inning and Oberkfell hit a two-run triple. He chose to walk Oberkfell in the eighth and winning pitcher Pete Vuckovich hit a two-run double. That represented most of the difference in a 7-2 Cardinals victory, their second – and Vuckovich's second – of the season.
"If Oberkfell and Vuckovich don't get hits, we're 3-2. All you've got to do is get them out," said Green. Easier said than done in this case.
With the Cardinals ahead, 2-1, in the sixth, Green had still another walk-don't walk situation. He chose to walk George Hendrick with runners at second and third and one out to get at Ken Reitz, the Cardinals' hottest hitter. The Phils traded an out (a fly to right) for a run. Then, later in the inning, Green allowed lefthander Randy Lerch to pitch to Oberkfell with two out and runners at second and third.
It was suggested to Green that he was following the left-against-left percentages. "Apparently," said Green, smiling weakly. "If Randy Lerch can't get a lefthanded hitter out, I'm in trouble, aren't I?"
But Green bemoaned Lerch's location. "A high slider inside. That's not exactly where you want to throw a slider – I don't care who the hitter is," he said.
Green's other move was a much more obvious one. Hendrick was at third with two out and Oberkfell at bat in the eighth. Ron Reed was ordered to walk Oberkfell but Vuckovich, who insisted his eyes were closed, drove a ball to left-center for two more runs.
"I can't tell you anything about it," said Vuckovich. "I closed my eyes and it hit my bat."
Boyer understandably did not want to be drawn into anything even smacking of criticism of Green. "I learned a long time ago," he said, "that if you try to manage two ball clubs, you'll be a .500 manager."
But he did say," "I don't like to intentionally walk people, especially if it loads the bases. You don't want to put a pitcher under the gun, for one thing. And another is that the first pitch almost has to be a fastball. It's just something you hate to do."
Not to be submerged in this discussion of theory was another strong pitching effort by Vuckovich, who permitted only five hits and had five more scoreless innings before Lerch doubled home a run in the sixth.
"If you want to rate it on a 10 scale, opening day was an eight or nine and today was probably a seven or six-and-a-half. I attribute that to a little less concentration," said Vuckovich.
Nonetheless, Vuckovich beat the Phillies for the fifth straight time (he was 4-0 against them last year). "There's an old cliche that good pitching beats good hitting. I try to firmly believe in that," said Vuckovich. "But with their kind of team, you don't make mistakes. Because they're coming to get you. They can hit."
Green said he was impressed with Vuckovich's change of speeds and added “he's going to win some games whether it's against the Phillies or whoever."
Oberkfell, who didn't face much lefthanded pitching last season, hit safely ifor the third straight game against' a lefthanded starter this year. He's been talking to batting champion Keith Hernandez, who consistently hits above .300 against lefthanders although he is one himself, and who was three for three Tuesday. "I try to go up there with the same theory as Keith," said Oberkfell. "To stay in there and don't pull out. If you start opening up, you're going to lose all your power.
"I've always hit them (lefthanders) well in the past, in the minors. It's just a matter of getting in there and seeing them. They've got that little plate and they've got to get the ball around there."
Boyer said he's seen enough to install Oberkfell as his No. 2 hitter against !all kinds of pitching, moving switch-hitting Tony Scott, who is two for 19, down to seventh or eighth.
Bobby Bonds, who admittedly had been pressing in trying to please folks here, singled to key a three-run rally in the sixth and made a dazzling running catch in left-center field to rob Pete Rose of an extra-base hit and the Phillies of a potential big inning in the eighth.
"I was looking at the charts and noticed be (Rose) had hit a lot of balls to the alley against this club," Bonds said. So all night, Bonds had shaded toward center against Rose.
"He hit it and I just took off," said Bonds. "I was wide open. I couldn't run another step faster."
The catch held the Cardinals' lead at 5-2 before Vuckovich expanded it in the bottom of the inning – after the intentional walk. Dallas Green was damned if he did and damned if he didn’t.