Philadelphia Inquirer - April 17, 1980
Hidden woes of the Cards
By Frank Dolson, Sports Editor
ST. LOUIS – There are times when you look at the Cardinals and see a legitimate pennant contender, a team capable of giving the Pirates, the Phillies, the Expos all they can handle in the National League East.
Check out some of the names in the Cardinals' lineup. Garry Templeton, the first switch-hitter in baseball history to get 100 hits from each side of the plate in one season. Keith Hernandez, who came into his own with such a base-hit explosion last year that he tied Willie Stargell for MVP. Ted Simmons, who was having a super year himself in 79 until breaking his wrist in late June. Bobby Bonds, the guy Willie Mays called the greatest player in the big leagues – even if his greatness has been shared by seven clubs in the last seven years.
Still, as awesome as the Cardinals' lineup can look, this team – like all the others has a chink or two in its armor. Maybe some very big chinks, a couple of which were spotlighted in yesterday's loss to the Phillies.
It wasn't that Steve Carlton handled those big guns as easily as if they were Little Leaguers. The way he threw in the glare of the early-afternoon sun, it's unlikely any lineup, no matter how potent, would have given him trouble.
A super slider
"Carlton today, the way he was throwing, it wouldn't matter what kind of light was out there," said Ken Reitz, who got three of the four hits Carlton allowed through the first eight innings. "I've never seen a slider like that, especially from a lefty. If he has that slider going like that all year, I wouldn't be surprised to see him in the no-hit column."
No, it wasn't getting shackled by Steve Carlton that spotlighted those chinks. It was the way Templeton made fine play after fine play at shortstop throughout the two-game series, until the very last ball hit his way, a routine hopper off the bat of Pete Rose in the ninth. "The most simple thing in the world, wasn't it?" Cardinals manager Ken Boyer said, and indeed it was. So easy that Templeton, whose erratic throwing has already cost the Cardinals one game, let the ball spill out of his glove, an error - Templeton's third in six games – that led to three unearned Phillies runs.
And there was the inability of the Cardinals' bullpen to keep the game close, although one-time Phillies farmhand Roy Thomas actually didn't get hit all that hard in the six-run ninth. "They got six hits, six runs and they haven't hit a ball good yet," said Boyer, "but you wouldn't know it by looking at the box score."
A grim reminder
Bloops or line drives, the ninth-inning explosion served as a reminder that the bullpen is supposed to be this team's major trouble area.
"That's the first thing that came to my mind as soon as all that happened (in the ninth)," Thomas said. "They give you the ball and they say, 'Hold 'em close,' and then this happens."
OK, those are two obvious chinks in the St. Louis armor – a brilliant but erratic shortstop and a bullpen that has yet to prove it can hold 'em close. But a less obvious one may have surfaced yesterday, as well.
He wears two zeroes on the back of his latest big-league uniform, and until smashing a ninth-inning triple after yesterday's game was out of reach, those zeroes matched Bobby Bonds' RBI total for the season-opening home stand.
Lots of big hitters get off to slow starts. But, for all his talent, for all the speed and power that made Bobby Bonds an all-star in both big leagues, there's obviously something that also makes him the most traveled American since Henry Kissinger.
In the clubhouse
Could be, we got a hint of that certain something yesterday morning. On the blackboard in the Cardinals clubhouse, the day's schedule was clearly printed. Extra men were to take batting practice at 10:10, the regulars at 10:35. Bonds hadn't made it to the clubhouse by 10:35.
"He's not here yet," Larry Bowa, who notices such things, said at 10:50. "I'll bet you he won't be here (in St. Louis) next year, either."
Bonds was in the clubhouse by then. By the time he was in uniform, the Phillies were taking batting practice.
"I think he spent the morning trying to move out of his apartment into a hotel," the manager said in a voice that didn't quite ring with conviction. "I think he was up early trying to get moved….”
Fair enough. It's a long season, and it's filled with good days and bad days… and yesterday just happened to be a bad one for the Cardinals. But the only chinks that showed up at Busch Stadium yesterday weren't the ones the Phillies hit in the top of the ninth.
Noles rescues Carlton in 9th as Cards fall
By Jayson Stark, Inquirer Staff Writer
ST. LOUIS – When Dallas Green left Clearwater, we didn't know if his bullpen was going to get anybody out. But if it didn't, at least it would be so neat and orderly it would clinch a Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval.
It was all going to be so set then. A role for everyone and everyone in his role. The short guys would help the middle guys. The middle guys would help the short guys. A fresh pitcher for every occasion.
Man, all it needed was 24-hour valet service and Shirley Booth to tidy up. But Florida game plans have been known to last far shorter periods of time than, say, the Gutenberg Bible. Or Ronald Reagan. So that's why it was only a slight shock when, in the ninth inning of the Phillies' 8-3 victory over the Cardinals yesterday, Green looked out to his bullpen and made a move that was not in the Florida galley sheets.
He did not bring on Lerrin LaGrow, who served up a game-winning homer to the first batter he faced Sunday. He did not bring on Ron Reed, who has been hammered twice and does not, said Green, "seem to have his act together yet." He also did not bring on Tug McGraw, who was unable to get ready in time.
Instead, the guy he did bring on was his sometimes fifth starter, sometimes middle-inning man, Dickie Ray Noles. Noles, who thought he was just out there to get some throwing in, stalked on, got two quick outs, and the Phils left town with a two-game split.
"I've always had in the back of my mind that Dickie would be a damn good bullpen man," Green said, after Noles had finished off Steve Carlton's 150th win as a Phillie.
"I like the way Dickie comes at hitters. I think our guys do, too. He goes after them…. And he's demonstrated more and more he can get the ball over."
Green had been thinking about Noles in this spot as far back as the winter meetings. Green kept talking Noles even as Paul Owens was skulking around Toronto in search of Sparky Lyle and other varieties of bullpen help.
But all that seemed forgotten this spring until Green motioned for Noles yesterday.
"I was out there throwing in the eighth just to get my throwing in," Noles said. "Then he called down to have me throw again in the ninth. I didn't know whether he was gonna use me or not. I was a little surprised when he called me in."
Until Sunday, when he shut out the Expos for two innings, Noles had relieved exactly one time in his life. "I won a game in relief in 78 in Reading," he said. "I pitched to one batter. Do I like the idea of short relief? No. But whatever I can do, you know. I can't complain. It's still better than starting in Okie City."
It looked for a long time yesterday as if Green would never even have to look to his bullpen. Carlton rolled into the ninth with a four-hit shutout, his usual commanding breaking ball and an 8-0 lead.
The 8-0 lead was courtesy of that horrible Cardinals bullpen, which had turned a 2-0 game and a Bob Forsch five-hitter into a blowout.
Forsch left for a pinch hitter in the eighth, having surrendered only two fourth-inning runs on back-to-back-to-back doubles by Garry Maddox, Mike Schmidt and Greg Luzinski.
"He throws you a lot of sinkers, gets a lot of double-play balls," said Luzinski, who hit .546 off Forsch last year.
Out of that bullpen to start the ninth came Roy Thomas, the righthander the Phillies once drafted ahead of Mike Schmidt. Schmidt promptly bounced a single through the shortstop hole off him.
Then Luzinski stroked a single to right, Bob Boone (8-for-20, .400) knocked an RBI double over the third-base bag, and Manny Trillo bounced a two-run single through the middle. Boone and Garry Templeton collided on the play, and third-base umpire Joe West ruled Boone obstructed Templeton. But second-base ump Larry McSherry overruled him, and the run stood.
Next out of the St. Louis pen came lefthander Don Hood. He would have been out of the inning except for a Templeton error on a routine Pete Rose hopper. And that set up an off-the-fist RBI single by Bake McBride and a looping two-run single by Maddox.
So Carlton graciously took those extra six runs and went out to hunt for his 43d career shutout.
But Carlton clearly "didn't have the same stuff in the ninth," Boone added. Carlton started the inning by fanning Ken Oberkfell. But Keith Hernandez roped a double to left-center, Ted Simmons broke up the shutout with a single off a 3-and-1 fastball and Bobby Bonds drilled an 0-and-2 pitch for a triple.
When George Hendrick bounced a single past Larry Bowa to make it 8-3, that was it for Lefty. But Noles ended it in six pitches. Tom Herr chopped an 0-1 pitch for a force out. And Tony Scott flied the fourth pitch he saw softly to left.