Philadelphia Inquirer - April 19, 1980

Expos run wild on Ruthven, top Phillies, 7-5

 

By Jayson Stark, Inquirer Staff Writer

 

MONTREAL – Every time Dick Ruthven looked over his shoulder yesterday, he found a Montreal Expo gunning his engine.

 

Letting an Expo get to first base against Ruthven yesterday was like leading Mario Andretti to the starting line at Indianapolis. The way Ruthven holds runners on, you don't have to steal second. You can practically claim it by eminent domain.

 

Alberto Juantorena didn't do as much running in Olympic Stadium in ‘76 as the Expos did yesterday in their 7-5 victory over Ruthven and the Phillies.

 

Four Expos tried stealing second against Ruthven. The first three got such big jumps, they could have stolen second, third and the contents of the vault at the Banque Du Montreal without Bob Boone being able to do much about it.

 

And that's practically what they did. Three straight times Expos took off for second. Three straight times Boone attempted to get throws off faster than was humanly possible and wound up bouncing them into center. Three straight times, the runner picked himself up and strolled on to third.

 

"That," Boone kidded, "was the way I used to throw when I pitched."

 

The fourth time, Ron LeFlore, stealer of 146 bases the last two years, vroomed off toward second and Boone decided to save himself the agony. He stood up, watched LeFlore cruise on in, then lobbed the hall back to Ruthven.

 

"It wasn't Booney's fault," said manager Dallas Green after an afternoon in which Boone committed almost half as many errors in four innings (three) as he did all last year (eight). "I would say the Expos did a little homework and picked something up on Dick.

 

"Hey, guys who are going to run are going to study pitchers. Ask Maury Wills, (Lou) Brock, any of them. They all study pitchers. That's how they steal bases – off pitchers."

 

You don't really have to study Ruthven, though. He's more like an open-book exam. In his 22 starts over the past two seasons, 24 guys have attempted to steal on him, 18 have made it and 12 have scored.

 

"We talked to him about it in spring training," Green said. "But we didn't want to dwell on it because we were doing other things with him. You can't work on everything at once. We wanted to get the arm concern out of his mind first, without putting something else in his mind."

 

Yesterday, however, Ruthven had no problem keeping the runners on his mind. That, Green thought, was the whole trouble. He wanted to get the runners out of Ruthven 's mind.

 

By the time the fifth inning rolled around, Ruthven had a 4-2 lead, courtesy of back-to-back homers by Mike Schmidt (four-for-four, a walk, three RBIs) and Greg Luzinski in the top of the fifth. It's hard to comprehend, but it was the first time Schmidt and Luzinski had homered back-to-back in 167 games, since April 7, 1979.

 

Ruthven began the fifth, however, by plunking LeFlore on the left arm with a 1-and-2 pitch. Rodney Scott managed to fly to center, LeFlore stole second on the next pitch.

 

Ruthven followed that by wild-pitching LeFlore to third and walking Andre Dawson. So Green hustled out to the mound faster than you could say "Lasse Viren."

 

"I never had any intention of taking him out," Green said. "I just told him I felt he was succumbing to his frustrations and, as a consequence, losing his concentration.

 

"I told him not to worry about the runners and just concentrate on one hitter at a time. I said, 'Don't let them build this into a big inning.'"

 

Green laughed sarcastically. "He heeded that advice very nicely."

 

He heeded it to the tune of a five-run inning, the last run of which was allowed by Kevin Saucier.

 

Ruthven did jam Ellis Valentine and pop him up for the second out. But then he shook off Boone, threw a 2-and-1 fastball to Larry Parrish, and Parrish smoked it past his head for an RBI single. Ruthven grabbed a heap of dirt, heaved it down disgustedly, then took the baseball and threw a high, half-hearted fastball to Gary Carter. Carter (two-for-four, four RBIs) parked it over the 115-metres sign in left-center. So it was 6-4, Expos, and so long, Ruthven.

 

Montreal then added one more run and one more stolen base off Saucier. All the Phillies could manage was an unearned run in the eighth off relievers David Palmer and Woodie Fryman.

 

Afterward, the major topic of conversation was whether Ruthven's problem with runners was correctable. If it's not, the Phillies might have to lobby for legislation to increase the distance between bases.

 

"I know he used to have a pretty good move to first," Green said. "In fact, he's looked at films from back in 1977 and tried to compare them. I'd say offhand that it's unusual for a guy to have a good move and then lose it. But Dick's gone through some problems other pitchers really haven't, in terms of arm problems.

 

"Stuff-wise, I thought he was still pretty decent. But many times, when a pitcher's struggling a little bit in terms of concentration and control, he'll get a lot of things on his mind. Sometimes, there's so much on a pitcher's mind, he just does not remember to do things the way we've talked about them."  Too bad, though, that the Expos never seem to forget the way to second base.

 

 

NOTES: Schmidt, after a slow start, has crushed the ball eight times in two days. "I couldn't believe how relaxed I was in spring training," he said. "And I couldn't believe how unrelaxed I was until that off day last week. I just told myself I wasn't going to worry about anything just relax and go up and take my hacks."... Luzinski bombed his homer way up the lower deck in left, and the only person who wasn't sure it was out was him. He rounded second, got halfway to third, then stopped and went back to second, where he was informed he could complete his trot. Turned out, he missed the bag because he was looking at second-base ump John Kibler trying to find out whether the ball was fair or foul.