Wilmington Evening Journal - April 21, 1980

Pitching again Exposed to be Phillies' weak spot


By Hal Bodley, Sports Editor


MONTREAL – Dallas Green was silent for a good two or three minutes.


Finally, the Phillies' manager broke the silence.


"The pitchers just have to buckle up and take part of the responsibility of what's going on on this team. We've all said pitching is going to be the key to our season. I've said our pitching doesn't worry me, but we've got to start doing it between the white lines."


Yesterday, the pitchers did not do it between the white lines. In fact, Montreal's explosive 7-6 come-from-behind victory was a perfect scenario to the preseason forecast for the Phillies of 1980.


Starter Randy Lerch struggled early, giving up three runs in the first inning. As Lerch settled down, the Phils vaulted to a 5-3 lead.


In the seventh inning, Montreal's first two batters singled. Lerrin LaGrow was summoned and could not shut down the Expos as they scored twice to tie.


The Phils went up 6-5 in the eighth, but against reliever Tug McGraw, Montreal tied the game in the eighth and won it in the ninth on Gary Carter's sacrifice fly.


Except for a brilliant four-inning stint by Dickie Noles in relief of Larry Christenson on Saturday, the bullpen has been dreadful. Only Steve Carlton (2-0) has turned in solid starting performances.


After 10 days of the season, it's obvious this team will not be able to challenge for the National League Eastern Division lead with the type of pitching it has gotten so far.


What's Green to do?


It seems impossible to go out and land the type of arm the Phils so desperately need. So, about the only thing he can do is make do with what he's got and keep hoping the trend will reverse, a trend that has caused the Phils to lose four out of their last six games.


Three times yesterday the offense brought the Phils back from deficits or ties.


"Our offense has done everything we have asked for," said Green. "We've played the game right, we've bunted when we had to bunt, we've pulled the ball when we've had to pull it, we've moved runners around, Greg Luzinski is playing like he's 16 years old, we're hammering home runs, we're getting two-out hits. We're doing everything we have to do and we're scoring runs."


Yesterday, after Montreal bullpen ace Elias Sosa one-two-threed the Phils in the ninth on three ground balls, McGraw immediately dug a hole for himself when he walked leadoff batter Andre Dawson on a 3-1 pitch.


Ellis Valentine, who missed a bunt sign, fanned before the dangerous Larry Parrish singled to center. The ball dropped 10 feet in front of the charging Garry Maddox and bounced away after hitting his glove. Dawson stopped at third and all Carter had to do was loft his sacrifice fly to left.


"I don't care what the situation is, you cannot walk the leadoff batter," said McGraw. "You just cannot walk that man."


"In fairness to Tug, he has not pitched in nine or 10 days, but he is a professional," said Green. "He is supposed to come in and do the job – and not walk the leadoff batter."


There was some mumbling in the press box that Green should not have left the left-handed McGraw in to face Montreal's right-handed hitters in the ninth.


Green, however, had nobody up in the ninth.


"You can check the stats," the manager said. "Tug gets right-handers out as well as left-handers. I also thought about walking Carter intentionally to load the bases, then have McGraw pitch to the left-handed Cromartie. But hell, Cromartie is the hottest hitter they've got right now."


In the eighth, with the Phils leading 6-5, Cromartie opened with a single to left. Chris Speier, who could have been the goat because of two errors at shortstop, was sent up to bunt. He dropped one just to the right of home plate that appeared to be rolling foul. Catcher Bob Boone didn't give it a chance. He scooped it up and rifled to first.


After Tony Bernazard was called out on strikes, Ron LeFlore singled to left and Cromartie scored.


Should Boone have let Speier's bunt roll foul.


"We have learned to take an out when we can get it unless the pitcher is up there," said Green. "I don't like to give the guy another chance."


Boone's view was somewhat different. "I charged the ball with intentions of throwing to second," he said. "But as I came out of the box, I was unable to get good traction in that red clay and had to go to first."


"It still comes down to pitching." Green repeated. "They all have their feet wet now. We're into the season a little bit. It's not like it's their first time out. We have to go after them."


Bake McBride continued his torrid hitting for the Phils, with a two-run triple in the fifth and a single in the seventh. Luzinski blasted his third homer of the year in the sixth off starter Bill Lee.


Dawson and Valentine hit back-to-back homers in the first inning off Lerch.


"I think Randy was over-throwing the ball in the first," said Green. "Once he decided not to throw it through a wall, he was fine."


EXTRA POINTS – Second baseman Manny Trillo was on crutches when the team arrived at the stadium yesterday morning. Trillo, who missed 40 games with a fractured left forearm last year, suffered a severe sprain in Saturday's game when he rounded third base in the third inning. Trainer Don Seger expects him to be out no more than a week... Player Personnel Director Paul Owens says no teams have made any serious moves to pick up pitchers Rawly Eastwick and Doug Bird, who cleared waivers last Tuesday... Rose moved ahead of Jimmy Foxx into 13th place on the all-time runs scored list with 1,752...Yesterday was Tommy Hutton's 34th birthday.