New York Newsday - August 15, 1980

Schmidt Does His Appointed Job


By Joe Donnelly


Flushing – The joys and frustrations of baseball are never more sharply defined than they are for the long-ball hitter. He is the heavyweight champ of his sport and yet he is punched out baseball parlance for having struck out far more often than he delivers a knockout blow.


Mike Schmidt, whose 247 homers are tops in the majors for the last seven seasons, finds it easier to talk about a bad week when he's having a good one. So for, this has turned into a stretch to cherish. The Phillies third baseman had four hits, including his 31st homer, and drove in four runs last night in an 8-1 victory over the Mets at Shea Stadium.


That made him 12 for 19 for the week with four homers and 10 runs batted in. In four days, he had raised his batting average from .255 to .275. It is his turn to prosper after the low of the previous week, during which he went two for 29. He was the same hitter then, but he was swinging futilely.


“The bad times are so darn frustrating because I know I can hit like I'm doing now, Schmidt said. "You realize that in this game you can never have things just the way you want them. The one thing I never lose going through the bad times is my confidence in my ability to hit. That has to stay with you through the bad times.


“Then there are reasonable adjustments you make based on what talent you think you possess and how to get the most out of it. Like, I don’t have any concern whatsoever with batting average. I know I have the ability to collect 170 hits in a season, which would mean hitting .300, but I probably will never do it. All I care about is being run-productive.”


That priority has served him well and has led opposing clubs to proceed cautiously before his spot in the batting order comes due. "You read the boxscores,” Joe Torre said. "You know that Schmidt’s hot and you hope to make him hit with nobody on and we didn’t do it You certainly don’t want to pitch to him with the bases loaded but we had to face that situation, too.”


Pat Zachry started out sharp and Schmidt’s two-out single in the first came with the bases empty. The third inning, which brought Schmidt up for a second time, was a more trying experience. Former Met Nino Espinosa, who outpitched Zachry this steamy night, laid down a bunt single with one out. The Phillies had no idea then the game would turn to a rout and Dallas Green, trying to promote one run, had Espinosa running on the full-count pitch to Lonnie Smith.


Aggressive Met catcher Alex Trevino didn’t wait for home-plate umpire John McSherry's call and his throw to second arrived ahead of Espinosa. But Smith had walked on the pitch. Trevino's quickness then moved Zachry further into a hole when his glove touched Pete Roses bat in the swinging process. Rose fouled the ball back but was awarded first base on the catcher’s interference.


"I stand deep in the box and evidently he Trevino reached up and in, Rose said. That's happened to me four times this season but to be honest, I don’t know why he would be reaching in in that situation. Nino is on second and hes not going to be doing any running from there until the ball is hit. That play helped Bet the stage for Mike.”


Torre tended to excuse his young catcher, saying, "He catches close and you want him to catch close. The only thing he’s going to have to learn is who he has to move back on. Not only does Pete stand deep but he swings late on a lot of pitches trying to go to left.” But now it was time to face Schmidt. with the bases loaded and one out, the situation Torre and Zachry had hoped to avoid.


"When Mike is hitting like he is now, he's got patience, Torre said. Schmidt didn’t mind taking a strike from Zachry. “The big key is when you get a pitch to hit, you hit it,” Schmidt said. “That’s when you know you’re going good.” He hit a line drive to left for the nights first two runs, one more than the Phillies would require to offset Claudell Washington's seventh-inning homer. Still, Schmidt left nothing to chance. He doubled home a run and scored in the seventh, then homered to the opposite field in the ninth.


He would like to have a patent on the swings he took against the Mets. But the game has taught him to know better. "I never will,” he said.


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Craig Swan will come off the disabled list and start tomorrow against the Phillies. Bothered by a shoulder strain, the righthander is hoping to make 80 pitches in his return.