Philadelphia Inquirer - August 16, 1980
Christenson strong through six as Phils blank Mets, 8-0
By Jayson Stark, Inquirer Staff Writer
NEW YORK – The Mets hadn't been shut out in 52 games. Larry Christenson hadn't stepped on a mound in 85 days. They weren't exactly meant for each other.
When they tell you what it takes to throw shutouts in the big leagues, they don't say, well, first you fall off a bike, then you have elbow surgery.
But who knows, maybe Larry Christenson has changed the whole program. Christenson (4-0) rolled right off the disabled list and blanked the Mets for six innings last night. Then Tug McGraw finished off the final three for his 12th save.
And the Phillies used a 16-hit attack that included Pete Rose's 3,500th career hit to bury the Mets for the second straight night, 8-0.
Working every 85th day isn't any pitcher's idea of how to stay sharp. But Christenson, whose last previous start was May 21, shocked even himself.
"I stepped out there between the white lines, and it felt kind of funny," he said. "After all, I hadn't been out there in a long time. But then the first pitch was right there, and the second pitch was right there, and I just felt fine.
"I was really surprised by how good I felt. Warming up I didn't feel as good as I did when I got out there."
The road from the operating table (May 27) to the Star-of-The-Game Show wasn't supposed to be this fast or this easy.
First, Christenson thought he was through for the year. Then he talked of mid-September. But this guy heals like Lonnie Smith runs. Fast. And the next thing you knew they were taking him off the disabled list in early August.
But Dallas Green wanted to bring him along gradually, remember? He wanted to put him in the bullpen for an outing or two, remember?
"That just shows," said Green, "that I'm not as smart as 1 think I am."
Christenson talked his way into the rotation. And last night there he was, good as ever. Maybe even better than ever.
"That's the best I've ever seen him throw," said Rose. "I couldn't believe it. Not a whole lot of guys got down to first. But the guys that did come down there (Frank) Taveras, (Steve) Henderson, were all talking about how good he was throwing."
He threw very hard. He floated up quite a few dazzling change-ups. The occasional sliders he threw weren't bad, either. He gave up four singles, no walks and went to three balls only once. He even fanned five, including Mike Jorgensen, Henderson and Alex Trevino in succession at one point.
"My change-up was a lot better than I expected, and my control was., too," he said. "1 just put wildness out of my mind, put the injury out of my mind and just concentrated on throwing strikes and getting ahead of the hitters. And I really had no problems throwing strikes."
Christenson, of course, is not quite a rookie in the Comeback From The DL League. Last night, in fact, marked his fourth heroic return in two seasons. He also has had elbow problems before. And so he wasn't expecting to be instant Nolan Ryan out there.
He also flashed some Ozark-calibre glibness.
"I knew what it was going to feel like," he said, "but it didn't feel like what I thought it was going to feel like." Got that?
"I was just real pleased."
His arm felt even better after the Phillies got him four runs in the second. The rally included such unique phenomena as a Garry Maddox walk (No. 12 for the year) and a Bob Boone infield single. That's how you know you're going good.
Boone (5-for-his-previous-9) came up after Maddox walked and Larry Bowa singled. He dribbled a thunker right off the mound that is an automatic hit for Omar Moreno but slightly more difficult for him. Doug Flynn couldn't come up with the charging pickup, though. So it will look like just another RBI single in the box score.
Then third baseman Elliott Maddox threw away Christenson's bunt for a second run. Lonnie Smith singled in the third run. And Rose knocked in the fourth with career hit 3,499.
Ultimately, the Phillies' assault on the dreaded Mark Bomback (9-4) and two successors did not include any Mike Schmidt shots halfway up Long Island for a change. Schmidt went 1-for-5, with an infield single, breaking his homer streak at four straight games.
But the barrage did include a Manny Trillo homer in the eighth, three hits each by Rose, Smith and Bowa, and two apiece by Maddox and George Vukovich (remember him?).
Christenson was only supposed to go six innings or so. And he did, shutout or no shutout.
"I felt I'd had enough," Christenson said. "I wasn't really that tired. I probably could have gone out there for the seventh and eighth, but I really didn't want to push it. We had the lead. There wasn't any point in it."
The only real threat after McGraw's entrance came with two outs in the ninth, when Henderson tripled. But McGraw threw three straight screwballs to Trevino, he bounced the third to Trillo, and that did it.
Rose's historic hit came with two outs in the seventh, a simple line drive to left. It looked a lot like any other Rose single. But it put him at a 3,500-hit plateau that only four other players in history have reached (Ty Cobb, Hank Aaron, Stan Musial, Tris Speaker).
"It's just a number to me," Rose ! said. "I got the ball for 2,600, 27, 28, 29 ; and 3,000. I'll just give it to some ' charity or something."
Rose himself didn't even know he was two hits away until a writer told him before the game. And that was maybe even a bigger upset than a Christenson miracle comeback.
Schmidt bat has DeMars befuddled
By Jayson Stark, Inquirer Staff Writer
NEW YORK – Billy DeMars is a hitting coach. He is supposed to understand why guys hit and why guys don't. But then there is Mike Schmidt. Even Billy DeMars doesn't understand Mike Schmidt.
"To me, if a guy is a 'streak hitter,' he should be hot for maybe two weeks and then cold for maybe two weeks," said DeMars. "But Schmitty, when he goes into one of these things, he might stay in it for two months. There really should be no reason for it."
Unless you've been watching 1,001 keynote speeches all week, you know Schmidt went into last night's game with the Mets smoking (12-for-19, .632, four home runs in four games). Before that he had been under .200 since Greg Luzinski got hurt in early July.
DeMars may not know why Schmidt clicks it on and off. But he thinks Luzinski's absence behind him in the order has not been a big factor. He also thinks Schmidt loses his celebrated cool when he isn't going well.
"I think it's a bunch of crap, all the stuff about who's hitting behind him," DeMars said. "How about all the good pitches he takes?
"No matter who hits behind you, a guy will still get pitches to hit. Most pitchers will make a mistake on you sooner or later."
As for Schmidt's alleged coolness when he's going badly, DeMars says "that's what he'll tell you and me. But I can tell he's pressing out there. I've told him to step out and take a deep breath when he needs to relax himself. And you'll notice he does that a lot. His body's going about 100 m.p.h. when he wants it to go 50."
NOTES: Phillies averages home and away going into last night: Rose (.316 home, .270 away), McBride (.309, .312), Maddox (.289, .224), Schmidt (.271, .298), Luzinski (.331, .150), Boone (.263, .202), Bowa (.223, .249), Trillo (.319, .324), Gross (.211, .283), Unser (.278, .156), G. Vukovich (.200, .133), Moreland (.304, .400), Smith (.381, .287), J. Vukovich (.182, .156), Aviles (.282. .317)....Craig Swan (5-8) vs. Bob Walk (8-2) today.