Camden Courier-Post - August 27, 1980
Green optimistic as Phils lose
By Rusty Pray of the Courier-Post
PHILADELPHIA – Cheer up. Things are not nearly as bad as they seem with the Phillies.
At least, that was the message Manager Dallas Green delivered last night after his club fell to the Dodgers, 8-4, in Veterans Stadium for the second straight time.
The loss, the Phils' fourth in their last five games and fifth on a nine-game home stand that concludes tonight, kept them 3 games behind the Pirates, who obligingly lost to Atlanta, in the National League East Division standings.
"THINGS AREN'T as bad as they seem to be," Green declared after the Dodgers abused starter Bob Walk for five runs in 2⅓ innings. "We're still only two down in the loss column (to the Pirates) and we're still hitting the ball decently.
"If we get somebody to get them out and play a little bit tighter baseball, we'll be in good shape, I think."
Getting somebody out was not the forte of Walk, who allowed four hits and four walks to the 14 batters he faced before being knocked out in the midst of a four-run Dodger third that broke the game open.
This latest of four-run Dodger innings was accomplished without anybody disrupting an intentional walk with a base hit, any pitchers hitting batters or any bench-clearing brawls. So the 35,358 Vet fans were forced to draw their excitement from the game itself.
THERE REALLY weren't a whole lot of thrills to it, though, after Davey Lopes opened the third with a walk. Walk – the pitcher, not the result – next ran his fifth of seven three-ball counts to former Phil Jay Johnstone, who tripled to left-center field to score Lopes and give the Dodgers a 2-0 lead.
Walk would then relinquish – with only a Steve Garvey ground out to break the string – an RBI single to Dusty Baker on a 3-1 pitch and a six-pitch walk to Ron Cey.
Green, who has gone to his bullpen 13 times in the last week, called on lefthander Randy Lerch to prevent further damage. But it wasn't to be. Lerch gave up a couple of RBI singles before striking out Dodger starter Rick Sutcliffe to finally end the inning.
Indeed, the perils of Lerch continued in the fourth when he walked Johnstone and yielded a home run to Baker. It was Baker's 25th homer – third off Lerch – this season.
"HE (LERCH) got squeezed on one guy," said Green, referring to the size of home plate umpire Paul Pryor's strike zone. "There were some breaking balls that I thought could have been strikes. Keith (Moreland) said they were both over the plate.
"If you get those pitches, get the out, things start to come a little bit. If you don't, then you're just back into that old 'oh. here we go again' type thing.
"It's not fair to the kid. He's trying to pitch his butt off. I don't know why Randy Lerch can't get it (a marginal strike) and I don't know why the Phillies can't get it."
Faced with a 7-1 deficit in the bottom of the fourth, the Phillies managed to mount a modest "grind-it-out" challenge.
MIKE SCHMIDT started it with a double to center field. Moreland, starting at catcher for the first time since Aug. 11, followed with his first of two hits. But it failed to score Schmidt, who had to wait while Moreland's line drive cleared shortstop Bill Russell's glove.
With runners at the corners, Manny Trillo's broken-bat ground ball to the right side was good enough to score one run, then Larry Bowa, pinch hitter George Vukovich and Lonnie Smith all singled to produce the other two.
The Phils would get five more hits off two Dodger relievers, but none of the hits was in any way damaging to Los Angeles' pennant hopes.
Ever the optimist, Green insisted on looking at the glossy side of a flat defeat.
"I THINK," he said, "we're in good shape. Naturally, we'd like to be doing some things better and, naturally, we'd like to be winning. But I don't think it's a catastrophe because we are losing.
"I'm not about to panic and I don't think the ballplayers are anywhere near that. I think they feel they're in good shape. You know, a win here, a loss over there, turns things around pretty quick."
Which is something his team should give serious thought to doing.
PHIL UPS – Trillo had a hitting streak stopped at 12 games... Pete Rose passed Tris Speaker, moving into fourth place on the all-time hits list with a first-inning single... Rose now has 3,516 hits in his career... Dodger catcher Steve Yeager has a chipped bone on the middle finger of his right hand... The injury may keep him out for a week to 10 days... Homestand finale tonight features Steve Carlton against Bob Welch.
Phillies’ Walk currently out of step
By Rusty Pray of the Courier-Post
PHILADELPHIA – Pitching is baseball's answer to the close-order drill. It is a one-man march that must be performed to a precise cadence. One misstep, one movement made out of turn, and the entire exercise falls out of synchronization.
When all the parts of pitching fit perfectly together, an unmistakable rhythm is created: rock, pivot, release, follow through. The pattern is repeated, usually well over 200 times, during the course of a ballgame. It is a pattern Bob Walk has been struggling to follow.
Walk has been a pitcher out of step with himself for much of the month of August. He has won just one of his last five starts for the Phillies and, in his last two, has been knocked out in the second inning.
Last night, the righthander stumbled against the Dodgers, retiring only half of the 14 batters he faced. He worked three-ball counts to seven bitters, and all of them reached base. He allowed four hits – one of them an RBI triple to Jay Johnstone – walked four and, by the time Manager Dallas Green went oat to the mound to get him, the Dodgers were well on their way to an 8-4 victory.
"The only thing I can do is try to forget it," Walk said, hours after showering and dressing. "I just thank God the Pirates lost tonight."
Bob Walk became a major-league pitcher under less than ideal circumstances. The Phillies brought him up from their Oklahoma City farm club on May 25 only because their starting rotation was in disarray because of injuries. His raw talent and considerable determination won him some early games, and later he pitched well enough to earn the right to remain in the big leagues.
But the truth is, Walk, who is only 23 years old, should not have to learn his pitching lessons in the crucible of a National League pennant race. Indeed, if he has been erratic lately, it may be because of the pressure he is putting on himself.
"The last couple times out, I get out into the game and I just can't seem to find the groove," be said. "I've been kind of hot and cold my last five starts. I don't know, against New York (an 11-6 victory on Aug. 16) I thought I threw the ball real well until toward the end of the game. Then my very next start, San Diego (last Thursday), I go out and get knocked out early. I can't explain it... I don't know what's wrong... It's just happening... I don't know why."
The why of Walk's worries can be explained in one word: control. He has been consistently behind hitters, which is like using your arm to bait a shark. Opposing teams are well aware of Walk's inconsistency and, as a result, batters have become as patient as chess masters. They're more than willing to take a few pitches and wait for Walk to throw four balls or groove a strike.
To a pitcher, there is a vast difference between knowing you can throw a strike and having to throw a strike. And more often than not, Walk has found himself in a have-to position.
"The feeling I have when I'm out there throwing is the same feeling I had when I first got called up from Oklahoma City," said Walk. "Like, no matter how hard I try... It seems like the harder I try out there, the wilder I get. I'm doing too much thinking or something.
"I think real positive when I'm going good. I don't have any doubts in my mind that I can pitch here. It's just that, right now, I'm having a hard time figuring out what's happened to me these last four or five ballgames; why one ballgame I'll go out and pitch well and why another ballgame I can't get out of the third inning and why I can't throw strikes.
"Maybe it's just something I have to learn, I don't know."
Trying too hard, thinking too much. Those elements can disrupt the delicate rhythm of pitching the way a gallery sneeze can shatter the concentration of a golfer.
Walk has worked himself into a no-win situation that is more than a matter of fine-tuning mechanics. The pattern of pitching must be as second-nature as a tennis player's backhand.
"I wasn't throwing the ball in the third inning tonight with looseness at all," Walk said. "I could feel myself tightening up, my arm, my wrist. There's a groove you get in when you're throwing strikes…”
And right now, Bob Walk is struggling to find the groove, the rhythm, that will put him back in step with himself.