Wilmington Evening Journal - August 27, 1980

Slumping Phillies still in NL East chase


Green predicts race ‘is going to the wire’


By Hal Bodley, Sports Editor


PHILADELPHIA – The Phillies are sitting in third place in the National League East, 3l2 games behind first-place Pittsburgh. They are 65-58 with 39 games to go.


The Pirates, on the other hand, have a 70-56 record with 36 to go, while second-place Montreal is 69-56 with 37 games left.


The point is this: even as poorly as the Phils have played on this homestand, they are still in the NL East chase.


"Sure we are," said Manager Dallas Green after the Phils never got their act in high gear while losing to Los Angeles 8-4 at Veterans Stadium last night. "I think this race is going to the wire. I just can't see any team pulling away."


It has been an unusual summer for the contenders. The Pirates swept tough Cincinnati last weekend, but now have lost two straight to weak Atlanta. The Phils have been able to handle Houston, but the Pirates can't. It goes on and on.


"It's the way the division is set up," said Green. "The East teams have had a lot more success playing the West than they have had against each other."


That's true. The Phils have a 34-26 log against the Western Division, while they are 31-32 in their own division.


"To run away with a division like Kansas City is doing in American League West, you have to go out and win 10 of 12, then 12 of 15 and 15 of 17," said Green. "I just can't see that happening in our division, or in the West either for that matter."


The Veterans Stadium customers have become disgruntled during this homestand that shows the Phils with a 3-5 record and only tonight's game remaining.


After blitzing the Mcts in New York 10 days ago, the Phils have fallen back to their inconsistent form. The defense has lapsed and the pitching has been shoddy for the most part.


"But I think we're in good shape," said Green. "I don't think it's a catastrophe just because we have been losing. I'm not about to panic and I'm sure my players are not about to panic. We win a couple of games and they lose a couple of games and it's turned around quickly.


"Atlanta tried to help us the last two nights by beating the Pirates, but we were unable to take advantage of it."


The Phils send Steve Carlton out for another try for his 20th victory tonight, while the Dodgers .counter with Bob Welch. After that, the Phils take tomorrow off, then head for San Diego and the start of a 10-game roadtrip in nine days.


Trips such as this one to the West Coast late in the season have been disastrous for many Eastern Division teams.


"We've played well against San Diego," said Green. "The Giants have given us a lot of trouble, but two of the best games we've played all year were played in Dodger Stadium the first trip out there. No, I'm not worried about the trip."


Green is concerned, however, about rookie Bob Walk. When the young right-hander arrived from Oklahoma City in the spring, he had severe control problems. Once he got in a good groove, nobody worried about his control too much. Now he's having the same problems.


Last night Walk did not make it through the third inning as the Dodgers built up a 7-1 lead.


Shortstop Bill Russell singled home the first run in the second inning after the Phils had gone ahead 1-0, and the Dodgers jumped on Walk and reliever Randy Lerch for four in the third.


A walk to leadoff batter Davey Lopes started Walk's downfall in that inning. Jay Johnstone followed with a triple and Dusty Baker roped a single to make it 3-1. After Ron Cey walked, Green had seen enough. Lerch came on and gave up run-scoring singles to Rick Monday and catcher Mike Scioscia, a last-minute replacement for the injured Steve Yeager.


"I'm going to have a talk with Bob Walk," said Green in a fatherly tone. "He was in a real good groove before his last two starts. 1 think maybe he's trying to be too fine. All he has to do is throw the ball. Maybe a little change is needed, but as far as I'm concerned, he's going to stay in the rotation."


Walk, disgusted with his latest performance, left the park after he was removed and went to his apartment about a block from the stadium. He listened to the game on the radio, then decided to return to the clubhouse and answer reporters' questions.


"I don't know what changes I could make," said Walk, who is now 9-3 with a 4.87 earned run average. "After the first inning, I was just trying to throw the ball down the middle of the plate and missing. It bothers me as much as it does everybody else. I've got to work it out."


In addition to the two costly singles in the third, Lerch gave up a two-run homer to Dusty Baker after walking Johnstone, and the last run scored when Cey homered off Ron Reed.


"I think Paul Pryor squeezed (the strike zone on) Randy on that walk to Johnstone," said Green. "I don't understand why Lerch can't get those strikes called and why the Phillies can't get them called, but don't get my blood pressure up."


The night before, Green and Pryor went at it and later the manager said the umpire has not done a very good job working Phillies games, "and I told him to wake up."


EXTRA POINTS - The Phils scored three times in the fourth inning to chase starter Rick Sutcliffe, but after that were unable to come up with key hits against relievers Joe Beckwith and winner Bob Castillo.. , Castillo allowed just two singles over four innings... Beckwith had to leave the game when he injured a finger sliding into second base in the sixth inning... He also has been suffering from a tender elbow... Pinch-hitter George Vukovich delivered a key run-producing single in the Phils' fourth... Manny Trillo's 12-game hitting streak came to an end... Pete Rose moved into fourth place on the all-time hits list, going ahead of Tris Speaker with 3,516... Larry Bowa moved into third place on the Phillies' at-bats list with. 7,122.