Allentown Morning Call - August 29, 1980

Phillies appear to have everything except division lead going for them


By Ted Meixell, Call Sports Writer


Steve Carlton has won 20 games, the only National League hurler to do so. He's a runaway leader in strikeouts and, Jim Bibby and Jerry Reuss notwithstanding, he's a shoo-in to win his third Cy Young Award. 


Mike Schmidt leads the league in home runs (35) and runs batted in (93). He's got 10 game-winning hits and, despite having an off year defensively, he's still considered a great third baseman. 


Bake McBride, who during the off-season and spring training was the most mentioned Phillie in trade talks, is having what Pete Rose calls "an MVP-type year." He's hitting .313, has 74 RBI (a career high), is tied for the league lead in triples and is playing rightfield to perfection.


Manny Trillo is far and away the best second baseman in the league. He plays flawless defense and, as of Wednesday, led the league in hitting. 


Lonnie Smith, despite his base-running and defensive pratfalls, is hitting .351 and has 28 stolen bases. Rookie pitcher Bob Walk has nine wins. The Bull is back, and so is Larry Christenson. And Pete Rose... well, he's still Pete Rose. 


Yet, despite all the plusses and the euphoric aftermath of Carlton's 20th win, a 4-3 thriller over the Dodgers Wednesday, the Phils still are 2½ games in arrears of Pittsburgh and 2 behind Montreal in the National League East.


How can that be? 


Simple. The Phils, despite all the talent, still don't have a quality staff of starting pitchers. Carlton can't carry the load by himself, and Walk is too young and inexperienced to be counted on in the waning weeks of the season. 


Secondly, the Phils all too often go through stretches of four and five games during which they play with all the enthusiasm of a guy on his way to an Internal Revenue Service audit. To make any headway in the final month, they must play every game the way they played Wednesday – with intensity.


Thirdly, the Phils have been unable to beat the teams they have to beat with any regularity – notably the Big Bad Buccos, whom the Phils have topped only four times in 14 tries. 


All right, but can they pull it all together and win the East? Definitely. Will they? Probably not, I'm sorry to say. 


Perhaps the biggest reason is the fact that they have to catch – and pass – not one team, but two. Let's look at Philadelphia's progress since Aug. 7, when Carlton beat St. Louis 3-2 for his 17th victory. That one, like the win Wednesday over Los Angeles, was on getaway day – and the team seemed rarin' to go. Montreal led the Pirates by a game and a half and the Phils by 3½. 


What came next was the four-game wipeout at Pittsburgh, the one punctuated by Dallas Green's locker room tirade between games of the Sunday doubleheader. The Phils limped into Chicago trailing both the Pirates and the Expos by six. 


But they began to get fat against the less-than-first-rate competition in Chicago and New York, winning two of three from the Cubs dnd sweeping five from the Mets. Philadelphia then trailed the Pirates by 3½. 


The recent home stand was a 5-5 standoff. Since Aug. 7 the Phils had gained 1½ games on the Expos but slipped a hall-game further behind the Pirates – which illustrates the added difficulty of chasing two teams instead of one:


If the Phils are to win their fourth Eastern crown in five years, it will take the following: 


●  Carlton must continue to win – perhaps even match his 27-10 record of 1972.


●  Christenson and Dick Ruthven will have to win. It's asking too much of Walk to continue to pitch at a .750 pace. And Nino Espinosa and Randy Lerch simply can't be counted on. 


●  The Phils, a streaky hitting team, are in the midst of a productive period. They can ill afford September slumps by the likes of Schmidt, McBride, Rose or Trillo.


●  There are four games left with Pittsburgh – two at home. Philly must win three of the four. Three losses to the Bucs spell disaster; a 2-2 split gets the Phils nowhere. 


●  If the Phils do take three from the Pirates, the two three-game sets with the Expos – on the last two weekends of the season – will decide the issue. If the Phils win fewer than four, the divisional flag will not fly over Veterans Stadium.


Can they do it? Maybe. But don't bet the house on it, Harry.