Wilmington Evening Journal - August 7, 1980

Healthy Sykes makes Phillies look sick


By Ray Finocchiaro, Staff Writer


PHILADELPHIA – Bob Sykes knew what everybody in Houston apparently didn't – that J R. Richard had a blood clot. By the time the folks in Houston found out, Richard almost died.


Sykes says he knows the feeling because he, too, had a blood clot.


"There was one major difference," said the St. Louis Cardinals' left-hander after blanking the Phillies 14-0 last night at Veterans Stadium. "My clot was in my arm and J.R.'s was in his neck. The worst they could do to me was cut off my arm. They can't cut off your head."


Sykes wasn't making jokes at Richard's expense. He was concerned with the Astro right-hander's condition and probable rehabilitation. And he wonders about the lengthy diagnosis that found nothing until it was almost too late.


"When I heard JR. was complaining about fatigue in his arm, fatigue but not soreness., a clot was the first thing I thought of," Sykes said. "He's lucky to be alive."


In his own case, doctors in Detroit first detected a clot in Sykes' left arm, but the club decided against an operation. After arriving in St. Louis, Sykes and the club opted for an operation that sidelined him for six weeks of the 79 season.


"They went in and cut out the clot," Sykes recalled. "After the operation, they told me it hadn't worked because they couldn't find a pulse. They wanted to take something out of my leg and put it in my arm, like a bypass. That would've been it. I wouldn't have been able to pitch.


"But, during lunch, a nurse came up and found a pulse. That saved it."


Sykes hopes J R. Richard is as fortunate, though he admits, "I just had to get the arm going. J.R.'s got his left side paralyzed."


Sykes paralyzed the Phillies' bats last night, limiting them to three hits and extending his scoreless string to 19 innings against them. He beat them 1-0 in 10 innings in St. Louis on July 4 in the game that marked Nino Espinosa's return from arm miseries.


"A 14-0 lead will make a Sandy Koufax out of anybody," said Sykes, downplaying his mastery of the free-swinging Phils, who suffered the second-most-lopsided shutout loss in club history.


Sykes knows all about big leads. The Cards staked him to 9-0 and 15-3 leads against the Pirates in his first start of the season, but Sykes was gone by the seventh, and the Cards barely hung on to win 15-13.


"The guy who pitched that day tried to throw nothing but fastballs," said Sykes. "Tonight I told myself that it was 0-0 all the way. The Phillies are like the Pirates, a good-hitting club, but I just got lucky."


He also got a ton of runs, in early bunches.


"Sykes has learned to pitch a bit in the last few months," said Cardinal Manager Whitey Herzog. "He changes speeds now and that's making him a winner."


Catcher Ted Simmons, who drove in four . runs with four hits, complimented his batterymate.


"He's a good pitcher because he changes speeds and throws strikes," Simmons said. "He's turned into the kind of pitcher you saw tonight. He used to be a left-hander who just threw hard and tried to go as long as he could."


What caused the change?


"They'd been telling me to change for four years, in Detroit and here," Sykes said. "But a 10.51 earned run average and 1-6 record told me I'd better start changing. My ERA has gone down, but wins still have to come (Sykes is 5-8). But now I'm a pitcher, not a thrower."


Sykes feels his use of all three pitches – fastball, slider, changeup – keeps free-swinging clubs like the Phillies off-balance.


"I like a team that comes up swinging and the Phillies swing more than anybody, even the Pirates," Sykes said. "I use all my pitches and as long as I get my stuff over the plate, they might hit a few popups and get a little doubt in their minds."


The Phillies did a lot of doubting – and cursing – as they watched the Cards bang out 16 hits against five pitchers to make a loser of Bob Walk (8-2). Three Phils' errors didn't help.


The Cardinals' runs came in bunches. BIG bunches.


St. Louis got five runs in the first, as Walk needed 42 pitches to get the side out.


Tom Herr, who attends the University of Delaware in the off-season, opened the game with a triple and scored on Leon Durham's single to left. Other key hits were Simmons' RBI-double and a two-run single by Ken Oberkfell.


The Cards added seven runs in the third with a Mike Schmidt error looming prominently in the mayhem.


Walk was driven from the mound by three straight singles that upped the count to 6-0. Kevin Saucier relieved and promptly served up a checked-swing single to Mike Phillips that made it 7-0 and gave Phillips his first RBI of the season.


Then Sykes bunted back to the mound and the agile Saucier pounced on the ball and rifled it to third for the apparent force. But Schmidt never saw the ball and it sailed past him as two more runs scored.


Keith Hernandez doubled home a pair and Simmons singled Hernandez home before Saucier escaped the inning.


The Phillies didn't get a hit off Sykes until Lonnie Smith's leadoff single in the fourth. Lonnie stole second, his 11th straight steal and 21st overall, but he died on second.


Even Smith's heroics came to an end as he was caught stealing after walking in the sixth.


"It was just one of those nights, said Phils Manager Dallas Green. "They were hot, scored early and there wasn't a damn thing we could do about it. We'll just, have to put this game out of our minds and try to come out and beat somebody tomorrow night."


That somebody is the St. Louis Cardinals and Green will have Steve Carlton on the mound. The Cards would have liked to stockpile a few of those 14 runs for use against their ex-teammate, just as the Phils would have liked Tuesday night's torrential rains to spill over an extra night.


"Where was Bill Giles' radar when we needed it?" wondered Green.


EXTRA INNINGS - The 14 runs were the most scored against the Phillies this season... Bob Boone, playing in his 1,000th major-league game, made his 12th error of the season when he threw wildly trying to pick off Hendrick in the third... In addition to Schmidt and Boone, Garry Maddox also chipped in with an error... The two innings Walk lasted comprised his shortest stint in the majors, even shorter than the 2 innings he lasted in his debut against Pittsburgh and the 2 innings in San Diego... Bake McBride's nine-game hitting streak ended, though Bake had only two at-bats before getting an early rest... Cards are 29-23 under Manager Whitey Herzog... Carlton starts against the Cards' John Fulgham tonight at 7:35 before the Phils leave for on a three-city, 12-game road trip to Pittsburgh, Chicago and New York… All 12 games will be seen on Channel 17.