Philadelphia Daily News - August 9, 1980
Bucs Pirouette Past Phils
By Bud Shaw
PITTSBURGH – Since both the Phillies and the Pirates were running the bases like they were suffering from dyslexia, it seemed only appropriate that the winning run should be scored backward.
Dallas Green didn't think so, of course, but that had more to do with watching the Pirates walk away from this streetfight laughing than any aversion the Phillies manager might have to entertaining the fans.
The game was tied, 5-5, in the bottom of the eighth inning when Mike Easier hit Tug McGraw's first pitch off the left-center field wall. Three inches higher and Easier wouldn't have had to stop at second base. Four batters later, it really didn't matter.
McGraw intentionally walked Bill Madlock, and while Madlock was trotting to first, Matt Alexander was I taking Easler's place at second. Alexander is not famous for many things but running is one of them, and when Ed Ott moved both runners along with a sacrifice bunt, Alexander was only 90 feet away from doing his thing.
KENT TEKULVE IS also famous for only one specialty, which is why Lee Lacy was chosen to pinch-hit for the Pirate reliever. Lacy drove a McGraw fastball to deep center, giving Alexander more than enough time to run the first 80 feet frontward and the final 10 backward.
There is no rating for degree of difficulty in this sport, but Alexander's pirouette still made the scoreboard lights flash and the Pirates survived the top of the ninth for a 6-5 win that moved them to within one game of the Montreal Expos.
"Mr. Alexander has to feel like he's part of the team," surmised Green, who made every strategic move for which a manager gets paid but didn't have the added luxury of implementing the strategies.
"I guess that's why he does those kind of things. Of course, he doesn't often get up there to hit after he does something like that. I wonder what the reaction would be if it were reversed and it was our guys doing that."
For one thing, it would mean the Phillies were scoring runs, but that wasn't what Green had in mind.
"What they gotta realize," said Willie Stargell, who put the Pirates ahead with a two-run homer off Dick Ruthven in the fourth, "is that's Matt's style.
"He's not trying to show anybody up. Is Pete (Rose) showing anybody up when he spikes the ball? Is Tug showing anybody up when he slaps his thigh with his glove?"
PROBABLY NOT, BUT there was no way Green could appreciate Alexander's artistic expression after watching the butcherlike manner in which the Phillies went about things in the sixth.
They were trailing, 3-2, with Stargell at second base and one out when Green opted to intentionally walk Madlock. It didn't seem like a bad idea until Kevin Saucier, who relieved Ruthven after the fifth, threw a pitch that Bob Boone would have had no trouble catching had he been crouched behind the plate instead of standing three yards to the right of it.
Stargell went to third on what was ruled a passed ball. Saucier then managed to intentionally walk Madlock but Ed Ott ripped a high slider to right to make it 4-2.
"I believe Kevin understood we were intentionally walking the guy," said Green. "You'd have to ask him why he threw the pitch where he did because I can't explain it."
It wasn't the last thing which boggled Green's mind. That was orchestrated by Dickie Noles, who one out later gave pitcher Rick Rhoden a chance to prove he could hit a fat fastball down the middle of the plate. That made it 5-2, which might have been enough had the Phillies not been playing with the odds on their side.
They had suffered through 58 innings without a home run when Garry Maddox opened the seventh with a shot over the left-field wall. And if felt so nice they did it twice, Manny Trillo parking the very next pitch to make it 5-4.
"I LIKED THE way we battled back," Green said. "It was a game that might have been out of reach. But in the end it was a typical Pirate-Phillies game."
Which is to say the Phils came close enough to salivating over a win and ended up swallowing another loss. And the fact that they managed to tie the game in the eighth when Lonnie Smith scored from third on a double-play ball off the bat of Bake McBride, only made the whole thing harder to gulp down.
"They (the Phils) shouldn't be too concerned," said Pirate Manager Chuck Tanner. "We play 'em a set here and there'll be another one after this. If you win them all or lose them all, it really doesn't make any difference."
The series may be just another Iron City beer to Tanner and Green, but it also has the potential of producing a horrible hangover for somebody before this four-pack is finally chugged dry. And the last time anybody checked. Tanner looked as sober as a preacher.
"We've certainly been in a lot of games like this with them," complained Green. "Right now, I'd say we're pushing the odds.
"For most of the night we played like hell but we did fight back. They just happened to come up with one more run than we did."
If Green couldn't appreciate that it was scored by a guy running backward, it's only because he pays close attention to the slandings. The direction, it seems, was all too familiar.
PHILUPS: Nino Espinosa vs. John Candelaria today... Randy Lerch and probably Bob Walk or Dan Larson will pitch in tomorrow's double header against Jim Bibby and Bert Blyleven. Phils had one run gunned down in the sixth when Omar Moreno threw Pete Rose out at the plate... The homer by Garry Maddox was his first since July 13... Tug McGraw took the loss and is now 0-4.
There were three winners in the Daily News Home Run Payoff last night. In the fifth inning of the Phillies-Pirates game, Marion Reid Jr. of Philadelphia, Eleanor M. Brennan of King of Prussia, and Frank Wolf of Marlton, N.J., each won four tickets to a Phillies game.
So far the Daily News has paid out $13,800. Today entry coupon appears on Page 37.