Philadelphia Daily News - July 16, 1980
Ruthven Throws It Away
By Bill Conlin
HOUSTON –In politics, this is a week for the reiteration of familiar themes, as the Grand Old Party mounts another drive on the White House.
It seemed appropriate that Dallas Green would reiterate a theme he has tried to force-feed the Phillies since the first week in March.
Hey, guys, we're not the 1927 Yankees. We've got to grind it out, grind it out, grind it out. Do the little things that have to be done to win the one-run ballgames. Move the runner with the bunt, hit-and-run, stolen base, ground ball to the right side.
The Phillies stood amid their fading 1976, ‘77 and ‘78 press clippings last season and waited or something to happen. It did. Danny Ozark was fired and Green came down from the front office to tell the athletes that they were The Wizard's executioners.
The old theme was restated last night after the Phillies coughed up a 3-2 loss to an Astros team superior to them only in pitching.
THE ASTROS GROUND out the only legitimate run they scored all night in the eighth, tying it, 2-2, with successive one-out singles by Rafael Landestoy, Terry Puhl and Denny Walling. Then Green grimly watched a ninth-inning horror show produced, directed and choreographed by Dick Ruthven.
The nightmare finish unraveled like this:
Catcher Alan Ashby led it off with a single to right. Overbrook High's Jeff Leonard came in to pinch-run and shortstop Craig Reynolds, who led the league in sacrifices last year, came up to bunt. There was no doubt that he was up there to do anything else.
Pete Rose was charging from first as Ruthven went into his stretch. When Rose left, Leonard took a big lead, which is when Ruthven decided to pick him off first.
Now Rose is a lot of things, but invisible is not one of them. It is difficult to miss a man his size thundering toward the plate like a blitzing linebacker. But Ruthven missed all the tell-tale signs. When he whirled to nail Leonard there was nobody there. Ruthven held onto the ball, a ball in any league.
"If you're a pitcher, you've got to see the guy breaking." Green grumbled after the Phillies lost another late-inning lead on a night when Mike Schmidt was scratched from the lineup two minutes before the card was sent to home plate. "That's the way half the guys steal on Dick. He can't see runners breaking. He just can't see first base, I guess. He did the same damn thing in the doubleheader with the Mets."
REYNOLDS, A brilliant bunter. dropped a soft one to the third base side of the mound. Ruthven chose the occasion to attempt a heroic play, his patented fall-away, go-for-it throw, the one which he injured himself on last month. The ball sailed over Manny Trillo covering first and Leonard jogged home with the winning run.
"You can't be a hero in that situation." Green said. "The one time it works doesn't make up for the 10 times you lose a ballgame for it. You've got to take into consideration who the runner is, stick the ball in your pocket and think of another way to get 'em out with runners on first and third. Even if he makes a great play and throws him out, where the hell are we? Runner on third with one out in the ninth on the road."
Then Green issued his summation.
"Top of the ninth we get the leadoff runner on and Del Unser can't get a bunt down." Dallas said. "Hell, if I wanted to have somebody swinging in that spot I would have hit for him against Joe Sambito. Sixth inning, we've got a runner on third with a run home and nobody out and we can't score him.
"Games here are historically 1-0, 2-I. You know that when you walk in this place. That's why teams have to be conscious of things like that here. It was how not to play baseball in two innings on a night we played great baseball for seven innings."
DALLAS ROLLED INTO the peroration like William Jennings Bryan making the Cross of Gold speech.
"One of these days, our guys will start listening to me about grind-it-out, team baseball. I don't know when, but they will listen if they want to win. They scored three runs and two of them came on our mistakes. Other than that, Dick pitched a super ballgame. He had an excellent breaking ball, good sinking fastball and a good change-up. This is a good park to throw a changeup."
It's a good park for a team like the Phillies to stay away from.
It's not easy for a team that surrendered an 11-10 lead to the Pirates the night before to travel 2,000 miles and surrender a 2-1 lead.
PHILUPS: Nolan Ryan did not have his strikeout pitch, so the Phils bludgeoned him for one run on four hits in the first inning. A potential big inning was dashed when Manny Trillo was caught in a rundown after singling Pete Rose to third. Ryan proceeded to retire the next 13 batters and the Phils scored a sloppy run in the sixth without a hit, thanks to an error by third baseman Art Howe... Bob Walk vs. Ken Forsch tonight. Walk should be tough in a park built for power pitchers. Forsch will be tough... Mike Schmidt scratched himself from the lineup when his hamstring pull tightened up alter infield practice.
There were three winners last night in the Daily News Home Run Payoff contest. In the eighth inning of the Phillies-Astros game, Marge John Plews of Philadelphia won $10, plus four tickets to a Phillies game, on Dick Ruthven's single.
Winners of four tickets each were Stuart Thompson of Wayne and Mike Frain of Oreland, Pa.
So far the Daily News has paid out $12,285.
Today's entry coupon appears on Page 57.