Wilmington Evening Journal - July 16, 1980

Green sees red over Ruthven’s blindness


By Ray Finocchiaro, Staff Writer


HOUSTON – Dallas Green may not be desperate enough to order a Seeing Eye dog for pitcher Dick Ruthven, but he is busy running his fingers through the Yellow Pages looking for a good optometrist after the Phillies lost 3-2 last night to the Houston Astros.


At least it's better than wrapping his hands around Ruthven's neck and squeezing.


The reason for the Philadelphia manager's dismay is Ruthven's apparent inability to see first baseman Pete Rose breaking toward the plate.


For last night, as Rose was homing in on the plate with Houston's Craig Reynolds squaring to bunt, Ruthven wheeled and almost uncorked a wild pickoff throw to first base, which was embarrassingly devoid of anyone in Phillies' blue at the time.


Instead, Ruthven held the ball for a balk. That sent Jeff Leonard to second, from where he scored when Ruthven fielded Reynolds' subsequent bunt and, off-balance, flung it over Rose's head to end the game.


"If you're a pitcher, can't you see a guy breaking (for the plate)?" Green said incredulously, not having to be reminded that Ruthven did exactly the same thing against the Mets two weeks ago.


"That means he's not paying attention. That's why half the guys steal on him – he can't see the bleeping runners! He must not be able to see. He's not seeing first base at all. If he is, he has to see the guy break."


Ruthven was not available to discuss his vision problem, throwing a few things around the Astrodome clubhouse and then retiring to the trainer's room to soak his arm.


"They're stealing on him, they're getting great leads and he's just not seeing it," Green said, rambling on to keep himself from joining the clubhouse destruction. "Part of your job as a pitcher is to hold guys on first. Sooner or later, somebody's gonna get to first on you. We can't have Pete breaking and him balking every five minutes."


Green's anger at Ruthven was just part of his overall displeasure with still another breakdown in his grind-it-out "team baseball" concept.


"One of these days people will listen to me about grind-it-out baseball," Green said. "I don't know when, but they'll listen. They will if they want to win. Every single run they got tonight was a mistake on our part."


Well, two of the three, anyway.


The Phils had taken a 1-0 lead off gimpy-legged Nolan Ryan in the first inning on four singles. It might have been worse but Manny Trillo, the league's top hitter, got caught in a rundown after singling to right.


Houston tied the game in the fourth with an unearned run. Terry Puhl snapped Ruthven's perfect game after 10 batters with, an infield single to second baseman Trillo in shallow right.


Puhl stole second, raced to third when catcher Bob Boone's throw skipped into center field and scored on Jose Cruz' sacrifice fly.


After the Phils had regained the lead with an unearned run of their own in the sixth, the Astros went to work on Ruthven in the last two innings.


They bunched three singles for their only legitimate run in the eighth, then watched Ruthven self-destruct in the ninth.


Green simply shook his head when asked about Reynolds' game-winning bunt, which Ruthven fielded and arched over the leaping Rose. The pitcher's ungainly pirouette was reminiscent of the dive Ruthven took that injured his shoulder on June 13.


"What good's it do you to make a play like that?" Green wondered. "You've got to shut it down, hold the ball and try to figure out a way to win from there. The worst is guys on first and third. You've got no chance on the error.


"You can't be a hero in that situation. The one time it works doesn't make up for the 10 times you lose a ballgame on it."


Ruthven wasn't alone in Green's doghouse. Del Unser, starting in left field against Ryan with Greg Luzinski at home with a sore right knee, had a corner to himself, too.


What angered Green was Unser's failure to advance Bake McBride with a bunt in the ninth. McBride had greeted left-hander Joe Sambito with a single to left and, instead of sending up Lonnie Smith to swing away, Green ordered lefty Unser to bunt.


Normally a good bunter, Del tried twice and failed, then swung away and hit into a double play.


"Unser not getting the bunt down was another example of not playing team baseball," said Green. "If he's gonna hit away, I'll pinch hit with a right-hander, for heaven's sake!"


Unser also struck out with Trillo at third and one out in the sixth, after McBride had gotten Rose home with the second run.


"We don't get a run in from third again," mumbled Green. "Team baseball. This game was a perfect example of how not to play team baseball. We play great baseball for seven innings and forget how to play it for two. That's how you get beat in these kind of games."


EXTRA INNINGS – Mike Schmidt was scratched with an aggravation of his pulled hamstring two minutes before the lineup was handed to the umpires... "Mike came in after hitting and it tightened up a little," said Green. "He was apprehensive and I'm not one to put apprehensive players in the lineup. I don't want him down four or five weeks. At least he's being honest with me"... Nolan Ryan, who was questionable himself with a swollen left ankle, retired 13 straight Phils after they scored in the first... Unser singled home the Phils' first run, but Trillo's base-running blunder scotched a potential big inning... Ruthven was 2-0 vs. the Astros this season before last night... Rose and Garry Maddox have hit in seven straight... Boone's 954th game put him second on the Phils' all-time games-caught list... Bob Walk pitches against the Astros' Ken Forsch tonight at 8 35. The game again will be beamed back to Philadelphia on Channel 17.