Wilmington Morning News - July 16, 1980

Ruthven’s lapse costs Phils game


By Ray Finocchiaro, Staff Correspondent


HOUSTON - What the Phillies had here last night was a failure to communicate. And Dallas Green wasn't too thrilled about it.


The Phils manager decried the lack of "team baseball" as the Phillies lost a 3-2 game to the Houston Astros.


Green was particularly upset with losing pitcher Dick Ruthven's ninth-inning balk that set up the winning run. Ruthven compounded that sin by throwing wildly to first on Craig Reynolds' sacrifice as pinch runner Jeff Leonard raced home.


Ruthven balked Leonard to second when he wheeled and intended to throw to first base, which Pete Rose had left unguarded as he rushed toward home with Reynolds readying to bunt.


"If you're a pitcher, how can you NOT see a guy breaking (toward the plate)?" said Green. "That means he (Ruthven) is 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 over there."


Ruthven made an identical play against the New York Mets June 28, balking as Rose was breaking.


"It's part of your job as a pitcher to hold guys on first," said Green, who used to pitch a few himself years ago. "You know sooner or later somebody's gonna get to first base on you. We can't have Pete breaking and him balking every five minutes."


Green didn't content himself with rapping Ruthven. He made it a team effort.


"This was a perfect example of how not to play team baseball," he said. "We play great baseball for seven innings and forget to play it for two. That's how you get beat in these kind of games."


Besides Ruthven's one-man horror show in the ninth, Green was less than thrilled with Del Unser's non-bunt in the top half of the inning against winner Joe Sambito, who relieved starter Nolan Ryan after eight innings.


After Bake McBride singled to left, Green sent Unser up to advance McBride with a bunt. But Unser failed miserably on two attempts, then wound up grounding into a double play.


"If I wanted somebody to hit, I'd have sent up a pinch-hitter," said Green. "Del not getting that bunt down was another example of failing to play team baseball."


The Astros certainly did their share, tying the game on three straight singles with one out in the eighth, then loading the bases before Ruthven could get Art Howe on a pop fly to Manny Trillo in shallow right.


But the ninth proved to be the killer. Alan Ashby opened the Astros' half of the ninth with a solid single and pinch-runner Leonard and Ruthven took care of the rest.


"You know coming in here that historically these games will be 1-0, 2-1 or 3-2," said Green. "Everybody has trouble scoring here, so you have to be conscious of what the hell's going on in this game."


Last night Dick Ruthven fell asleep at the wheel... and the Astros aren't in first place in the NL West for nothing.


The Phillies collected four first-inning singles against Ryan but could manage just one run.


Rose started the game with a single off Ryan's glove and Trillo-singled off the glove of second baseman Rafael Landestoy.


But Trillo tried to take one base too many and was caught in a rundown between first and second as Rose took third. That baserunning gaffe was to prove costly.


After McBride flied out, Unser singled to left center to get Rose home. Garry Maddox extended his hitting streak to seven games with the Phils' fourth single but Bob Boone ended the inning with a ground ball.


Ryan retired 13 straight Phils before Rose walked to open the sixth.


And to prove that his swollen left ankle, injured during Monday night's batting practice and making him a questionable starter at game' time, was sound, Ryan made four putouts at first base on flips from Denny Walling during the Phils' 13-man malaise.


Ruthven, meanwhile, breezed, through the Astro lineup the first time through, retiring nine straight batters to stir fleeting thoughts of a perfect game.


But with one out in the fourth, Terry Puhl beat out an infield single to Trillo in the hole for the Astros' first hit.


With Walling batting, Puhl stole second and raced to third when Boone's throw skipped into center field. After Walling walked, Puhl scored on Jose Cruz's sacrifice fly to right to tie the game.


The Phils "solved" Ryan – and regained the lead in the sixth – on an unearned run.


Rose walked and broke for second as Trillo hit a chopper to third baseman Art Howe. Howe unwisely opted to throw to second but the ball never got that far, squirting off his fingertips and sailing into center field as Rose took third and Trillo sailed into second.


McBride's groundout to second scored Rose for a 2-1 Phils' lead.


Walling tripled off the right field wall with two out in the sixth but couldn't score as Cruz grounded out.


EXTRA INNINGS - Third baseman Mike Schmidt was scratched from the lineup at game time after reaggravating his pulled hamstring in a rundown Monday night... Astros recalled pitcher Gordy Pladson and first baseman Danny Heep (batting .343 with 17 homers, 69 RBI at Tucson) and optioned lefty Randy Niemann and infielder Julio Gonzalez... Tug McGraw is expected to come off the disabled list Thursday, which means the Phils will have to demote a pitcher, probably Dan Larson... Rookie Bob Walk (5-0) faces Ken Forsch tonight at 8:35 (Channel 17) with Steve Carlton vs. Joe Niekro tomorrow.

Richard’s stomach pain a pang to Astros


By Ray Finocchiaro, Staff Correspondent


HOUSTON -What ails J.R.?


The question does not have the same urgency as "Who shot J.R.?" does in Dallas, but folks hereabouts are still buzzing about the mysterious ailment that caused Houston Astros right-hander J.R. Richard to leave the mound early in Monday night's game against the Atlanta Braves, a game the front-running Astros eventually lost.


J.R. himself says he had an upset stomach.


"I felt a little nauseous and I knew if I felt that way I shouldn't stay out there," Richard said after the game between bites of fried chicken, meatballs and rice with gravy, a miraculous recovery apparently having taken place. The tainted, pregame hamburger that caused Richard's "nauseousness" plop-plopped and fizz-fizzed away.


"I feel okay now that I got myself straightened out."


Richard had literally been teetering on the mound between pitches and finally left after 3 innings, allowing just one hit and striking out four.


"Who's sick?" asked Astros' Manager Bill Virdon when reporters wondered about J.R.'s tummyache. "That's not what he told me. He said his arm was getting tired."


And what did Richard's teammates say after the game?


"We're in a pennant race and he pulls this," said one, further straining the already-tenuous relationship between the 6-foot-8 fire-baller and his teammates, who feel J.R. is a bit too arrogant for his and their own good.


"Of course it would be better for everybody if it hadn't happened," said Virdon, aware of the team's displeasure with its ace, despite his 10-4 record, 1.89 ERA and 119 strikeouts.


"But that's life. I hope he gets straightened out. I hope he can pitch. If it means he has to take some time off to be able to pitch, okay."


The Braves shook their heads at Richard's wobbling act Monday night.


"J.R. looked dizzy and was acting funny," said Atlanta manager Bobby Cox.


"J.R.'s eyes were rolling back in his head," said Braves' catcher Bruce Benedict. "You could tell there was something definitely wrong, but it wasn't his arm."


And nothing fried chicken and meatballs couldn't cure.


Richard pitching at all was something of a surprise since he had returned from the All-Star Game in Los Angeles with news that orthopedic specialist Dr. Frank Jobe had recommended that Richard take 30 days off to rest his ailing right arm and just "go fishing."


Dr. Harold Brelsford, the Astros' team physician, finally caught up with the elusive Jobe Monday and discovered that Jobe had not prescribed a 30-day cure.


"Dr. Jobe said he recommended to J R. that he might lay out for one turn (in the rotation)," said Brelsford, "and that he cut down on his social life and improve his dietary intake. He says J.R. can go out and pitch and if his arm tires after six or seven innings, he should come out.


"He may have mild chronic inflammatory changes in his muscles, but not to a degree that it has to be recommended that he lay out for any long period of time."


Relayed the new "diagnosis," Richard told Houston writers he'd never been told to take 30 days off, nor did he ever believe he'd be out that long.


"That's just something I told you all," he smiled. "Yeah, I did say that, definitely, but I hadn't decided anything, either."


Asked why he said it, J.R. smiled again and said, "I just felt like it."


Dallas' J.R. Ewing couldn't have said it any better.