Philadelphia Inquirer - July 17, 1980

Walk’s 3-hitter squelches Astros, 4-2


Phillies’ rookie now 6-0


By Danny Robbins, Inquirer Staff Writer


HOUSTON – As usual, he made a few mistakes a home run ball here, a fielding mistake there. But, as usual, the numbers came up in Bob Walk's favor.


It wasn't flawless or smooth, but it was a three-hitter for Walk as the Phillies beat the Astros, 4-2, last night in the cool of the Astrodome.


So the guy up from Oklahoma City who couldn't pitch straight is 6-0. You might even call him a stopper, because he pulled the Phillies out of a three-game losing streak.


True, he lost a race to first base with Jose Cruz. Yes, he threw a nice high, fat fastball to Art Howe, who put it in the left-field seats. OK, so he was called out on a silly dash to third base.


Most of the time, particularly in the early and late innings, he was very tough on the Astros.


"The stuff," said Dallas Green, "has always been there. We've talked about that before. Now he's getting the confidence he needed, and he's getting closer and closer to being a complete pitcher."


Help from Trillo


While Manny Trillo continued to drill the ball, getting two singles and scoring twice, Walk did, indeed, continue to give the Phillies' pitching staff a healthy look. This was his second complete game (two in his last three starts). He let the spaciousness of the Dome help him, and he certainly gave up hits sparingly.


The Astros, not exactly bombers, got a cheap one in the first Cruz beating out his two-out bouncer to Pete Rose when Walk was slow covering on the play. They got the homer from Howe in the fourth. And they got a final infield single from Cruz in the ninth.


In truth, the only drama was the Howe homer. It was the Astros' 15th in the Dome this season, matching their output at home for all of 1979, and, more to the point here, made a 3-0 game 3-2.


Walk had retired nine men in a row when, with two out in the fourth, he walked Cesar Cedeno. He worked to 3-2 on the next batter, Howe, and the Astros' third baseman cracked the next pitch a little bit to the left of the 390-foot mark in left.


'A little awkward'


"On the first two hitters," Walk said, "I felt a little awkward. That happens sometimes. You'll be going along, pitching well, and, all of a sudden, you'll get out of your rhythm."


After Walk managed to walk the next hitter, Alan Ashby, Green was making his typical dash to the mound. "He was a little pooped," Green said. "He gave 'em the two-out chance when he walked Cedeno. He got behind on Howe and gave up the home run. He could have cracked then, but he didn't."


Walk got a popup to center from Craig Reynolds to end the inning.


"When I first came up, things like that (the home run) used to bother me," he said. "But now I say, 'To hell with it,' and I don't let it make any difference."


It showed last night. Walk gave up a walk to Terry Puhl with two out in the fifth, then retired the next 10 men in order before the Cruz hit in the ninth.


Solace for Green


"Walk is still pitching damn well, and that's why he's undefeated," Green said later as he savored this victory and his 23-year-old pitcher. "He just pitched a darn good game. His fastball was real good, and he had a good curveball tonight. In his last start (6-2/3 innings against the Cubs), he didn't have that."


He had two runs to work with after the first inning. Rose, who is now over .300 (.301), hit the first of two doubles and scored on Bake McBride's line single up the middle as the Phillies got down to business against Ken Forsch, the Astros' starter. McBride got to third on a bloop hit by Keith Moreland and scored on a groundout. So it was 2-0.


The Phillies added to that in the fourth when Trillo led off with a single, stole second and went to third on catcher Ashby's throwing error and scored on Lonnie Smith's ground single into shallow right. That's also when Walk, who had walked, was thrown out at third to end the inning.


That mistake looked bad when the Astros made it a one-run game. But then, in the sixth, the Phillies added another run – using another Trillo single, another Houston throwing error (by shortstop Reynolds) and John Vukovich's sacrifice fly.


And that was plenty to sustain Walk in the end, which isn't bad for a guy who, Green admits, would "in all probability" still be laboring in Oklahoma City had not the Phillies been hit with their injury problems and inconsistency on the mound.


"But," Green said, "he's earned his keep. That's for sure."


For sure, he did in the ninth. With one out, Cruz came up with an infield single off Vukovich's glove. But Walk got the next two men, Cedeno and Howe, to ground out sharply to Vukovich at third.


It was a special, if strange, ending in the Dome for Walk, who was thrown out of Dodger Stadium four years ago when, as a spectator, he threw a tennis ball at Cedeno (and missed him, by the way).


Why did he throw that ball?


"Because," Walk said, "I was drunk."


Why did he miss?


"Because my vision was blurry."


But he was in command against Cedeno last night. "The first time he came up," Walk said, recalling the incident, "I thought about that time. The last time, all I thought about was getting him out and getting a complete game."