Wilmington Morning News - July 17, 1980

Walk takes charge 4-2


By Ray Finocchiaro, Staff Correspondent


HOUSTON – Bob Walk liked his first look at the Astrodome. Pitching a three-hitter for his sixth straight big-league victory, it was hard not to.


Walk, the Phils' biggest surprise of the season, handcuffed the Houston Astros 4-2 last night, coming within one pitch – the pitch Art Howe hit into the left-field bleachers – from his first major-league shutout.


But the rookie right-hander will take the victory, nonetheless.


"Sure is a nice place," Walk said of the Dome. "I knew it was a good place to pitch before I got here Because you can just let 'em take their hacks. With 390-foot alleys, you can just challenge the hitters."


Last night Bob Walk won.


Besides Howe's homer, the Astros managed just two infield singles by Jose Cruz. One was a first-inning single on which Walk was late covering first base and the other came in the ninth. But Walk was in control all the way.


"Bob took control of the game and kept us in it," said Manager Dallas Green. "Plus, we scored enough runs."


Green said Walk is 6-0 because "he pitched darn good baseball tonight and he's gonna get better. The stuff has always been there. Now he's getting the confidence he needed. He's getting closer and closer to being a complete pitcher."


And a composed pitcher.


"When I first came up, I would've been in trouble after Howe's homer," Walk conceded. "Things like that bothered me. Now I say 'to hell with it' and go after the next hitter."


Walk wasn't that bad a hitter himself last night, doubling in the second inning and managing to lay down a sacrifice bunt in the sixth.


"Pete Rose was getting on me during batting practice," said Walk, "but I told him I'd get as many hits as he did. He doubled and, when I did, he had a big smile on his face. He got another one but he said we were even because I got that sacrifice bunt down."


For a Phillies' pitcher it was nothing short of a miracle.


Dallas Green started his Oklahoma City lineup, featuring five Triple A callups in the starting nine. Names like Aviles, Vukovich, More-land and Walk weren't exactly household names in Houston, but they didn't do badly, either.


Of course, it was oP reliable Pete Rose who got the two-run first inning going with a double to right center. And Bake McBride got Rose home with a single.


Keith Moreland, batting fourth, blooped a single to center and both runners moved up a base when Cesar Cedeno overthrew the cutoff man. Garry Maddox's groundout scored McBride.


The Phils made it 3-0 in the fourth. Manny Trillo singled, stole ' second and took third when catcher Alan Ashby's throw skipped into center field.


Green put on the suicide-squeeze play but John Vukovich, playing third base for the hamstrung Mike Schmidt, bunted foul before grounding out.


After Walk walked, Lonnie Smith singled past the diving Rafael Landestoy into right field, scoring Trillo, but Walk was thrown out trying to make third.


Art Howe cut the Phils' lead to 3-2 in the bottom of the fourth with a two-run homer to left. It was the Astros' 15th homer in the Astrodome this season. It's hardly an impressive total but it matches last season's total output.


The Phils got one of the runs back in the sixth. Trillo, still the league's top hitter, singled. Trillo got to third when shortstop Craig Reynolds' throw on Ramon AviTes' chopper eluded second baseman Landestoy.


Vukovich, who'd failed to get a runner home from third his first time up, succeeded this time with a sacrifice fly to left.


EXTRA INNINGS - Rose, who's hit in eight straight games, leads the NL with 30 doubles... Maddox has also hit in eight straight... Loser Ken Forsch hasn't beaten the Phillies in over five years, beating Tommy Underwood in relief on July 13, 1975... In his last four starts before last night, Walk was 3-0 with a 1.45 ERA... Astros called up reliever Bert Roberge from Tucson to fill J R. Richard's spot on the roster. Roberge had 15 saves and a 4.32 ERA at Tucson... Steve Carlton, who is 27-9 lifetime against the Astros, faces Joe Niekro in tonight's 7:35 game (Channel 17)... The Phils fly to Atlanta immediately after the game for four games in three days.

J.R. takes sabbatical


By Ray Finocchiaro, Staff Correspondent


HOUSTON – J.R. Richard, the Astros' fireballing heartburn victim, threw for 20 minutes before last night's game with the Phillies. Then, he went on the 21-day disabled list where he will be able to rest his tired arm and queasy stomach.


Richard, who has had to come out of 10 of his 17 starts this season with varying arm ailments, met with Houston Manager Bill Virdon after the workout and discussed his feelings, which he would not share with the media.


Virdon, however, indicated that J.R. was DL-bound.


"He threw 20 minutes and said he felt like he needed time to recuperate," Virdon said. "He stretched his arm out and put some strain on it, and that's what we wanted him to do. He said he felt the same sensations he had when pitching."


Richard pitched 3 innings against Atlanta Monday night, then left the game with what J R. said was nausea and Virdon described as a tired arm.


Virdon had no new definitions of just what ails J R., but said that arm fatigue is "as good a definition as any. There's nothing anatomically wrong, nothing you can put your finger on, but something that occurs with pitchers.


"After pitching a number of years, pitchers can have fatigue in their arms. Fortunately, J R. doesn't have anything structurally wrong."


Virdon said Richard will take the full 21 days' rest "as far as throwing baseballs is concerned. His other activities will continue."


Virdon included daily running in Richard's regimen.


Asked how much of a loss J.R. creates in the Astros' pitching staff, Virdon tried to keep a stiff upper lip.


"You don't replace a pitcher of J.R.'s status," Virdon said, "but we'll have 10 pitchers. We have good depth there and we'll weather the storm. We can afford a loss in the pitching staff more than other areas."


That's a statement few major-league clubs can make, considering Richard's 10-4 record, 1.89 ERA and 119 strikeouts.


"I think several clubs would like to have our staff, even without J.R.," Virdon said.


The manager conceded that lingering doubts about whether his ace right-hander's malingering aided last night's decision to give Richard the rest he says he needs.


"That's why we intend to find out one way or other," Virdon said. "This way the club and the other pitchers will know what their status is."


After Tuesday night's opener with the Phils, Virdon had expressed some exasperation with the status quo.


"We can't go on like we're going," Virdon said. "Not pitching three, four innings like this. J.R. understands this."


But does anybody understand J.R.?


After Tuesday's pregame drills, Richard told reporters that he was a misunderstood man.


"A lot of guys on the ball club don't understand me because I'm a loner," Richard said. "Even on the road, I'm by myself. I've been that way since I've been on the ball club. A lot of the other players don't know me. They don't understand me. Really, very few people know me."


And Richard isn't too concerned about speeding up that get-acquainted process.