Wilmington Morning News - July 18, 1980
Carlton, Phils hold on, knock Astros out of first
By Ray Finocchiaro, Staff Correspondent
HOUSTON – Phillies rookie Bob Walk got his first look at the Astra-dome Wednesday night and liked its wide expanses enough' to win his sixth straight game.
Steve Carlton, meanwhile, went about business as usual in the Dome last night, stifling the Astros on six hits, striking out 10 and knocking Houston out of first place in the NL West with a 2-1 victory.
Carlton is 28-9 lifetime against the Astros and has chalked up more than his share of victories in the Astros' air-conditioned playpen.
"I hate to see him come in here," said Houston Manager Bill Virdon after the Astros' ninth-inning rally had fallen a run short. "But then I guess quite a few managers have had that same problem with Carlton over the years."
The Phils got both of their runs off loser Joe Niekro on the strength of Bake McBride's bat and legs. McBride singled twice, stole second and scored – first on a Niekro wild pitch, then on a Bob Boone grounder.
And that was all Carlton needed to lift his record to 15-4 and keep the Phils a game behind the Montreal Expos, who are next in the Dome for four games.
Luis Pujols opened the Houston ninth with a single but stayed moored at first as Carlton struck out pinch-hitters Denny Walling and Bruce Bochy.
But Rafael Landestoy tripled over left fielder Greg Gross' head to score Pujols and Carlton needed everything he had left to get Terry Puhl to ground out to first to end the game.
"Lefty made a bad pitch to Landestoy, said Manager Dallas Green, "but he reached back for everything on Puhl. He got him with a slider. If he hadn't gotten him out, I was taking him out and going with Tug McGraw."
But it wasn't necessary.
"Lefty had a super fastball tonight," Green said. ''He knows he can't throw the slider 95 percent of the time. He just threw it when he had to.
"It was a damn good performance when we needed it. We're hurt a little bit but the guys we put in played like the devil."
While Green beat the Astros with his Oklahoma City roster Wednesday night, plugging five Okies into his starting nine, the manager hit the Astros with his juggled infield last night.
Green put catcher Keith More-land at third base for the first time this season and shifted Ramon Aviles, Wednesday night's shortstop, to second base.
Moreland was originally a third baseman and played there on occasion in the minors, but the Aviles shift was not one Green wanted to make. However, Manny Trillo has a jammed middle finger on his left hand and is on a day-to-day basis after X-rays proved negative.
"They told me not to try hitting today," said the league's top hitter with a .331 average – and a mere .400 (24-60) for July. "They said don't do nothing. It will be 2-3 days before I can do anything."
The Phils did their best to carry on without him, though they had little success against Joe Niekro's knuckleballs in the early going.
Niekro retired the first eight batters he faced before Carlton singled to right to become the Phils' first baserunner.
The Phils got an unearned run in the fourth when Bake McBride singled, stole second and came home on the second of two Niekro wild pitches.
Garry Maddox struck out for what would've been the third out but the pitch fluttered past catcher Luis Pujols as McBride raced across the plate and Maddox got to first.
"That pitch was wicked," said Maddox, with Pujols no doubt seconding the motion down the hall. "But then there aren't many that aren't wicked when those Niekros are out there."
The Phils will get their swings at older brother Phil Niekro tonight in Atlanta, a prospect they don't look forward to with much glee.
The Astros got their first two batters on base against Carlton in 'the first. Rafael Landestoy walked and Terry Puhl reached base when Larry Bowa dropped Carlton's throw to second on Puhl's bunt.
But Carlton got the next three batters in routine style, as if nothing had happened.
Houston put two more runners on base in the fourth with one out, but Carlton blithely got Craig Reynolds on a ground ball and struck out Niekro to end the inning.
"Lefty may not have had his best stuff of the season," said catcher Bob Boone, "but he made the right pitches when he had to in the early innings when Houston was putting men on. But he's been doing that all year."
The Astros, who've been hobbled with an assortment of bruised bodies and egos lately, .lost left fielder Jose Cruz with a bruised left leg and hip in the third. Cruz collided with center fielder Cesar Cedeno chasing Moreland's fly ball to left center and left the game.
McBride got the Phils in gear again in the sixth, singling to left and stealing second. Maddox extended his hitting streak to nine games with a bloop single to left but it took Boone's groundout to get McBride home with the second run.
"In this place, you're happy for every run you get," said Green, "no matter how you get it."
Bitter reliever LaGrow is released by Phillies
By Ray Finocchiaro, Staff Correspondent
HOUSTON – Reliever Lerrin LaGrow and the Phillies parted company here last night and it wasn't a particularly amicable separation.
LaGrow, a right-hander signed as a free agent before the season began, was waived with the purpose of giving him his unconditional release, a process that takes six days.
LaGrow was dropped from the roster to make room for left-handed reliever Tug McGraw, who came off the disabled list yesterday.
The 32-year-old LaGrow had an 0-2 record and 4.15 earned run average in 39 innings, spanning 25 appearances. He allowed five homers, but it was his 17 walks that finally sealed his fate.
"I was disappointed that a veteran with his credentials couldn't come in and close the door for us in certain situations," said Phils' Manager Dallas Green, who relayed the not-so-unexpected bad news to LaGrow before last night's game with the Astros.
"Not that he was getting hit around, even though he gave up five homers in 39 innings," Green shrugged. "It was the base-on-balls that created problems. There's no way a veteran pitcher should walk so many people."
The Phils' other option with McGraw returning was to return Dan Larson to Oklahoma City, which would have made the out-of-options right-hander unavailable to be recalled without clearing waivers.
"I felt the other people in the bullpen were strong enough that we didn't need LaGrow," Green said. "We needed a starter (Larson) more than him. With Randy Lerch's inconsistency and Nino Espinosa just coming back, I wanted to have that extra starter available to maintain the five-man rotation."
LaGrow said he wasn't surprised that the ax fell. But while he claimed no bitterness at his release, LaGrow didn't sound as if this was business-as-usual for him.
"Quite frankly, I'm not surprised at all," said LaGrow, who accepted handshakes from grim-faced teammates before they took the field for pre-game warmups, leaving him behind.
"I've been expecting it. It was no longer fun to walk into this clubhouse or put on this uniform."
Paul Owens, the Phils' player personnel director, said he didn't try to make a deal for LaGrow because the pitcher now would be free to make his own deal and sign with another club in six days.
But it didn't sound as if LaGrow had intentions to go anywhere but back home to Phoenix, Ariz.
"I've lost my desire to play," he said. "I have no desire to go anywhere. It's time I gave some time back to my family.
The Phils will pay LaGrow the balance of his one-year contract and would pay the difference if LaGrow did sign with another club for less than his present six-figure salary.
But LaGrow, who has pitched for five big-league clubs, sounds as if he's finished with baseball altogether.
"I'm tired of the inconsistencies, inequalities, judgments and attitudes of the people associated with baseball," he said.