Philadelphia Daily News - July 19, 1980
Nino Hits the Spot
By Bill Conlin
ATLANTA – Nino Espinosa breezed into the eighth with a 5-2 lead and an 800-foot two-hitter.
It was further testimony that location and stealth can be just as effective a way to win in the National League as velocity and sharpness of breaking ball.
And Espinosa received the nicest compliment of all from the last hitter he faced. Nino walked Jeff Burroughs leading off the eighth and Dallas Green went to righthander Dickie Noles.
"When Burroughs got down to first he told me he thought Nino was throwing harder the last two innings than he was the first three," said Pete Rose, who helped trigger a 7-2 victory over the Braves with two hits and three RBI. "It seems to me at first base that he's starting to throw harder. The first start against St. Louis he had nothing and got away with it. The next start against the Pirates he threw just hard enough to get hit. Tonight he was throwing hard enough to spots to make them his pitches instead of hitters pitches."
ESPINOSA HAS never been a power pitcher by any stretch and people forget that some of his best performances last season came on nights when he couldn't have raised a welt on a hitter with his fastball.
Bob Horner, who has slammed 10 homers in his last 17 games, took Nino deep into the seats with one out in the third. Espinosa proceeded to retire the next 15 hitters before Chris Chambliss launched a towering shot to right-center with one out in the seventh.
In between homers, a Phillies attack which is becoming more and more resourceful, launched a patient offense against knuckleball nemesis Phil Niekro.
Bake McBride drove in three runs with a third-inning double and a seventh-inning infield out. Mike Schmidt, back in the lineup after missing the Houston series with an aggravated hamstring pull, pounded his 23d homer off a 1-1 Niekro floater leading off the sixth. It was Schmidt s seventh career homer off Niekro, tying his career high off Jerry Reuss.
And just when the Braves showed signs of stirring to life by forcing Noles to pitch out of a bases-loaded jam after relieving Espinosa in the eighth, the Phils knocked Gene Garber around for a pair of ninth-inning runs.
Lonnie Smith continued his exciting offensive play. The Carpet Sweeper was on base three times ahead of Rose, lashed two singles, stole his 12th base and scored two more runs. Smith has scored 30 runs in just 99 at-bats, a phenomenal.303 percentage. By contrast. Rose, who is among the league leaders with 60 runs scored, is crossing the plate at a.178 rate.
"I GOTTA KEEP saying it: My job is a helluva lot easier when Lonnie keeps getting on base in front of me," Rose said. "He's on base and the infield edges in. I'm gonna get fastballs to hit if he's got second base open in front of him. The pitcher's gonna be making a lot of throws over there, so he can't concentrate as hard on me.
"I gotta take my hat off to everybody the way we've been playing offense with some of our big hitters hurt. Everybody knows what his job is right now and a lot of guys are getting a chance to play. What can you say about the job Lonnie has done filling in for Greg? Ramon Aviles fills in for our hottest hitter (injured Manny Trillo) and goes out and gets three hits tonight. That's the kind of effort it takes to win in this league."
It was the fourth consecutive well-pitched game by the Phillies' once-maligned staff and the first time Green has been forced to use his bullpen since the 13-11 destructo against the Pirates.
And if Noles seemed a little more wild-eyed than usual when he replaced Espinosa, you didn't have to look any further than a noisy section behind home plate for the reason. Twelve members of the Noles family, including his mother and father, grandmother and grandfather, a brother and sister and several uncles and cousins, had come down 1-85 from Charlotte to watch him pitch for the first time as a professional.
THE NOLES CLAN even jumped up and applauded when pinch-hitter Biff Pocoroba bounced a single over Mike Schmidt. Noles got Luis Gomez on a fly to left, then walked pinch-hitter Brian Asselstine to load the bases with one out. But he popped up Glenn Hubbard and struck out Dale Murphy to swagger out of the jam.
"They've seen me pitch at home on Ted Turner's cable network," Noles said after picking up his sixth save. "But this is the first time they've seen me in person. They never even saw me pitch in the minors. It was a thrill for me. I guess it was for them, too."
Espinosa isn't talking to his manager. He feels Green publicly questioned his valor when he was laboring through his shoulder miseries. Nino isn't talking to members of the press, either, because they disseminated the manager's remarks. That leaves the Phillies with three distinct cadres of non-talkers. There is Steve Carlton, a professional non-talker of long standing and stature. There is the segment which includes Larry Bowa, still simmering in the wake of Speedscam. And Nino, who would have appreciated a little more compassion during his travail.
"Nino's an example of a guy who has some knowledge of how to pitch and some courage," Green said pointedly. "He proved that you don't have to have super stuff to win in this game."
PHILUPS: Hank Aaron was released from Piedmont Hospital yesterday after doctors diagnosed a slipped disc as the problem that has been causing him considerable pain in his right leg. Aaron was admitted to the Atlanta hospital Thursday... Manny Trillo said the swelling is down considerably in two jammed fingers on his. throwing hand. "He gave me tonight off." Manny said. "I pitched BP and it felt pretty good, but it still bothers me when I grip a bat."... Ramon Aviles played another strong defensive game at second. "Why should I be in a hurry to come back the way Ramon is playing?" Manny grinned. "Nah, I'll see how it feels tomorrow."... Dallas Green was ready to yank Nino Espinosa for a pinch-hitter in the seventh but Bob Boone talked him out of it... The Phils are faced with a long, steamy twi-nighter this evening with record temperatures near 105 forecast. Dick Ruthven and Dan Larson will oppose Doyle Alexander and Tommy Boggs. And now that Phil Niekro is out of the way, the Phillies are eyeing a sweep. They have another chance to go 10 games over.500 tonight.
There were three winners last night in the Daily News Home Run Payoff contest. In the the eighth inning of the Phillies-Braves game, winners of four ticket each to a Phillies game were Sue Gallagher of Lansdowne, and May Turnboul and Edith Love both of Philadelphia.
To date, the Daily News has paid out $12,305. Today's entry coupon appears on Page 33.