Philadelphia Inquirer - July 19, 1980

Espinosa, Phillies stifle Braves, 7-2


Schmidt returns, homers


By Danny Robbins, Inquirer Staff Writer


ATLANTA – Nino Espinosa's fastball isn't very swift anymore. He is now in an unusual, and unwanted, groove, giving up five home runs in his last two starts. But the Phillies can live with all that.


Espinosa won his first game since coming back from that strange shoulder stiffness and Class A ballparks last night, pitching seven innings of two-hit well, two-home run ball in the Phillies' 7-2 victory over the Atlanta Braves.


It wasn't an exhibition of overpowering throwing, but it was another display of control, curveballs and concentration for Espinosa.


"He had 'em off stride," said Dallas Green. "He was able to hit spots, and he was able to throw the fastball the two or three times he needed it. Last year, even when we were suspicious of the arm thing, he was able to keep us in some games because he didn't walk people and he got the ball over the plate."


Two hits, two homers


The Braves' only hits off Espinosa were home runs by Bob Horner and Chris Chambliss, in the second and seventh innings, respectively. Otherwise, he had Ted Turner's crew skying or grounding balls right at people. He gave way to Dickie Noles after walking the leadoff batter in the eighth, and Noles allowed one hit the rest of the way to tie down the Phils' third victory in a row in their third straight very well-pitched game.


The Phillies also got some special hits on this balmy night in Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium. On the whole, they worked over Phil Niekro (23-14 lifetime, 3-1 last year against the Phils) and his knuckleball for five runs on eight hits in eight innings.


Specifically, Pete Rose produced three RBIs with a pair of singles; Mike Schmidt rejoined the lineup with a lowering home run, his 23d; and Ramon Aviles contributed three hits and scored two runs – not a bad way to step in for the National League's leading hitter, Manny Trillo.


Trillo clone


Trillo missed his second straight game, although he did take batting practice, because of the jammed finger on his left hand. Aviles simply imitated him, collecting three singles and making a nice catch in medium right field during Noles' shaky eighth.


In fact, Aviles thought he should have been 4-for-4, figuring he should have been safe at first on his sacrifice bunt in the fourth.


"I told the umpire (Dutch Rennert) that I only play once in a while, and I need those breaks," Aviles said, smiling, later. "I stepped on the bag before the ball got there."


Just the same, the piecemeal Phillies (without Greg Luzinski, too, of course) came out on top again. And unlike Bob Walk and Steve Carlton in the two previous victories, Espinosa won with less than great stuff.


In his last outing, the 7-3 loss to the Pirates Sunday, Espinosa was floating too much up to the plate, Green thought. "Tonight," Green said after the Braves had fallen, "I was happier velocity-wise. The (catcher's) glove popped a couple of times."


Still, Green thinks Espinosa can continue to win without the best of his stuff.


"I think it's a perfect example of going with guts and courage and throwing the ball over the plate," Green said. "He's gonna win. You don't have to have super stuff in this game. Of course, I was one of those guys who didn't have super stuff."


After Horner's home run, Espinosa retired the next 15 batters in order (eight popups, six groundouts and a strikeout) before Chambliss homered. At that point, however, the Phillies were carrying a 5-1 lead.


Niekro, whose brother Joe lost to the Phillies Thursday in Houston, was tough until the third, when the Phillies came up with three runs.


Aviles began the inning with his first single. Espinosa forced him at second with a bunt, but shortstop Luis Gomez put his relay to first into the Braves' dugout. Lonnie Smith walked, and then Rose roped a 3-2 pitch into right-center for the single that scored Espinosa. The next man up, Bake McBride, hit his first pitch to the base of the fence in left-center for a double to clean the bases, and it was 3-1.


It was 4-1 in the sixth after Schmidt, who had missed eight of the Phillies' last 14 games (including all three in Houston), parked a 1-1 pitch behind the fence in right-center, about 420 feet away. And it was 5-1 in the seventh after the Phillies scraped up another run, sparked by another leadoff single by Aviles.


With all that and Chambiss' home run behind him, Espinosa went out to face the Braves in the eighth and started poorly. He walked Jeff Burroughs to open the inning, and Green immediately called for Noles.


"He was out of there as soon as I went out," Green said. "Dickie just needed time to warm up. He would have been out the inning before (after the Chambliss home run), but Bobby (Boone) said he was OK. So I gave him the extra inning. But the base on balls, that was it."


Noles made things harder by giving up a single to Biff Pocoroba and, with one out, walking Brian Asselstine to fill the bases. But Aviles' catch in right on a ball hit by Glenn Hubbard bought some time, and then Noles fanned Dale Murphy, swinging at some strange pitches, to end the inning.


Rose's two-run single off Gene Garber added two runs in the ninth, and then Noles had a 1-2-3 inning against the heart of the Atlanta lineup – Chambliss, Gary Matthews and Horner – to end the game.


NOTES: Kevin Saucier went to an Atlanta hospital yesterday morning for X-rays and painkillers after complaining of pain Thursday night in Houston. Doctors diagnosed the trouble as a kidney stone, but, they said, this, too, shall pass.... Mike Schmidt missed eight of the Phillies' previous 14 games (including all three in Houston) with his pulled left hamstring.... Dick Ruthven and Dan Larson vs. Tommy Boggs and Doyle Alexander in tonight's doubleheader, which starts at 6:05 p.m. Bob Walk vs. Larry McWilliams on Sunday.