Wilmington News Journal - July 19, 1980

Phils’ Espinosa regains form, stops Braves


By Ray Finocchiaro, Staff Correspondent


ATLANTA - Nino Espinosa reverted back to form here last night. Namely, the Phillies' righthander finessed the Braves right out of Atlanta Stadium.


Espinosa, who came off the disabled list earlier this month with a two-hitter against the Cards, but who in his last start was belted by the Pirates, got back in the two-hit groove last night as the Phils beat Phil Niekro and the Braves 7-2.


Espinosa lasted seven innings and both hits were rather impressive homers by Bob Horner and Chris Chambliss, but the Braves were kept off-balance by Nino's assortment of pinpoint breaking pitches.


"Nino pitched a very professional baseball game," said Manager Dallas Green as Espinosa, who isn't talking to the media anyway, dressed early and left.


"He's a guy who's got some guts... some courage. He throws the ball over the plate and he'll win. You don't need super stuff to win in this game and Nino's proven that."


If that's not damning somebody with faint praise, heaven knows what is. But Green isn't complaining when Espinosa's winning.


Still, Green yanked Espinosa after he walked Jeff Burroughs to open the eighth. Burroughs was only the third baserunner against Espinosa, counting Horner and Chambliss, who merely touched the bases as they trotted around them.


"Actually, he was out of the game an inning before," said Green. "I thought I saw some different arm action in the seventh but Bob Boone felt he could go another inning and talked me into leaving him in.


"Nino had 'em offstride again, hitting spots and occasionally popping the ball. I was happier with his velocity tonight than his last start (which included three Pirate homers)."


Dickie Noles, pitching with his family in the stands, squirmed out of a bases-loaded jam in the eighth and breezed in the ninth for his sixth save.


Bake McBride and Pete Rose had three RBI apiece, but it was Ramon Aviles, again filling in for Manny Trillo at second base, who led the Phils' hit parade with three singles – and he was robbed of a fourth.


"There's really no pressure on me," shrugged Aviles, who also scored twice. "When you fill in for Manny Trillo and Larry Bowa, you're filling big shoes. Those guys are superstars. It's an honor to be their backup.


"No matter what I do, I know the other guys will play, so I just do the best I can when I'm out there. They won't bench the other guys because I'm hitting. I just do the best I can when I get in.”


Aviles made it clear that he wasn't knocking anybody.


"I've been in the minor leagues too long to be complaining," he said. "Sure, I'd like to play every day, but every ballplayer does. I'm just happy to be with this team and help out where I can."


McBride continued his personal "Beat Niekro" campaign. The night before in Houston, Bake beat Joe Niekro with two singles, two stolen bases and two runs scored in a 2-1 victory for Steve Carlton.


Last night McBride doubled home a pair of runs in the third as the Phils took a 3-1 lead. Bake made it 5-2 when he knocked in Aviles in the seventh.


"I like hitting against the Niekros," said McBride, who's a member of a very small club. "I do pretty well against them."


Mike Schmidt's another. He drilled his 23rd homer of the season – and second since June 24 – in the sixth. It was Schmidt's seventh career homer off Phil Niekro, who tied Jerry Reuss as Schmidt's favorite patsy.


"I'm not worried about home runs," said the low-key Schmidt, back from a three-game absence with a reaggravated hamstring. "Runs batted in – that's what I'm after."


And he has 62 of those.


The Braves actually had a 1-0 lead in the second when Horner hit his 15th homer – and 10th in 18 games – deep to left.


But Rose knocked in one run and McBride two more in the third and the Phils were never headed.


In the eighth, the Braves actually threatened to make a game of it for the 13,908 game fans who came out to see a team that had lost seven of nine games since the All-Star break.


After Burroughs walked to knock out Espinosa, pinch-hitter Biff Pocoroba greeted Noles with a bouncing single over Schmidt's head to left.


Noles got Mike Lum, a perennial Phillies' pain, on a fly to left, but Brian Asselstine, the third consecutive pinch hitter, waited out a walk to load the bases.


The Noles clan, cheering everything brother Dickie did – even when the Braves got a hit or walk off him – went wild as the righthander got Glenn Hubbard on a pop to Aviles in shallow right and struck out power-hitter Dale Murphy, who had two feeble swings at some wicked sliders.


And the Braves had made it eight losses in 10 with tonight's twin-ighter promising more of the same unless Manager Bobby Cox's free-swingers get back in gear.


Green will use Dick Ruthven and Dan Larson tonight against Doyle Alexander and Tommy Boggs. The twi-nighter, which won't be seen on either of the Channel 17s (Philadelphia or Atlanta) coming into Delaware, begins at 6:05 p.m.


EXTRA INNINGS - Garry Maddox has hit in nine straight games... Rose has 101 hits and lifted his batting average to an even .300... "Now to go after the second hundred," said Pete smiling... Phils are 4-1 vs. Atlanta and have won three straight and 12 of their last 18 overall... Hank Aaron, the Braves' director of player development, is hospitalized with a pinched sciatic nerve. The 46-year-old home run king may require surgery... Rookie Bob Walk vs. the Braves' Larry McWilliams in tomorrow night's 7:05 game (which WILL be seen on Channel 17) before Phils leave for three games in Cincinnati to conclude the road trip.