Wilmington News Journal - July 20, 1980
Royster’s determination helps Braves sweep Phillies
By Ray Finocchiaro, Staff Correspondent
ATLANTA - If at first you don't succeed, Jerry Royster heard, try, try again. At least that's what the Phillies are claiming after Royster's bunt – or two bunts, depending who you believe – helped the Braves to a doubleheader sweep last night.
Royster's bunt, which was subsequently mishandled by catcher Keith Moreland into a two-base error, opened the gates for a six-run inning, including five unearned runs, and a 7-2 victory in the nightcap.
Dick Ruthven was a longball victim as Atlanta took the opener 5-2.
"Royster hit the ball twice with his bat and nobody saw the bleeping thing!" said Phils' Manager Dallas Green, who argued with the three-man crew as the 35,524 fans roared.
"What's the use of arguing? Three competent umpires and nobody sees it. If I was an umpire and I admitted I didn't see it, I can't be doing my job, can I? They can't be alert. That's what they're supposed to call."
"The ball hit the bat twice," agreed Moreland, the closest player to the action other than Royster, who smiled and denied any double-bunting.
"I don't know how they could miss it," Moreland said. "Still, I threw the ball away. The runner (Royster) wasn't in my way, I just made a bad throw."
The misplays – and missing call – ruined a fine four-hit effort by starter Dan Larson.
"Larson pitched a fine game," said Green. ''If he gets the right call, he's still in there and we might be playing a helluva baseball game. But the umpires' call turns a helluva game into a fiasco."
But as Green reluctantly admitted, "That helped beat us but it didn't really beat us."
Rather it was Dickie Noles' dreadful relief of starter Dan Larson that lost it. The Phils actually had a 2-0 lead at one time, with Bake McBride driving home Lonnie Smith both times.
But Bob Horner, who has homered in all three games against the Phillies, lined No. 17 to the seats in left in the fifth against Larson before the roof fell in an inning later.
But once Noles came in, after Royster's bunt tied the game 2-2, the Braves started their engines. And shortstop Larry Bowa didn't help matters, backing up on Horner's potential inning-ending double-play grounder and managing just a force play.
Atlanta quickly collected three straight hits, good for four runs, off Noles and the game was history... and the Phillies two games out of first place, which looked ripe for the plucking when this series opened.
"It was fairly evident that Dickie didn't have it tonight," said Green. "He's been capable of getting one out before and I was hoping he could do it again."
Besides Royster's "double" bunt, the Braves' key hits were run-scoring singles by Jeff Burroughs and Larvell Blanks and ex-Phil Bill Naharodny's two-run double over Garry Maddox's head in center.
The twilight didn't help Ruthven in the opener.
"The hitters certainly weren't swinging like it was hard to see," said Ruthven, scotching one of baseball's pet theories before the sun could set.
At least the Braves' hitters weren't, collecting eight hits off Ruthven in six innings and three more off relievers Warren Brusstar and Tug McGraw.
The Phillies' bats, meanwhile, were good for just five hits off winner Doyle Alexander, including three in the seventh.
"I haven't talked to Bob Boone," said Ruthven between games, "so I don't know what I had on the ball. But I know what the hitters were telling me – and that's that they were getting hits."
Ruthven, who started the road trip with a 3-2 loss to Houston on a balk and throwing error in the ninth inning, found last night's loss particularly galling.
The right-hander hates to lose anywhere but particularly in Atlanta, where he spent 2½ unmemorable seasons between Phillies' stints. Ruthven left town cursing Braves' owner Ted Turner and it was apparent he hasn't forgotten it.
"The worst part about this is that it had to happen here," said Ruthven. "I hate to get beat by 'em anywhere but definitely don't like to get beat here."
Though the Phillies were anything but sharp in the field, Ruthven had no one to blame but himself. A pair of home runs, something Ruthven had shelved for 85.1 innings, proved his undoing in the Braves' four-run sixth.
The teams had traded fourth-inning runs. The Phillies got theirs on Alexander's wild pickoff throw to first after Pete Rose's walk and Bake McBride's single to right.
Atlanta tied it with an unearned run on Mike Lum's single after Larry Bowa's two-out error. Then came the Braves' sixth, the inning Ruthven – and Green – would like to forget.
Brian Asselstine, who scored the first Braves' run, picked on an 0-2 pitch and drilled it to right for a single, then moved to second when, McBride booted the ball for an error.
"You can rationalize it all you want," said Green, "but anytime a guy hits an 0-2 pitch, it wasn't a good pitch, no matter where it was."
Ruthven wasn't about to disagree.
"I got the ball where I wanted to throw it," he said. "Sure, he hit it, but it wasn't a good pitch. It was a ball, low."
Chris Chambliss promptly singled Asselstine home for the go-ahead run, which brought up Gary Matthews – and ended Ruthven's no-homer string.
Ruthven ran the count to 2-1, then put the next pitch "right where we wanted it... but he hit it good enough to get it out. From the way the balls were flying early, I knew it wasn't going to take a helluva lot to get it out."
Left fielder Lonnie Smith made a valiant effort to reach over the fence for Matthews' homer but the ball eluded his grasp and it was 4-1.
Horner, currently on a home run tear that's seen him hit 12 in 20 games with an incredible .905 slugging average, made sure it wasn't another 85.1 innings between homers. Horner made it exactly zero innings between shots, hitting a 3-2 pitch to the lower deck in left for his 16th.
"That pitch was down the chute," Ruthven said, shaking his head. "The mistake was going 3-1 on him in the first place."
Which nobody argued.
"We gave up two runs on errors, but that didn't beat us," said Green. "We didn't run the bases too well, which cost us some possibilities. Give Alexander credit he pitched a good ball game. That's as hard as I've seen him throw in a while."
The Phils got their final run in the seventh, but blew a chance for more. Garry Maddox opened with a double and was singled to third by Boone, who was promptly tagged out taking a wide turn at first.
Bowa singled Maddox home but Ramon Aviles' double-play grounder ended the threat.
Neither Brusstar nor McGraw, making his first appearance since coming off the disabled list, dazzled anybody in the final two innings, both having to work out of jams.
Green just shrugged his shoulders and said, "Bru threw some pitches that were good and some that weren't. He and Tug got their feet wet. Maybe some things were accomplished after all."
Dick Ruthven was not inclined to agree.
Phils’ Brusstar returns, offers needed strong arm
By Hal Bodley, Sports Editor
As Warren Brusstar stepped into the bullpen shuttle, the driver turned to him and said: "It must feel good to be back."
"You've got that right," Brusstar said, his gun-fighter eyes staring straight ahead.
This was July 13. The one-time standout reliever had not thrown a pitch in major-league competition since July 24, 1979. He had not pitched effectively since the year before.
But here was Warren Brusstar, the sinkerball specialist, returning to competition for the Phillies. To put it bluntly, nobody in the organization had any reason to think Brusstar would ever pitch again in the majors.
During the off-season prior to 1979, Brusstar injured an ankle playing basketball during a benefit bicycle caravan in California. When he got to spring training the ankle was still bothering him, so he compensated for it and there is reason to believe that started the nagging shoulder injury.
He opened the '79 season on the disabled list, finally was reactivated on June 28, but in 13 appearances had a 7.07 earned run average. He was certainly not the same middle reliever who was so outstanding in 1977 and 1978, finally giving up the comeback on July 24 after Dusty Baker blasted a grand-slam homer.
The injury became a medical mystery. Doctors were unable to find' anything clinically wrong, but Brusstar insisted there was pain.
Finally, in April, Brusstar made an appointment with Dr. David Fitzmorris, a St. Louis chiropractor recommended to him by teammate Steve Carlton.
"The pain wasn't that bad in the spring," said Bru. "What was bothering me most was the fact I could not throw with any velocity."
In St. Louis, Fitzmorris worked on Brusstar 17 days, twice a day – concentrating on key pressure points in the shoulder and surrounding areas to improve strength and his range of motion.
"The first time I saw him he put my arm down with two fingers," Brusstar told reporters after his first appearance this year. "By the time I left, he couldn't put it down at all. He used a technique called Acupressure, using different pressure points down the muscle to get the blood flowing properly back into the muscle. It helped quite a lot. Then, I got a program from Gus Hoefling (Phillies' fitness expert). The rest had been a matter of throwing enough to get all the muscles a pitcher uses back in tune."
Manager Dallas Green said he never counted on Brusstar for 1980, but sent him to Peninsula of the Carolina League to see how well he could pitch. Brusstar had good days and bad days. There was one period when it appeared he would not make it, but when Greg Luzinski was placed on the 15-day disabled list because of a knee problem, Green decided to give Brusstar a shot.
He pitched the eighth and ninth innings against Pittsburgh on July 13. He got two quick outs, then Bill Madlock and Ed Ott singled, Mike Schmidt made a throwing error and Phil Garner drove in Madlock with a single. In the ninth, Brusstar retired the Pirates in order.
"I went into the dugout after the first inning I threw and I knew I had to keep the ball down better because that's where I'm effective," he said. "After the second inning of work, I knew what I had to do. It's just a matter of concentration. Everytime I throw, it seems my arm is getting stronger. Basically, it's because I have the mechanics right now. It's just the little things you do as you wind up. You do one thing wrong and it progressively breaks down along the line."
Green insists it's too early to say Brusstar, who had not allowed a homer in 104⅓ innings before last year, is fully recovered. The manager, however, is encouraged and intends to give Brusstar plenty of work.
And last night in Atlanta, Brusstar took another step on that long road back. He pitched one inning against the Braves and was touched for two hit. Most importantly, he didn't allow a run.