Philadelphia Daily News - July 21, 1980
Sky Falls on Phillies
By Bill Conlin
ATLANTA – Lonnie Smith could have copped a plea. He was entitled.
The sky was high in the brilliant twilight of 7:10 p.m., laced with the types of clouds you see on travel posters for Jamaica or Barbados. It was not an outfielder's favorite time of day or favorite kind of sky.
Smith broke back almost to the warning track on the high fly which Garry Matthews lofted to left with two outs in the first inning and Jerry Royster on first base. Then he realized the ball was going to come down in medium left. He galloped furiously toward the infield and dove, but the ball fell in front of him for a single.
He could have said he lost it in the high sky and pulled it off without raising many eyebrows. He's young and green and still learning to play three outfield positions. Just when Lonnie was beginning to feel comfortable in right, Greg Luzinski went on the disabled list and Smith wound up playing left with its different bounces, throws and variables.
Instead of copping out, he told the truth.
"I MISPLAYED IT all the way, broke back when I should have broke in," Smith said after the Phillies completed a 1-3 weekend with a 3-2 loss to the Braves and cunny-thumbing lefthander Larry McWilliams. "Then when I broke in for the ball I tried to catch it off to the side instead of in front of me and the ball kicked away. I cost us the ballgame."
Not quite. It still remained for Garry Maddox. who might have gotten a wrong call from an infielder, to compound Smith's felony. When the ball ticked toward the centerfielder, Royster raced to third. With Pete Rose stationed in the cutoff position in case Royster tried to score, Matthews went halfway to second.
"All Garry had to do was run the ball in, throw it to Bowa or throw it to the cutoff man," Dallas Green said. Instead, the Gold Glove outfielder threw it to Manny Trillo at second. With the luxury of an undefended base behind him, Matthews bided his time until he saw the throw pull Trilo sightly to the right-field side of second.
"Off balance, Manny had no play on Royster, who broke from third the instant the ball was thrown. And when Trillo threw late to the plate, Matthews jogged to second. It was an inept sequence from start to finish.
Bob Walk, who thought he was out of the inning when he threw the routine fly to Matthews, found himself staring at a 2-0 deficit after Jeff Burroughs scored Matthews with a single to center.
WALK PITCHED WELL enough throughout six innings to be a 7-0 pitcher. But the rookie righthander caught his offense on an evening When only one of the Phillies" seven hits came before there were two outs.
Of all the ballparks in the National League, the Phils probably have played more wretched baseball here since 1976 than in any other. It has become a house of horrors for them, the place where Paul Owens decided to fire Frank Lucchesi in 1972 and take the wheel of a sinking ship himself. It is the stadium where Danny Ozark sputtered after the Phils blew a four-run lead in the ninth in 1977. "I can't explain it; it's beyond my apprehension." It is the ballpark where Ozark was axed last Aug. 31 and where Green managed his first big-league game.
After beating Phil Niekro handily Friday night, the Phils blew themselves away in both ends of Saturday's twi-nighter, going down to Doyle Alexander and Tommy Boggs. The Braves who inflicted the indignities on them are a one-dimensional team. They should only beat you with their bats. Although they have stolen just 27 bases, the Braves have committed 93 errors. No team in baseball has more guys playing out of position. It is a team of leftfielders and first basemen.
"But they went from first to third in this series and we didn't." Green said. "I hear it from our guys; we want to win. I hear it; we want to get 'em. I hear that we're gonna grind it out, but I don't see it."
Walk knew he wasn't going to go undefeated and he took his first loss good-naturedly.
I’M THE KIND of pitcher who's got " to have some movement on his fastball," Bob said. "When it's riding I can challenge hitters a little higher in the strike zone with it. But it wasn't moving today and they were hitting the ball hard. I didn't take a very bright approach. Usually, when my fastball isn't riding I'll go to a sinker. I didn't throw a sinker until my last pitch in the ballgame. It was a beauty. I said to myself, 'Why didn't I think of that about four innings ago?' I guess I could have been in a one-run ballgame, but I can't say the defense beat me. Garry cut off two doubles in the alleys in the fifth on balls that nobody else gets to. Our defense has saved me a lot of runs so far."
The Phils scored only five runs in the last three games of the series in Ted Turner's upholstered shooting gallery. But McWilliams showed them the kind of left-handed stuff that has made them patsies for the Randy Jones and Tommy John types.
"It's been well documented that that is not our favorite type of pitcher," Green said. "He changed speeds well with his breaking pitches, didn't give us a fastball to hit. I don't see any major batting slump in the cards. The guys are swinging the bats. It was frustrating losing the double-header, but this is worse because it's the kind of game you know you've got to bounce back and win."
The Phils put together two-out singles by Trillo, Larry Bowa and Bob Boone to score a second-inning run. They squandered two-out singles by Bake McBride and Mike Schmidt in the third and didn't get another hit until Ramon Aviles pinch-hit for Walk with two outs in the seventh and bounced a single up the middle. A two-out error by Royster after a walk to McBride set the table for a double by Trillo, back in the lineup after jamming two fingers on his right hand in Houston.
ONLY ONE RUN scored on the play, even though the fleet Maddox was running with two outs. "It was a freak thing," third base coach Lee Elia said. "The ball hit that metal sign that says how many feet it is down the line and took a deep bounce to Burrough. Normally, the ball hits the fence out there and dies. The outfielder has to go get it. Otherwise. Garry scores easy. But the ball got to Burroughs so fast I had to hold him up."
Larry Bowa lined sharply to left for the final out and the Phillies went quietly in the ninth.
Win three, lose three... It is life on a treadmill for a team that can please you or tease you with the best of them.
PHILUPS: Manny Trillo's 2-for-4 raised his league-leading average to.333... Garry Maddox had his hitting streak snapped at 12 games... Dale Murphy, who covers less ground than an Iranian press release, made a spectacular diving catch to take a hit away from Bake McBride in the sixth... Phils limped into Cincinnati for a three-game series with the faltering Reds. Randy Lerch will come out of Dallas Green's doghouse against the Reds' equivalent, 5-9 Mike LaCoss... Phils sent hitting coach Billy DeMars back to Philly to work with Greg Luzinski, eligible to come off the DL on the next home stand... Happy to report that Kevin Saucier passed his kidney stone Friday and warmed up the last two days... Larry Christenson has been throwing on a schedule. and says he might be able to pitch by mid-August.
There were eleven winners over the weekend in the Daily News Home Run Payoff contest. Saturday in the first game of the twi-nighter against the Atlanta Braves, Anna Sparr of Douglassville, Pa., Paul White of Graterford, Pa., and Ruth Paul of Philadelphia each won four tickets to a Phillies game.
In the second game, Sparky Adams of Philadelphia won $25 on a fielder's choice RBI by Bake McBride. Mary L. Simpson also of Philadelphia won $10 on a single by Keith Moreland. Arthur L. Farber of Quakertown, Pa., and Anthony S. DiBiase and James Riley of Drexel Hill, Pa., each won four tickets to a Phillies game.
In Sunday's game against the Braves, Ray Riale of Malvern, Pa., T. Campbell of Philadelphia and Pat Rimkus of Philadelphia, each won four tickets to a Phillies game.
So far, the Daily News has paid out $12,340. Today's entry coupon appears on Page 52.