Philadelphia Daily News - July 22, 1980

Lerch Still in the Red


By Bill Conlin


CINCINNATI – The What's Wrong With Randy Lerch Club held its regularly unscheduled meeting last night in Dallas Green's office.


Green is president of WWWRLC, a non-profit organization with no dues, no annual convention and no card-carrying members. The purpose of the club is to disband as soon as possible.


"I just wish to bleeping hell we could get him over the hump," Green said after calling the session to order and reading the minutes of the last meeting, most of which are unprintable.


The Reds came from behind to beat the staggering Phillies, 5-4. Lerch was in a 3-3 ballgame and pitching well enough when Ken Griffey smoked a double with one out in the seventh. The next hitter was ominous George Foster and Lerch popped him up. So far, so good.


Green was forced to make his executive decision of the night – whether to pitch to Johnny Bench or walk him with first base open and take his chances with Ray Knight, the Reds' RBI leader.


"IT WAS A SIMPLE decision," Green said after the Phils' fourth straight loss and 29th in their last 37 games in Riverfront Stadium. "You go after Bench with tough pitches and try to get him out. And you don't give a damn if you wind up walking him. Keith Moreland had it figured perfect, start him off with a slop slider a little off-speed, then the change-up. Now we want Randy to throw a nasty sinker, down and away. I don't care if he bounces it up there, then we can come back with another change. So Randy throws him a sailer, up and out over the plate..."


It's a pitch that has helped provide a handsome living for the veteran catcher and Bench drove it through the gap in right-center. At that unhappy point in Lerch's Death Valley season, a torrential thunderstorm ushered in a welcome cool front. The second delay of the evening held up the game 56 minutes and when the Reds continued the inning, Dan Driessen made it 5-3 with a soft flare to left off Kevin Saucier.


"He's just got to make the one pitch in a critical situation and he didn't do it," Green said after Lerch's record swooned to an incredible 3-12.


"Earlier in the game he pitched super to get out of a couple of jams, but with the game on the line in a late inning he didn't get it done... Maybe he's shown me he can't pitch out of that situation. Maybe I should take him out. But if I do that he'll never win a game."


LERCH PITCHED WELL last September after Green replaced Danny Ozark. Dallas had signed him when he was the farm director and watched his rapid rise through the organization with excitement. It was a significant victory for the farm system when Lerch made the club on merit in 1977 and responded with a 10-6 record.


There's nothing we can do for Randy stuff-wise." Green said. "He's got big-league pitches, a great arm. But Randy tries to do things too cool and then. go. go. go. after the horse is let put of the barn."


It is some barn he's been letting the horse out. He's been scored on in the first inning in 12 of 19 starts. In those 12 innings he's allowed 23 runs, 32 hits. 13 walks and 5 homers. His first-inning ERA is 9 00. No set of stats involving a Phillies pitcher points more compellingly to the grass roots of failure.


Randy is the architect of his own fate, the chief reason why his offense often fails to support him. The Phils are a team which needs to play a game of movement. And when they are down 2-0, 3-0, 4-0 behind Lerch in an early inning they lose the bunt, the stolen base and the hit-and-run.


"He's got to be worried to death," Dallas said. "If he's not, he's not a thinking baseball guy. Hell, I'm worried about my job. I'm supposed to be a pitching guy and I can't come up with anything to help him.


"WHEN I TOOK him over last September I thought he'd be a piece of cake. There was nothing to do to improve his stuff, all you have to do is channel it."


Lerch gave up a first-inning run and fell behind. 2-0. on an RBI single by Bench in the third. But rookie catcher Keith Moreland tied it with a two-run homer to left-center off Reds righthander Mike LaCoss in the fourth. Larry Bowa's two-out single in the sixth scored Garry Maddox and Lerch had a 3-2 lead.


That slim sliver of deep water silted over in the Reds' half of the inning when Junior Kennedy pulled an RBI double to left just before a 14-minute rain delay.


“Kennedy hits about 90 balls a year to the opposite field," Green said. "We're playing him to the right side and pitching him to hit to the right side and Randy comes in on him with a pitch he can't help but pull."


Driessen's seventh-inning RBI didn't look like much until Bowa tripled off reliever Tom Hume with one out in the ninth. Bake McBride, sitting out with a swollen right knee, pinch-hit for Saucier, gapped a double to left-center and the Phils had the tying run on second with the top of the order coming up.


An atrocious strike call by umpire Dave Pallone put Pete Rose in an 0-2 hole and he wound up flying out to left after poking defensively at every pitch close to the plate.


"Now Pete doesn't trust the umpire and he's swinging at anything around the plate," Dallas said. "The guy put him on defense instead of offense. The pitch after the one he blew was a ball, so instead of being, in control 2-1 he's got to fight off anything close. Then Greg Gross hits a BB right at the second baseman."


Steve Carlton goes against Mario Soto tonight in a pivotal game. Lose with your ace and a five-game losing streak has a way of turning into a 10-game losing streak.


PHILUPS: There's a growing suspicion that Greg Luzinski might require another operation on a right knee which was cut in 1974. The disabled leftfielder worked out with hitting coach Billy DeMars at the Vet yesterday and Dallas Green reported that The Bull is not encouraged by his progress. If he's got serious ligament damage, prompt surgery is important because torn ligaments do not regenerate... Green juggled his lineup, starting Greg Gross in right, Del Unser in left and Keith Moreland behind the plate. Gross and Moreland responded with four of the Phils' 10 hits... Mike Schmidt still is struggling. He was 0-for-3…. Lonnie Smith is mired in his first slump of the season. He's 1-for-14... Steve Carlton's opponent tonight, Mario Soto, leads the Reds in strikeouts with 93 In just 93 innings pitched.

3 Winners


There were three winners last night in the Daily News Home Run Payoff. In the eighth inning of the Phillies-Reds game, winners of four tickets each to a Phillies game were Francisco Lopez Miller of Philadelphia, A. D'Arcangelo of Palmyra and Joseph A. Pallozza of Clementon.


To date, the Daily News has paid out $12,340.


Today's entry coupon appear on Page 54.