Philadelphia Daily News - July 23, 1980
Bench Wears Out Lefty
Reds Saddle Phillies with 5th Straight Loss
By Bill Conlin
CINCINNATI – Johnny Bench looked over at the Phillies dugout during Monday night's same and wratched Steve Carlton do a perfect imitation of Curt Simmons' windmilling, corkscrewing delivery. It was a pitching ghost from the past.
"I said to myself, i hope he's not getting ready to use Curt's motion on me,'" Bench said last night. "I knew exactly who he was imitating and for whose benefit."
Bench tunes his psychic radar to Carlton's vibrations the way a heat-seeking missile homes on the tailpipe of a jet aircraft. It is one of the phenomena of modern baseball – a great hitter who is able to think along with a great pitcher, anticipate correctly what he is going to throw and then hit the pitch with the fat part of the bat. Twice in long careers which have run almost parallel. Bench has punished Carlton for three homers in one game.
Bench hit the first pitch Carlton threw to him in the second inning on a line to left, starting Lefty and the Phillies toward a 3-2 loss to the Reds and Mario Soto. It was Carlton's fifth loss of the season and the Phils' fifth in a row.
"I LIKE TO hit the first strike he throws me," Bench said after he, Ray Knight and Dan Driessen got the key hits that buried Carlton. "If he gets you down 0-2 you might as well forget it. So I try to really attack his first strike. I figured he would start me off with a fastball and I got a fastball. When I came up the first time he smiled at me. It's the kind of professional relationship we've had over the years. He respects my ability and I respect his. I guess he figures if he" can't get me out he'll get everybody else out."
When Bench reached first, Pete Rose looked at him and shook his head in awe.
"Pete said, 'How come you can hit this guy and nobody else can?" " Bench said. "I said, 'I guess I know how to adjust to him.' Pete said, 'Well, you're the only one in the game who does.'"
Knight sent Bench to third with a double and Driessen, who singled home what proved to be the winning run in the two-run sixth, gave the Reds a 1-0 lead in the second with a sacrifice fly.
It was a stalemate in the fourth. Bench walked. "I never got the bat off my shoulder," he said. "I didn't get the pitches I was looking for so I didn't swing."
Ironically, the game turned in the sixth when Carlton blitzed to an 0-2 advantage and Bench grounded feebly to Mike Schmidt at third. Schmidfs tailing throw was low and to the plate side of first and Bench was safe on the throwing error. On a night when the slumping (2 for-22) National League home-run leader stranded three ninners on third, his defensive lapse proved the unkindest cut of all.
KNIGHT CAPPED a triple to make it 2-1 and Driessen, who helped beat Carlton here in May with a two-run homer, slashed a single past the diving Schmidt.
"When he throws that slider you have to lay off it." Knight said. "He didn't throw that many tonight because he was missing with his other pitches. It's a pitch he'll bury you with when he gets ahead in the count. I've hit him well two hits almost every time I've faced him. Johnny hits him well. Danny hits him well for a lefthander and I hit him well. And we feel we can beat Philadelphia We've always felt that way."
The Phillies are in a certified slump. You can apply that stamp when a team hits the ball hard enough to score six or seven runs and comes away with two. Soto went nine, had the big pitch when he needed it and spent a lot of time ducking.
Bob Boone homered in the second to give Carlton a 1-0 lead and backed George Foster against the fence in the fourth. The Phils hit four line drives that were caught and Garry Maddox backed Foster against the fence leading off the eighth. The bottom line on Dallas Green's sputtering offense, though, is that Greg Gross, hitting second, and Bake McBride, batting third, had three hits each and didn't score a run. Gross and McBride died in scoring position with one out in the first. McBride tripled with one out in the third and watched Schmidt line out to third and Maddox line out to center.
McBRIDE MADE it 3-2 in the seventh when he scored Rose with a two-out single which sent Gross to third. But Schmidt lofted a fly to right.
"Carlton's the top pitcher in the National League," said Soto in a clubhouse where guys actually were available at their lockers five minutes after the game. "But I'm not going to pitch against him. I'm going to pitch against their whole team. I leave Carlton to our hitters, hope they score me some runs."
Soto almost didn't come out to pitch the ninth. He went into the clubhouse to put on a dry shirt with the Reds batting in the eighth and felt the fingers on his pitching hand suddenly go numb.
"I was scared." Mario said. "Nothing like that has ever happened to me. Tom Seaver was in there and he told me to stick the hand in some ice. That helped, but my wrist kind of went limp in the ninth."
Gross bounced a single to center with two outs. McBride made the final out and, naturally, it was a line drive to center.
Is it possible to stick a numb team on ice?
PHILUPS: Johnny Bench amended a published report that he'll do no more catching after this season. "What I said was I won't catch fulltime after this season," he said. Bench has two years left on his contract, wants to renegotiate, which is a Dick Wagner no-no. He looks like another member of The Big Red Machine of the mid-70s who will wind up being traded. Watch the Reds aging stars fading away one by one and you have the Phillies picture a couple of seasons down the road... Larry Bowa went 2-for-4 on a night the Phils stranded 10 runners... Mario Soto's best pitch was a plunging changeup which struck out Manny Trillo in the eighth. The Reds strikeout leader fanned seven in his first complete game of the season "If we can hang tough until we get our pitchers (including Tom Seaver and Bill Bonham back), we'll be in this race all the way," Manager John McNamara said... Steve Carlton and Tug McGraw threw an 0-for-4 at George Foster... Don't look now, but Bob Horner is coming up on Mike Schmidt in the home-run race like a Polaris missile homing on a man asleep on a life raft... Nino Espinosa vs. rookie Bruce Berenyi to close the long road trip tonight. The Phils are 6 on the trip and the five-game losing streak is their longest of the season.
Bibby Might Upstate Carlton
United Press International
The Cy Young Award, given annually to the best pitcher in each league, may not be headed for Steve Carlton's house, after all.
Jim Bibby just might steal the award away from the Phillies lefthander.
Carlton's record stands at 15-5, and while he is still the top winner in the league, his percentage can't match Bibby's.
The Pittsburgh Pirates righthander won for the 12th time in 13 decisions last night by throwing seven shutout innings in the Pirates' 4-3 victory over the San Diego Padres.
Bibby, who sports a 2.86 ERA, has not lost since May 18.
"I got a little tired," he admitted. "I had thrown a lot of pitches. I don't think you're at the point where you ever want to come out a game but I was tired. I don't think I had my best stuff and my control wasn't good, but I made -good pitches when I had to."
BIBBY'S PITCHING theory is simple.
"I just throw as hard as I can for as long as I can," he said. "We've got a bullpen where we've got a fresh pitcher every night."
The Pirates needed practically all of those fresh relievers to hold off the Padres. Enrique Romo took over in the eighth and was tagged for a solo homer by Dave Winfield then ran into trouble again in the ninth and had to have help from Grant Jackson. Jackson couldn't do the job, however, and had to have assistance from Kent Tekulve, who got the final two outs to gain his 13th save. gnostic study."
There were four winners last night in the Daily News Home Run Payoff contest. In the eighth inning of the Phillies-Reds game, winners of four tickets each to a Phillies game were Erris Morrison, Jr., Wm. Monteleone, Frank Kilroy and Alice Popicheck, all of Philadelphia.
So far the Daily News has paid out $12,340.
Today's entry coupon appears on Page 53.