Wilmington News Journal - July 26, 1980
Schmidt homers help Phillies split
By Ray Finocchiaro, Staff Correspondent
PHILADELPHIA – Mike Schmidt got the people behind him last night, cheering his every move and nit. For one game at least.
Fan support. That, says Schmidt, is the answer to the Phillies' current problems which, until the first game of last night's Veterans Stadium doubleheader with Atlanta, included a six-game losing streak.
Schmidt took matters in his own hands in the opener. He rapped out four hits, including two home runs, before forcing home the winning run with a bases-loaded walk in the 12th inning for a 5-4 victory for Dick Ruthven.
The 38,408 fans loved it. But things didn't go so well for Schmidt – or the again-punchless Phils – in the nightcap, as the Braves beat Dan Larson 3-0.
And Schmidt went 0-for-4 with three strikeouts against Tommy Boggs (8-25 lifetime, 3-0 vs. the Phils) to get some of the boos started again.
“Get the people behind us – that's the solution to this problem," said Schmidt between games after setting a club record for home runs with 261 and pushing Del Ennis into the No. 2 position.
"We all have to motivate ourselves individually. You have to dig down and get yourself going. For me, that means getting my mind off the game. But facing a left-hander tonight, maybe that's what I needed."
Once started, Schmidt was impossible to cool down... at least in the opener. He homered the first two times up against Larry McWilliams, doubled off the left field wall, singled and was hit by a pitch.
Then, with the bases loaded and two out in the 12th against Larry Bradford, Schmidt drew a walk to force home the winning run.
Being home, Schmidt says, didn't hurt matters, especially after a 3-7 road trip.
"It's great to be home," he said. "You're more relaxed. I've got a new son, Jonathan Michael, and he didn't see me get a hit until the last game of that road trip. I was due for a good game."
Asked about the furor over Dallas Green's quotable critiques of misplays that angered teammate Greg Luzinski, Schmidt shrugged.
"Dallas Green has tried to change the personality of the ball club," Schmidt said. "At times he's gone overboard. Dallas believes it's OK to deal with games in the press.
"Around here, that's fuel for the media. It makes good reading but it doesn't do much for the unity of the ball club. But we'll overcome it."
The manager is thick-skinned.
"We need a few games like this – so Bull (Luzinski) will be happy," said Green. "Schmitty looks like he's back in the groove. When he's hot, he can stay in the dugout and still hit it."
Green blamed lack of offense for the forgetable road slump, so Schmidt's return was a welcome sight.
"It was just a matter of time 'til the guys started swinging the bats," he said. "Pete Rose, Lonnie Smith, Schmitty – they haven't been hitting. When 3-4 guys aren't swinging the bat, they're the ones who invariably come up in a jam."
Schmidt, whose hitting and fielding hit rock bottom in Cincinnati, came out smoking against McWilliams. After Bake McBride singled to center, Schmidt drilled his record-breaking homer to center field to give the Phils a 2-0 lead.
Schmidt even responded to the crowd's ovation by coming out of the dugout and tipping his cap.
"If anyone's to blame over the last 10 days, it's been the offense," Schmidt acknowledged. "But that time's over with."
Atlanta got a run back off Ruthven in the second when Luis Gomez doubled home Bob Horner, who had walked.
The Braves added three runs in the third. Glenn Hubbard's infield single started it. Dale Murphy walked but was wiped out by Chris Chambliss' double-play grounder. Gary Matthews singled Hubbard home and Horner hit his 21st homer – and 16th in 25 games – to left to put Atlanta ahead 4-2.
Horner also moved within one home run of tying the major-league mark for homers in July. Joe DiMaggio (1937), Hank Greenberg (1938) and Joe Adcock (1956) each hit 15.
"Horner can hit," said Ruthven. "He's the best hitter I've ever seen. He's got a quick swing and can wait on the ball, like Bull hits when he's hitting. He swings so easy but it goes so far."
And Ruthven went pretty far himself, pitching all 12 innings to improve his record to 9-7. He could've gone longer but is glad that wasn't necessary.
"I didn't feel I'd lost anything arm-wise," said Ruthven, "but I don't think it was good business for my arm (to pitch any longer). But I had five days' rest."
"Dick got better as he went along," said Green. "He pitched super, making big pitches when he needed them all night long."
The Phils tied the opener 4-4 on a pair of homers. Lonnie Smith tagged his first major-league homer, a shot over the tarps in left center.
"He's got some power and it was nice to see that one go out," said Green, a long-time Smith booster.
Then Schmidt hit his second of the game, 26th of the season and 261st of his career to tie the score. It was the 24th time that Schmidt's hit two homers in a game.
Ruthven retired 10 straight Braves in the middle innings and was in little trouble, though the Phils backed him with some outstanding glovework.
"With as few strikeouts as I had (six), you know they made some great plays behind me," Ruthven said.
The Phils' offense managed just four hits in eight innings against three Atlanta relievers until the 12th against loser Rick Camp.
Then Bob Boone singled, Greg Gross (batting for Ruthven) sacrificed pinch-runner Randy Lerch to second and Smith singled to left, taking second on the throw home as Lerch held at third.
Rose was intentionally walked to load the bases before Bradford came in to strike out McBride and set the stage for Schmidt's game-winning walk.
Atlanta took a 2-0 lead in the nightcap on Bruce Benedict's two-out, bases-loaded single off Larson in the fourth. The Braves got their final run off of Dickie Noles in the ninth.
EXTRA INNINGS – Luzinski's knee swelled after yesterday's workout and Green feels the Bull "won't be back for awhile" from the disabled list... Rose didn't start the second game, although he came in late in the contest... Larry Bowa extended his hitting streak to eight games in the opener, but went hit-less in the second... Bob Walk will face the Braves' Phil Niekro tonight at 7:05 with Steve Carlton against Rick Matula tomorrow at 1:35 p.m.