Reading Eagle - July 29, 1980
Cesar’s Triple Buries Phils
PHILADELPHIA (AP) – The Houston Astros live by making the fundamental plays. They almost died Monday night by cutting their lifeline.
The Astros, National League Western Division leaders, beat the Philadelphia Phillies, 3-2 on Cesar Cedeno’s two-out, 10th inning triple following a walk to Jose Cruz.
The winning blow came off reliever Ron Reed (6-4), and made a winner of reliever Joe Sambito (6-1).
The Astros never will win a division title with this team by knocking down any fences. They win on pitching, defense and speed.
They almost left these attributes at home Monday night. Fortunately for the Astros, the Phillies couldn’t hit rookie Gordy Pladson, a customary thing when they see a new pitching face.
Pladson allowed just four hits in the eight innings he worked. Sambito replaced him in the ninth after Houston pinch hit for their starter.
Sambito gave up one hit, struck out three and walked off with the victory.
Houston manager Bill Virdon said that in his mind he gave the triumph to the rookie pitcher, who was recalled from Tacoma of the Pacific Coast League July 14.
“He pitched very well, better than that,” said Virdon. “He threw strikes. He got his slider over. He’s a good, strong kid.”
The Astros took a 1-0 lead in the third inning on a triple by light-hitting Craig Reynolds, and Cruz’ single.
The Phillies tied it in the fourth with the help of Houston’s second of three crucial mistakes.
Pete Rose walked, and Bake McBride lofted a fly to rightcenter. Cedeno in center and Dave Bergman in right charged after the ball, but both stopped and it fell for a double. Rose advanced to third and eventually scored.
Cedeno Takes Blame
Cedeno said it was Bergman’s ball, but since the right fielder hadn’t played much this year, he (Cedeno) would take the blame for a ball that should have been caught.
“I heard Cesar yelling, but I thought he was calling me off,” Bergman said. “He was telling me I had plenty of room.”
Houston’s first mistake was on offense. They loaded the bases in the third, and Joe Morgan should have scored on a line drive out to center. But Morgan ran halfway home and couldn’t get back in time to tag up.
Morgan said he thought the ball would fall safely and that he might be tossed out at the plate if he didn’t get a jump.
Houston’s third mistake came in the fifth and gave the Phillies a 2-1 lead. Larry Bowa was trapped when Phillies’ pitcher Nino Espinosa missed a squeeze bunt attempt. Instead of running Bowa back toward third, the Astros allowed him to advance toward the plate and he slid home.
Bowa actually didn’t touch the plate and had to lean back and get a piece of it with his hand, before being called safe.
The Astros tied it in the seventh on a walk to catcher Alan Ashby, and singles by Bergman and pinchhitter Art Howe.
Phillies’ manager Dallas Green, who learned before the game he had lost slugging outfielder Greg Luzinski for at least three weeks with damaged cartilage, said he felt his team played a good ball game.
“They (the Astros) blooped a couple and got runs… We just came out of the short end,” he said.
Green said he was pleased with starter Nino Espinosa’s pitching. The righthander allowed six hits in 5-1/3 innings, walked four and struck out two.
“As long as he keeps us in the game, I’m going to run him out there,” Green said.
Green was pleased with Bowa’s steal of home, describing it as aggressive baseball he wants his team to play.
“I don’t know how he got there but he did,” said Green of Bowa’s steal.
Green complimented Houston as a contact team on offense.
“They put the bat on the ball, do what they have to do, pitch and run and win close games.”
Maybe that’s how the West will be won.
Green, Tanner Disagree on N.L. East Outcome
PHILADELPHIA (AP) – The Philadelphia Phillies are aching, but manager Dallas Green insists that come September there will be a last ditch battle for the National League East championship.
Green talked about his third place club after being advised that manager Chuck Tanner of the defending world champion Pittsburgh Pirates said the Bucs’ depth would prove the difference over the long haul.
“He’s the world champion and has pretty much the right to say what he wants,” Green replied after a moment of thought.
“He (Tanner) has competent people, but I still feel it will be a fight to the end, and won’t be decided until after competition in the East in September,” Green declared.
The latest blow to the Phillies is a knee operation on power hitting Greg Luzinski.
Luzinski has been on the 15 day disabled list because of a knee condition first described as fluid on the knee. But cartilage damage surfaced, and he underwent surgery Monday that will sideline him at least another three weeks.
“Naturally I would like to have him (Luzinski),” said Green. “We need his bat in there. But we’ll hold up.”
Green has been using rookie Lonnie Smith in place of Luzinski. Smith is not a power hitter, with only two home runs, both this past weekend.
Smith, however, gives the Phillies a new dimension, speed. In 53 games, most of them as a pinchhitter, he has stolen 14 times in 17 attempts. He runs the bases like a quarter horse. Smith features scoring from first on a single. He forces throwing errors, catches the opposition napping.
In addition, Smith his hitting .345 with seven doubles and three triples. He makes the mistakes of youth, the mistakes of aggressiveness. But he’s learning fast, and appears to be a budding major league star.
Smith makes Luzinski’s loss less painful.
Green also has third baseman Mike Schmidt and shortstop Larry Bowa, recovering from hamstring pulls. They’re playing, but everytime either one makes a quick move, the manager holds his breath.
“Bowa is close to 100 percent, especially the way he’s played lately. He’s played darn good defense. He contributing. And he works on the machines to help the injury problem,” Green said.
“Schmidt beat out a couple of balls, which indicates he’s close to 100 percent. He does need to strengthen the knee more, but he comes to work and plays,” Green observed.
Right fielder Bake McBride is playing on two bad knees. McBride, however, just shakes his head and goes on playing in pain. From time to time he had to have water drained from the knees. He’s hitting .302 and has driven in 58 runs, second only to Schmidt’s 69.
Faith in Offense
Green was asked if the loss of Luzinski hitting after Schmidt didn’t affect the way pitchers worked on Schmidt, the National League’s top home run hitter. Without Luzinski to follow, isn’t the tendency to pitch around Schmidt?
“I hope that doesn’t mean anything,” Green said hesitantly. “I have enough faith in our offense that whoever hits after Schmidt can hold up their end.”
It’s Garry Maddox right now, not a home run threat, but a consistent hitter when he’s in a groove. Maddox is hitting at .265, and has snapped out of a recent slump.
“Schmidt naturally is going to get more attention,” Green said. “But he doesn’t swing at bad balls, is a disciplined hitter. If the rest of our offense plays to its capability we’ll be all right.”