Doylestown Daily Intelligencer - July 31, 1980
'Kids' lead the way, Phils nudge Astros
By Paul Giordano, Intelligencer Reporter
PHILADELPHIA - If the Phillies' future is Lonnie Smith, Keith Moreland, Bob Walk and Kevin Saucier, then the future appears to be now.
Dallas Green's prized "kiddie corps" has more than filled in for the injured Greg Luzinski, slumping Bob Boone and sometimes "patch work" pitching staff.
Two nights ago Smith gave the much needed shot in the arm. Wednesday night Moreland continued the effort, as the Phils defeated the Houston Astros, 6-4 behind the pitching of Dick Ruthven and Tug McGraw.
Smith already has been given sole posession of left field until Luzinski returns. And if he continues to play the way he has, the left field situation could pose a rather interesting question to Green when and if Luzinski is ready.
The Moreland-Boone dilemma could prove to be an interesting one, too. Despire Boone's slumping .222 average, he is still the Phils' number one catcher because of his experience in the handling of the pitchers and knowledge of the National League's hitters.
But Moreland, currently hitting at .333, with two hits in Wednesday night's game, including the game-winning RBI, could give the veteran backstop a serious push. The Phillies need all the offense they can get right now to catch Pittsburgh and Montreal, and maybe, for the time being, Boone's experience and knowledge may have to be sacrificed.
And maybe Wednesday night's game was the first clue. Moreland did start for the second time in two nights. Now who is behind the plate tomorrow night when the Phils open a three-game set with the Cincinnati Reds? Well, not even Green knows for sure.
"I did catch Boonie tonight," Green said, referring to Boone being used in the eighth and ninth innings of last night's game. "We'll just go the way I feel.
"Sure I started Moreland two straight games, but the guy is hitting .317 (.321 before last night's game) and the other guy is hitting .229 (.222). That doesn't need any explanation. I know what Boonie means to this ballclub, but he's (Moreland) swinging the hot bat right now.
"He (Moreland) has caught very successfully, you can't fault his defense and he's swinging the bat as good as anyone on the club right now. I think I may have found that guy to hit in the fifth slot.
"He's always handled pitchers pretty well. He has a tendency of getting lazy, like letting that one ball get away from him tonight, but that's what a young catcher has to fight. His arm has improved and no one's taking liberties."
Moreland, too, has learned not to take liberties in what he says. Maybe down deep he feels he can take over as the number one catcher, but he's not about to say so. He knows his time will come, maybe sooner than later.
"I'm not the number one catcher," Moreland said after Wednesday night's game. "Bob Boone is. If we win the National League and make it to the World Series, he's the catcher.
"I think I still have to improve on all aspects of catching. I leaked out on a steal tonight and had a passed ball (scored a wild pitch), which could have cost us a run and maybe the ballgame. But I've always had a good approach to hitting. The hardest thing is playing good defense."
Still, the Phillies' youth has started to make their move. All have contributed, possibly more than expected.
"If you're young and do well," Moreland said, "it's a plus for the organization. And if you establish yourself young, you establish your career early. We're all glad to be here and get a chance to play. And when we do play we play as hard as we can.
"I'm not in awe of being in the big leagues, either. I'm getting paid to play here, the same as a guy who has been here 10 years. They had to start somewhere, too.
"But it's still the veterans who have to pull the load. I don't think I can handle the pitchers like Boonie. He knows the National League hitters. And I'm sure he'll be in there Friday night and take us the rest of the way."
The Astros took a 2-0 lead in the fourth inning of Wednesday night's game on a two-run single by Craig Reynolds. The Phils tied it in their half of the fourth on an RBI single by Garry Maddox and Manny Trillo's RBI double off starter Nolan Ryan.
Joe Morgan's RBI single gave Houston a 3-2 lead in the fifth.
Winning pitcher Dick Ruthven opened the Phils' fifth with a double. One out later Pete Rose drew a walk. Then, after Bake McBride flied out to center field, Mike Schmidt drew a walk to load the bases. Moreland followed with a two-run single and the Phils led, 4-3. Maddox added a two-run single and the Phils increased their lead to 6-3.
Back-to-back doubles by Jose Cruz and Cesar Cedeno made it a 6-4 ballgame to open the eighth inning, but Tug McGraw was brought in and closed out the Astros out the rest of the way. McGraw picked up his ninth save of the season.
EXTRA BASES - Phils won season series from the Astros, 9-3, their best record over Houston since 1997 when they were 11-7... McBride has hits in seven straight, including seven straight hits before being stopped in the fifth inning of Wednesday night's game, and 19 of the last 30... Moreland has hit in six straight games... Bob Walk faces Bill Bonham in Friday night's opener against Cincinnati.