Philadelphia Inquirer - July 31, 1980

Moreland’s two-run single lifts Phillies, 6-4


By Jayson Stark, Inquirer Staff Writer


It's pretty tough for guys hitting .333 to get lost in the shuffle. But Keith Moreland probably could teach Houdini a few things about invisibility.


In this, the Phillies' Year of the Rookie, people have gasped at the electric legs of Lonnie Smith and gaped at the spectacular stuff of Bob Walk.


Keith Moreland, meanwhile, has just gone out and drilled his line drives in anonymity. Six-game hitting streaks aren't the world's most awesome sights if you have to string them out over three weeks.


But Keith Moreland actually started his second game in a row last night. And ripped two hits for the second night in a row. One of them put the Phillies on top of Nolan Ryan for good in a 6-4 win over the Astros.


And when it was over, Keith Moreland had a six-game hitting streak, nine hits in his last 17 at-bats and a batting average of .333. And, oh yeah, he wasn't invisible anymore – not to his manager anyway.


Dallas Green says that if Moreland insists on continuing to hit .333, he might even be forced to let him catch more than once a homestand.


"I'm not afraid to play Booney. I'm just going the way I feel," Green said. "Look, one guy's hitting .300. The other guy's hitting .222. I don't think that requires a lot of explanation.


"Hey, I recognize what Bobby Boone means to this club. And he'll continue to catch. I just feel the other guy is swinging better at this time. One guy's just swinging the bat better. It's that basic."


Some guys complain about not playing. Moreland is almost embarrassed when he does play.


Trouble is, when he plays he hits. And when he hits, people notice Boone hasn't been hitting. And when they notice that, they start asking Moreland if he thinks about being the starting catcher. And when they ask that, Moreland just puts his hand to his forehead in agony.


"I hate that question," Moreland groaned last night. "I mean, it's a farce. He's the No. 1 catcher. He should be the No. 1 catcher. He's got to be the No. 1 catcher. As far as I'm concerned, I'm not competing with Bob at all."


These aren't exactly ordinary times, though. Green still is searching for a No. 5 hitter. And until his No. 4 hitter, Mike Schmidt, strained a groin going from first to third last night, Green said he "thought we had a guy (Moreland) who might fit that fifth slot."


Moreland was directly in the middle of the Phils' comeback from 2-0 and 3-2 deficits against Ryan (5-8 for the year, 1-8 on the road).


It was a night when Nolan the K didn't have his Incredible Colossal Exploding Fastball. But he still had one good enough to pop Moreland up with two on in the fourth. However, Garry Maddox (two hits, three RBIs) came back with an RBI single, followed by a Manny Trillo RBI double. And so the Phils were even, 2-2.


Then, after a wild pickoff throw by Phils starter Dick Ruthven (10-7) handed the Astros a run in the fifth, Ryan just self-destructed.


First he knocked down Ruthven for the second time starting the fifth, and Ruthven got up to whack a 3-2 pitch to right-center for a double.


Ryan pumped a fastball by Lonnie Smith for one out. But, amid interminable pacing around, he walked Pete Rose on four pitches, ended Bake McBride's 7-for-7 string with a line drive out to center and then walked Schmidt on four more pitches.


So the bases were full for Moreland, who had never hit against Ryan before. He was, he conceded, "a little bit in awe."


"But I'll tell you," said Moreland, "in the minor leagues you face a lot of flame-throwers, too guys who have no idea where it's going. At least Nolan's got an idea. That helps a little bit."


Moreland went with a 1-1 fastball, low and away, and roped it to right for a single. Ruthven scored routinely. But rightfielder Jeff Leonard, who had made a great throw from right to nail Maddox at the plate in the fourth, made another one.


It clearly beat Rose home. But home-plate ump Fred Brocklander said Rose avoided catcher Alan Ashby's tag. Ashby cast a dissenting vote from a position about an inch from Brocklander's face.


Rose, on the other hand, smiled the kind of smiles guys flash when they know they won one for a change. Rose tap danced around the post-game questions. for a while. Then he was told even the TV replays didn't help, because Brocklander was standing directly in the way.


"What that tells me," Rose chuckled, "is that's a pretty smart umpire there. Ya gotta give him a lot of credit if he's smart enough to do that."


As Ashby and Houston manager Bill Virdon stomped around the plate unhappily, Schmidt was trotting off with his groin injury. There is a chance he will play tomorrow, but it is not likely.


Anyhow, after all that assorted smoke cleared, Maddox popped one foul behind first. First baseman Danny (Uriah) Heep missed it for an error, so Maddox had a chance to rip the next pitch to left for two more runs.


That finished Ryan. And it gave Ruthven a three-run pad he almost needed. He was pooped from going 163 pitches and 12 innings in his last start.


"I might have trouble striking out my wife," Ruthven sighed.


But he got through seven, throwing strikes, keeping the ball down. Then Jose Cruz and Cesar Cedeno started the eighth with back-to-back doubles. So Tug McGraw came on, shut down the Astros and earned his second save in two nights.


NOTES: The Phillies will get through the year without being beaten by Phil Niekro, Joe Niekro or J.R. Richard for the first time since 1973.... The Phils used to be The Team You Could Always Steal On, not to mention The Team Who Hardly Ever Stole. But that situation has turned around remarkably. Going into last night, the Phils had stolen 15 bases in their last 16 tries, including 22 of 25. Lonnie Smith had seven in a row and 17 of 20 for the year. Meanwhile, Phillies opponents were only 12-for-28 in steals since July 10. Bob Boone has nailed eight of his last 11. Keith Moreland had thrown out three of seven since the All-Star break going into last night.... Matchups against the Reds: Bob Walk vs Bill Bonham tomorrow, Steve Carlton vs. Mike LaCoss on Saturday, Nino Espinosa vs. Bruce Berenyi on Sunday.