Wilmington News Journal - June 1, 1980
Schmidt casts Phils’ fate to Wrigley wind
By Ray Finocchiaro, Staff Correspondent
CHICAGO - Mike Schmidt would probably like to rip yesterday's page off his mental calendar and see that it's May 32 today, not June 1.
June may indeed come bustin' out all over for the Phillies' slugging third baseman but it will be tough for Schmidt to top the torrid May pace – featuring 12 home runs and 29 runs batted in – that he enjoyed. While Steve Carlton was striking out 11 batters en route to his ninth victory, making Lefty a little reluctant to leave May himself, Schmidt was hitting a pair of homers to provide the offense in the Phils' 7-0 victory over the Chicago Cubs yesterday.
Schmidt boosted his home run total to 16 – merely best in the majors – and his Wrigley Field career count to 24, making it a favorite stop.
"Wrigley Field? I don't know what to say about it," Schmidt said. "Most home run hitters have had good careers in this park. Not that I'm calling myself a home run hitter, but when the wind's blowing out, you just have to hit the ball in the air to get it out of the park."
Schmidt went the opposite way in the third inning, drilling a two-run homer to right off loser Willie Hernandez that might have been a bit wind-aided. But there was no doubt about the line drive Schmidt smoked off the left field screen on a Bill Caudill fastball in the seventh for the game's final run.
“I've been successful here because I've learned to relax," Schmidt said. "I've got confidence as a hitter here now. My first two years, whenever I was facing Ferguson Jenkins, I never got a hit.
"But now I feel I can reach right field and right center as easy as left field. All it takes is doing it a few times."
A Chicago writer asked how many home runs Schmidt thought he might hit if he played in Wrigley Field for 81 home games, ut Schmidt wouldn't take the bait.
"No more than Dave Kingman hits here," he said.
While Schmidt was giving the 27,937 fans something to look at, Carlton was giving the Cubs nothing to hit. For the fourth time this season, Carlton struck out 11 batters, including four in a row in the heart of the batting order.
Carlton, whose 91 strikeouts top the majors, pitched only seven innings, with Dickie Noles pitching the last two and striking out the last two batters he faced.
Phils' Manager Dallas Green was asked why he lifted Carlton two innings short of his third shutout this season.
"There was no reason to let him struggle," said Green, though it seemed to be the Cubs who did most of the struggling yesterday. "Lefty'd had three quick innings, both teams going in and out without much time to rest, so he struggled a bit in the seventh.
"He could've finished the game but every inning you steal for him this time of the year will help him later."
Carlton is 9-2 and is pitching better than anyone, right-handed or left, in either league, at the moment. Green knows it – and wants to keep it going in the dog days of summer when Carlton traditionally feels the heat and slackens up his torrid starts.
"I'd hate to think where we'd be without him going out there every four days, giving us 7-8 innings of a well-pitched game where we don't have to go to the bullpen early," said Green, filling in for his non-quotable left-hander.
"People might say they don't play better behind a particular pitcher, but Lefty keeps the team in the game. He's a no-nonsense guy from the moment he takes the mound. He goes after hitters and doesn't mess around."
Carlton seemed to toy with the Cubs yesterday. Chicago didn't get a hit or baserunner until the third and Carlton had struck out eight men before the Cubs collected their second hit. They managed just four and didn't get a man past second base against him.
That came when Kingman doubled past third baseman John Vuko-vich, caddying for Schmidt, in the seventh as Green started resting his regulars.
Carlton got out of the inning, thanks to a fine defensive play by center fielder Garry Maddox, whose brilliant sliding catch of Bill Buckner's drive to right center in the first inning was a sign of things to come.
"Garry's probably feeling bad because he didn't get a hit after driving in three runs yesterday," said close friend Schmidt, who shouldered the offensive load while Maddox manned the defense. "But his catch on Buckner was probably as important as my home run or anything else in getting us started today."
Neither team exactly burst from the gates yesterday. The game was a far cry from the last time Carlton and Hernandez faced each other here on Sept. 8, 1979.
In that one, Carlton lasted just 2.2 innings, getting shelled for seven runs, including homers by Kingman and former Phils Barry Foote and Jerry Martin.
Hernandez, meanwhile, was breezing along until an arm injury forced him from the game in the fourth inning. He was leading 8-1 when he left, though the Phils came back to win 9-8 against Bruce Sutter.
Lonnie Smith, subbing for Bake McBride in right field yesterday against the left-handed Hernandez, opened the third inning with a double off third baseman Steve Ontiveros' chest and scored on Pete Rose's bad-hop single to center.
Schmidt then went the opposite way on an outside fastball and rattled it off the screen in dead right. And the Cubs were dead, especially since Carlton hadn't allowed anyone to reach first base to that point.
"Hernandez was probably mad because he didn't make a bad pitch all day and still lost the game," said Schmidt, perhaps explaining why Hernandez kicked his glove into the dugout and then threw a chest protector onto the field when manager Preston Gomez yanked him midway through the fourth inning.
"He tried to pitch me outside. I went with the pitch and hit it out," added Schmidt. "But he was making good pitches."
Not quite good enough, however.
The Phils got three more runs off Hernandez and Lynn McGlothen, originally scheduled to start yesterday's game, in the fourth.
Larry Bowa's infield single, Manny Trillo's walk and Carlton's sacrifice bunt kayoed Hernandez. Smith greeted McGlothen with a single to right, easily scoring Bowa. When Trillo churned around third, ' right fielder Mike Vail hurried his throw and threw it wildly past the plate.
Greg Luzinski made it 6-0 when his single popped out of the glove of oncharging left fielder Kingman, back in the lineup after a two-week absence because of a sore shoulder.
Kingman got a cortisone shot Thursday and was back yesterday, though his ninth-inning stratagem of leading off the Cubs' last shot at Noles with a bunt hinted that maybe the doctor injected the cortisone in Kong's head, not his throbbing shoulder.
Whatever, Schmidt greeted Caudill with his 16th homer in the seventh and had his fifth two-homer game at Wrigley Field.
"I was looking fastball all the way," said Schmidt. "If he'd thrown me anything else, I'd have probably fouled it off. But the count was 2-2, he's a fastball pitcher and he'd thrown two past me already."
So Schmidt drilled that telegraphed fastball on a line to left and out with it rode his torrid May. That merry month found Schmidt leading the majors in homers and runs batted in (41), plus topping the NL with 37 runs scored.
A dozen homers, 29 RBI, a .305 batting average, as well as hitting safely in 24 of his last 28 games. Is it any wonder that May 32 would've been a perfect arrival for Mike Schmidt today?
EXTRA INNINGS - Phillies are 5-1 against left-handers, losing only to the Reds' Charlie Liebrandt... Carlton, 4-1 on the road, has a 1.70 ERA in his last seven starts (5-1, 32 hits, 10 earned runs, 65 strikeouts)... Rookie Bob Walk vs. the Cubs' Dennis Lamp today at 2:15 p.m.... Walk lasted just 2.2 innings vs. the Pirates last Monday but Green said "the butterflies should be gone now."