Philadelphia Inquirer - June 11, 1980

Commentary:  Baseball at 3 a.m:  Was this game really necessary?


By Danny Robbins, Inquirer Staff Writer


These are difficult times for umpires, as Gerry Crawford and Dale Ford well know. But there is no logical excuse for the water-torture provided by Bob Engel Monday night at the Vet.


Engel, chief of the umpiring crew that's working the Phillies' series with the San Francisco Giants, transformed the rain-plagued opening game of the series into another Poseidon Adventure. After five hours of rain delays, including a massive second delay of 3 hours, 32 minutes, the game was finished, the full nine innings, in dry conditions.


Of course, it was finished at 3:11 yesterday morning.  The record will show that the Phils wasted six scoreless, three-hit, 10-strikeout innings from Steve Carlton; that Dickie Noles served up a home-run pitch to the Giants’ Jack Clark with a man on in the eighth, and that the Phillies lost, 3-1.  A handful of crazies from the original crowd of 28,702 were still at the Vet at the bitter end.


The Phils logged five hours in delays before at the Vet, on Aug. 10, 1977.  But that was a twi-night doubleheader (completed at 3:30 a.m.) with three separate delays. Neither league keeps records on such things, but that was supposed to be baseball's longest total rain delay ever.


"I hope," said Greg Minton, the relief pitcher who was around at the end and got the save lor the Giants, "they leave a wakeup call for 4:30 in the afternoon."


Somebody should also leave a wakeup call for the great minds that had control of this game, which belonged to the umpires once it started. Umpires can be allowed bad calls on the field occasionally. But they should know when rain is too much or not enough. After all, it hits them in the face.


After the Monday night farce, both teams had complaints, all legitimate.


The game started in a drizzle and was first held up for 88 minutes with the Phillies about to bat in the fourth inning. Carlton had set down the first 12 Giants in order, but the Phillies hadn't scored a run off John Montefusco, either. Finally, the game started again for seven minutes, long enough for Bob Boone to homer and push the Phils ahead, 1-0.


So all the Phils had to do was finish their half of the fourth, let Carlton cut up the Giants again in the top of the fifth, and, if nothing else, they had played enough for a regulation game, probably a rain-shortened victory. But the umpires decided the rain was bad enough to put everything, and everyone, on hold with one out and a 2-1 count on Manny Trillo in the fourth.


"I thought it (the game) was mishandled," said manager Dallas Green. "We had no business going off after Boonie hit the home run. It was not raining hard enough to call the game, especially when they (the umpires) had a bad weather report and knew they might lose the game.


"The only time they should take a team off the field at that point, in my estimation, is when they've got five innings in. They (the umpires) were so worried about being fair to both teams that they sent 30,000 people out of here wondering what the hell was going on."


Indeed, the Phillies do have reason to wonder after enduring that nationally televised playoff game against the Dodgers in a torrential downpour in 1977.


"We played the damn playoff game in worse showers than that," Green said of the rain that prompted the second delay.


"It started raining heavily again," said Kngel, the crew chief and thus the man in charge. "It was about the same tempo as the first time. I just thought it wasn't worth going on in the rain."


And so the tarp was on. And the wait was on. And on. And ... It became ridiculous 3 hours, 32 minutes, to 1:28 yesterday morning, before Trillo got his next pitch.

Phils power past Giants, 4-3


Luzinski, Maddox hit HRs


By Danny Robbins, Inquirer Staff Writer


At one time in the not-too-distant past, it was the Phillies' biggest sore spot after Nino Espinosa's right shoulder.


"Oh yeah, it was what everyone was talking about how we didn't have a bullpen," said Kevin Saucier. "Well, I think it's a bunch of bleep."


In his own special way, Kevin ("Don't ask me about the fight") Saucier had hit the nail on the head. The Phils' starting pitching after Steve Carlton may be suspect. The hitting may dry up, as it did on Sunday. But the bullpen carries on, as it did in the Phils' 4-3 victory over the San Francisco Giants last night at the Vet.


Rookie starter Bob Walk was shaky early, spotting the Giants three runs in the first inning. The Phillies would gather only six hits off three San Francisco pitchers, but two of the hits were home runs by Greg Luzinski and Garry Maddox. And two relief pitchers, Saucier and Ron Reed, would hold the fort when the wall was just a one-run lead.


It was a win that preserved the natural order of things at the Vet. The rain stayed away, and the game was over before Tom Snyder was on the air. The Phillies also ended a two-game losing slide by beating a team that is 8-24 on the road this season. Last night's San Francisco-style weather didn't help the Giants.


Quick turnabout


The game turned in one inning, the sixth, when Saucier relieved Walk to pull the Phils out of a tight spot, and then Maddox crashed a two-run homer to give them their final margin. After that, Reed protected it with three innings of no-hit relief.


Walk gave up three hits and three runs in the first inning, but then he pulled himself together to allow only two hits (both lead-off singles that were wiped out by double plays) in the next four innings. Meanwhile, the Phillies were just scratching the surface against the Giants' starter. Bob Knepper, who has his own personal road losing streak (0-7 this year). So the Giants were up, 3-2, as the sixth came around.


Terry Whitfield led off the inning with his third hit, a double, and then Walk walked, as he's prone to do, Jack Clark. Out came Dallas Green, and he was waving for Saucier (34, 2.05 ERA) before he hit the first-base line. But Dallas Green doesn't feel like new Cardinals manager Whitey Herzog when he calls on the bullpen these days.


"They've just got to give us all they've got for six innings," Green was saying about his starters later, "especially the way the bullpen is. I'm not afraid to go to it, and I'll go to it quick, like I did tonight."


Key pickoff


The first thing the Phillies did with Saucier in was pick Whitfield, who was leaning halfway to Roosevelt Park, off second. "It was the key play of the game," Saucier said.


Bob Boone fired a strike down to Bowa, who had crept behind the Giants' left fielder, and Whitfield was dead, caught in a run-down. "He was really getting out there," Bowa said of Whitfield's lead off second, "so we talked during the pitching change, and I told Boonie to go ahead and throw."


The batter, Darrell Evans, next poked a grounder in the hole between first and second. Manny Trillo went to his left to make a fine play on the ball, then made an even better play to force Clark with one of those long whip-like throws.


Saucier quickly finished the inning by striking out Milt May, and the Phillies were out of the woods.


"One thing about Sauce," Green said. "He's not afraid to take that ball, and he just wants to do one thing: bring the Phillies a win, somehow."


Saucier got this win thanks to Maddox. Knepper walked Luzinski (who had homered with nobody on in the second) to open the Phils' half of the sixth. He got Boone on a popup after that. But then Maddox golfed a low, 0-1 breaking ball into the Giants' bullpen to make it a 4-3 game.


Maddox has been known to swing at almost anything that moves, and somebody asked him last night if he was a "notorious" low-ball hitter. "When you're hitting .265, you're not notoriously anything." Maddox said. "But I've had success that way in the past."


Last night's success would sustain the Phillies because Reed would provide another in his series of excellent outings of late. Saucier left for a pinch hitter in the sixth, and Reed came in to throw 1-2-3 innings in the seventh and eighth. His only sign of trouble came in the ninth.


Clark started ihe inning by chopping a ball lo Mike Schmidt's left. Schmidt made the play but bounced his throw in to first, and Clark was safe on the error. The next nailer, Evans, ripped a drive to center that Maddox caught as he barged into the fence.


The scare stopped there, however, as Reed fanned May and got pinch-hitter Willie McCovey on a bouncer to Trillo. Thus, Reed had recorded his third save of the season. In his last 13 games, Reed has lowered his ERA from 5.73 to 2.57. In that time, he has allowed only 15 hits in 24-1/3 innings and struck out 17.


In short, he has come out of Green's doghouse to become a powerhouse, like the bullpen as a whole.


"Well, he's throwing the baseball now," Green said. "A month ago. he was not throwing the baseball. I'm not sure why. I knew it. he knew it, and the hitters knew it. He wasn't throwing the ball, and I kept asking why. It was like the (Dick) Ruthven thing. He couldn't tell us, and we couldn't tell him.


"But we kept using him, letting him get his confidence, and it has had kind of a snowball effect."


NOTES: Another great moment in baseball history – an official scoring change on a third-inning play in Monday's game gave Mike Schmidt the 1,000th hit of his career. It was a grounder that went through Darrell Evans at third, and it was originally-scored as an error. It was his only hit in his last 13 at-bats.... The teams forsook batting practice for some needed rest yesterday after Monday's late, late show in the rain.