San Francisco Examiner - June 11, 1980

Mental boots plague Giants


By Glenn Schwarz, Examiner Staff Writer


PHILADELPHIA – Here it is, a third of the way through the season and the Giants still are making mental errors that would frost a minor-league manager.


Let alone one in the bigs.


"When a team doesn’t score many runs, you have to run the bases and play good defense," the Giants' Dave Bristol said. "And you have to be thinking every minute you're out there.


"We can’t afford to make a mistake like Terry did tonight. It kills you."


"What happened to Whitfield not only took us out of a situation – it took away our momentum," echoed coach Jim Lefebvre. “The difference between winning and losing always come down to one or two plays, especially when you're not hitting."


Oh, pitcher Bob Knepper bombed again on the road and the Giants returned to their hitting shell after the first inning last night in Veterans Stadium. But their most disturbing mistake during the Phillies' 4-3 victory was committed on the basepaths, by Terry Whitfield. No, he didn't forget how many outs there were.


In a 3-2 game, the platooning left fielder doubled to lead off the sixth inning. After Jack Clark walked, Kevin Saucier replaced Bob Walk as the Phillies pitcher. Then Whitfield, who leans toward the reckless as a baserunner, made another costly gaffe.


With Darrell Evans up there to bunt, Whitfield shuffled to a sizable lead from second – and promptly was almost picked off by catcher Bob Boone.


"Jimmy (Lefebvrel screamed at him the first time," Bristol said.


"I told him, 'Be alive,'" Lefebvre said.


On Saucier's very next pitch, which the squared around Evans took, the wandering Whitfield was dead. Boone threw behind the frozen runner, to shortstop Larry Bowa, and all Whitfield could do was try for third. Where Mike Schmidt put on the tag.


Saucier proceeded to retire Evans and Milt May, Garry Maddox ripped a two-run homer off Knepper in the bottom of that inning and Ron Reed pitched three hitless innings of savior relief. So the Phils, 3-1 losers to the Giants earlier yesterday in that 7½-hour, theater-of-the-absurd rain game, squared the series in a more conventional 2:25.


It was the sinking Giants' fourth loss in five games on this trip and their 10th defeat in the past 14. Their last-in-the-league hitting remains the primary problem; in those 14 games, they scored only 32 runs. But take the most recent losses – a defensive error decided the final game in Houston, a mental blunder was pivotal here.


"It's not something we haven't talked about and worked on before," Bristol said of the Whitfield play. "When you're on second base, it's the bunter's job, not yours, to get you to third base. You've got to see the ball on the ground before you run. He just got out in no-man's land."


Whitfield attempted to forget about his muck-up afterward by tearing into a Dagwood sandwich.


"I tried to get a good jump. I didn’t realize how far off I was and he (Boone) came up throwing," Whitfield said. "I should've stayed closer to the base. Dumb baserunning bv me."


The losing pitcher sought postgame diversion in a book about horses, which he read for a while in the trainer's room. Eventually, Knepper went back to his locker and once more was unable to explain his schizoprhenic season, in which he is 4-1 at Candlestick, 0-7 on the road.


"I was inconsistent again," he said wearily. "I tried to come inside on hitters all night. But when I did get the ball there, it was in the wrong spot."


Beginning with a second-inning fastball that Greg Luzinski bulled into the second deck in left field for his 13th homer. That made it 3-1, the Giants having jumped on rookie Bob Walk for three in the first inning when Larry Herndon walked, Whitfield and Clark singled and Rich Murray broke his major-league RBI maiden with a two-run double.


Knepper's worst pitch might have been one in the fifth that struck Walk in the foot. Lonnie Smith subsequently walked on four pitches and Pete Rose followed with a sacrifice fly for 3-2. Then, in the sixth, Luzinski walked and Maddox golfed an ankle-high fastball over the left-field fence.


"It was a mistake to him," Knepper moaned, "because he's a good low-ball hitter."


These days, the Giants get away with few mistakes. The bottom line is, though, they keep making them.


NOTES: Ed Halicki relieved Knepper and threw 1 hitless innings. Insiders here insist the Phillies have a strong interest in Halicki and interpreted his first appearance in two weeks as a showcasing before Sunday's intraleague deal deadline... Spec Richardson says Halicki still is the only Giant who has expressed to him a desire to be traded. The Giants general manager should hear some of the clubhouse chatter. John Montefusco said on a Philly radio show the other night that he would not mind moving on – especially if he wound up here.


Clarification on Dallas Green's displeasure with umpire Bob Engel during the rain game: The Phils manager believed the crew chief was allowing Bristol to stall until another shower hit. With the Giants trailing 1-0 and it not yet an official game, Allen Ripley, allowed to warm up indefinitely, once tossed 23 pitches. "They (the umps) are more afraid of Bristol, though I don't know why," Green said. "I guarantee you I'll be in this game a long time – longer than Bristol will be, as a matter ol fact."...


Mike Schmidt got his 1,000th career hit when the official scorer changed a Monday night error call on Evans... Evans has gone 10 games without an RBI... Billy North did not start because of a pulled groin muscle... Al Holland, who pitched a scoreless eighth, has allowed an earned run in only one of 18 outings.