Camden Courier-Post - June 12, 1980

Early outburst enables Giants to beat Phils


By Rusty Pray of the Courier-Post


PHILADELPHIA – Playing catchup baseball is a risky proposition at best. It's a little like playing Russian Roulette with five loaded chambers in a six-shot revolver. The odds are you're going to lose.


The Phillies have found themselves in that chancy situation more than once this season, which may in part explain why they are hovering just above .500 after 51 games. And, while the Phils may have become somewhat accustomed to coming from behind, it's not a knack worth cultivating.


In their last two games, Phillie starters have spotted the San Francisco Giants leads or 3-0 and 4-0 after the first three innings. The Phils were able to tempt fate the first time, coming back to beat the Giants on Tuesday. Last night, they were not as fortunate, dropping a 7-4 decision that left them four games behind first-place Montreal in the National League's East Division standings.


LAST NIGHT was the 19th time this season the Phils have carried a deficit of some kind into the fourth inning. And it was the 12th time they've been unable to dig their way out of the hole.


Lefthander Randy Lerch, now 2-8 and fortunate the Phils are out of healthy starters, began excavation in the first, allowing Bill North a leadoff single and Rich Murray his first major league home run. Lerch faced 11 more batters, got five of them out, and was gone before the third inning ended.


Jack Clark, who would later triple and homer, began Lerch's final inning with a double to left, scoring when Murray, who went 3-for-5 and drove in four runs, followed with a single to center. When Larry Herndon singled to left, Phillies Manager Dallas Green all but sprinted out of the dugout for a chat with his pitcher.


"I WAS mad," said Green. "I tried to use some toughness and tell him where he was."


As it turned out, Lerch was a walk to Rennie Stennett away from a shower, Lerrin LaGrow coming in from the bullpen to give up a sacrifice fly to Johnnie LeMaster before getting out of the inning.


The Phils gamely threatened Giant starter Ed Whitson, who had not won since May 20, closing the gap to 4-2 in the sixth on a double by Bob Boone and an unearned run. But the bullpen, as good as it has been, could not work a miracle on this night, the Giants getting two more runs off Kevin Saucier in the seventh on Clark's triple and another single by Murray.


In the eighth, the gap was again narrowed to two runs, this time by Greg Luzinski's second homer in as many nights with Mike Schmidt on first. But, as is often the case in come-from-behind efforts, the Bull's 14th home run of the year was not enough.


"IT (playing with a deficit) changes your approach to hitting," explained Schmidt, who lined into a double play and walked three times. "You know the team needs runners, so you can't be selective. You can't take the extra base. You just got to get a hit to get in the game and the opposing pitcher knows that. He can take chances.


"A good example is tonight's game. I'm on (first in the fourth inning), he (Whitson) throws hard to Bull and Bull hits one on the nose to shortstop (the Giants turned it into a double play). He doesn't do that if it's 0-0 or 1-1.”


Whitson, who has pitched better than his 3-7 record (the Giants had scored a total of 10 runs in his 12 previous starts), was indeed a more confident pitcher with the lead. He managed to hang on until Luzinski's homer and an ensuing single by Boone knocked him out with two gone in the eighth.


"With a 4-0 lead, any one of you guys could stand out there and throw the ball," Schmidt told a group of reporters. "Who's to say we're going to hit it? Four runs made a good pitcher out of Ed Whitson tonight.


"WE'RE GOING to have games where we have to come from behind, but you can't make a practice of it. Tonight it was Randy, but I'm not putting the rap on him. It's just a tough situation."


Whitson, the guy the Giants got from those crafty Pittsburgh Pirates for Bill Madlock, couldn't have agreed more. "I've had some tough luck," he said. "I'd gotten 17 runs in 14 starts, but tonight the guys came through for me and I loved it. Anytime I see six runs on the board it's like a Christmas gift for me."


In his haste to celebrate, Whitson apparently forgot to check the scoreboard, which would have told him his teammates had gotten him seven, not six. But Whitson wasn't about to nitpick over a measly run, not when he had so many with which to work.


"It's my turn to celebrate," he smiled.


And the Phillies' turn to mull over the dangers of playing catchup baseball.


PHIL UPS – Luzinski's homer was his 218th, moving him into fourth place on the club's all-time list... Whitson's only previous victories were shutouts over Chicago... Suns allowed by Saucier were the first in 7 innings covering nine appearances... Phils are off today, open three-game series against San Diego tomorrow night with Dick Ruthven going against Randy Jones... Jones is 4-5, but has three complete-game shutouts – the only complete games by Padre pitching this season.

Embattled Lerch could be sent down


By Ray W. Kelly of the Courier-Post


PHILADELPHIA – Phillies Manager Dallas Green wants to send ailing pitchers Nino Espinosa and Warren Brusstar back to the minor leagues for a while. And, if he had a choice, he might be inclined to send Randy Lerch right along with them.


It's not that the lanky southpaw lacks major league talent. And, unlike Espinosa and Brusstar, Lerch doesn't need 20 days of work in a far away place in an effort to add strength and rhythm to a sore and rusty pitching style.


Green's problem wifh Lerch is that both of them are running out of alternatives. They've tried just about everything in an effort to find the magic ingredient that will enable Randy to live up to his potential and give the Phils the pitching help they so desperately need.


"I'd like to use the shock treatment," said Green last night after Lerch's record drooped to 2-8 with a performance that lasted 2 innings during which the San Francisco Giants scored four runs on six hits. Lerch yielded two walks and had no strikeouts.


He wasn't talking about wiring Randy's sideburns to the nearest electrical outlet or hooking up a hot-shot from his car battery to the southpaw's locker room stool. He was talking about throwing the switch on a big leaguer's pride.


"We've done just about everything we can think of. I'm sure Randy has, too," said the manager. "There's only one other thing left. Although, I don't think I have that luxury right now."


In other words, if Green had more arms at his disposal, Lerch would be using his to wave good-bye. And only because there's a growing feeling in the Philly camp that a few bus rides to garden spots like Podunk, Poughkeepsie and Peoria might frighten, infuriate or possibly shock the hard-throwing hurler out of the pitching funk that has shadowed his career for too long.


"Maybe we've been too nice," said Green. "Eventually, when a pitcher gets this way, he becomes the one who has to do it. You can try teaching and cajoling. You can hope and pray. But he's the one who has got to screw his hat on tighter and go out and get the job done.


"Instead of getting ticked off in the clubhouse and tearing it up, he should try to get some of the hitters out with that fire."


Understand that everyone, especially the manager, is well aware of the possibility that Lerch could someday get his act together, become a 20-game winner and make all concerned look like fools. Lerch should understand that everyone would gladly play the fool if the end result was him living up to his full potential.


However, the fact remains that up until last night's 7-4 defeat, the only category in which Lerch has led the Phils is unique excuses. And not necessarily those of his own choice.


For example, one theory proposed that Randy's main problem was some sort of Steve Carlton obsession. And, that a negative influence from Carlton was rubbing off on Lerch.


"Maybe I came down here (from the front office) with the same idea," said Green. "But I've learned differently. That stuff is so out of line, it's scary . You don't see Steve dropping his head out there on the mound. He's right back on the mound and it's 'let's go.


"Sure, he hangs around Lefty. But Lefty can't pitch for him."


There was the theory that Lerch was so concerned with the way former Manager Danny Ozark quickly pulled him out of games that Randy spent all his time worrying about not making a mistake instead of concentrating on the hitters.


Ozark is long gone, taking that excuse along with him.


For a while, the problem was that the team didn't score runs for Lerch. Or was it injuries? Maybe it was both.


"We need him desperately," confessed Green. "I was mad when I went to the mound the first time tonight. I knew he'd warmed up great. Then, nothing. He didn't have any pop on either his fastball or breaking ball. I told him that only he could do that, not me or Bob Boone (the catcher).


"It's hard for our guys to get juiced up when their pitcher hangs his head.


Green believes that if the Phils can stay above .500 in the win-loss column until the club catches fire, they can win it all. What he won't say is that 1980 is the last chance this combination of stars gets to fly over the cuckoo's nest. After that, the shock treatments and frontal lobotomies are on the house.