Wilmington Evening Journal - June 12, 1980

Giants put Ed Whitson ‘in heaven’


By Ray Finocchiaro, Staff Writer


PHILADELPHIA – San Francisco pitcher Ed Whitson felt like he was in heaven, South Philly branch.


The Giants had scored seven runs for him, almost as many as the 10 they had managed in his last 12 starts combined, and the guy whose only claim to fame is being traded for Bill Madlock had enough to beat the Phillies 7-4 at Veterans Stadium last night.


"Seven runs!" smiled Whitson, now 3-7 and whose only other victories were shutouts over the Chicago Cubs. "The team's had no luck scoring for me, so I thought I was in heaven with those seven runs. I didn't know how to act."


Down the hall, Phils Manager Dallas Green did. He was down in the dumps. Green's club has scored just nine runs in the last 37 innings while losing three of their last four games.


What's worse, left-hander Randy Lerch continued to struggle, looking as bad as he has all season. With a 2-8 record, that's a lot of struggling.


Lerch beat the Chicago Cubs last Saturday night, then stalked out of the clubhouse without a word because he felt Green yanked him too early.


Last night the manager pulled his young pitcher in the third inning with the Giants already ahead 3 0 with six hits, including rookie Rich Murray's first major-league homer. Oriole Eddie Murray's kid brother now has five hits and six RBI, all against the Phillies, to show for his first week in the majors.


Somebody mentioned that Lerch hasn't been able to put together those back-to-back victories that Green needs now that his starting rotation is built on Steve Carlton and lots of Scotch tape.


"He sure hasn't," Green said, "and we need him to, desperately. Everybody in the ballpark, every sports-writer in Philadelphia and every E layer on the team knows it. Mr. Lerch knows that, too. He's busting his butt, too, but not getting the job done."


To put it mildly, which Green didn't.


"Three runs and six hits in two innings is not getting it done," Green said, shaking his head. "I didn't see anything encouraging tonight. That's why I got him out of there early."


Green tried to force Lerch to face reality when he demoted the lefthander to the bullpen three weeks ago and didn't call on him once.


But the Phils' lack of starters, complicated when Larry Christenson was lost for the season after elbow surgery, forced Green to restore Lerch to the rotation. And Lerch responded with a victory.


False alarm.


Will Green continue to persevere with Lerch's on-again, off-again style or resort to more drastic measures?


"I guess persevere is a good word to use in this situation," Green said. "I'd like to use shock treatment to get him back in gear. We've tried just about everything we know and he has, too."


Green isn't suggesting that the Phillies' medical crew strap a few electrodes to Lerch's cranium and wire him for sound. The "shock treatment" is another trip to the bullpen. The question remains: whose bullpen? Oklahoma City's?


"There's only one kind of shock treatment left," Green said, meaning a demotion to the minor leagues. Then there's the possibility of a trade, but that's wishful thinking at the moment.


"I just don't have that luxury right now," said Green. "Maybe we've been too nice, I don't know. Eventually a pitcher gets this way, but it's up to him.


"You can teach, cajole, hope and pray, but he's the guy who has to screw his hat on tighter and go. Instead of getting ticked off in the clubhouse and tearing it up, it's better to get ticked off on the mound and get some hitters out."


Writers looked around for signs of devastation but found none. And Green said there weren't any, just the sight of Lerch storming up the runway from dugout to clubhouse, angry after the fact.


And the fact was that the Giants got two runs in the first inning on Murray's homer, two more in the second and, with boos raining down, Lerch was gone.


The 37,844 fans booed Lerch and cheered Green's first appearance after Larry Hemdon singled to put runners at the corners with the Giants ahead 3-0.


When Green left Lerch in the game, the crowd booed again. Lerch walked Rennie Stennett to load the bases, then slammed down the resin bag as Green reappeared, signaling for Lerrin LaGrow.


Things didn't improve much. Johnnie LeMaster got the fourth run home on a sacrifice fly.


The Phils, who have been struggling at the plate, couldn't manage a hit off Whitson until LaGrow singled with two out in the third. It was LaGrow's second big-league hit in 11 at-bats.


The Phils needed an assist from Herndon's footloose and fancy-free fielding to get two runs in the sixth after Pete Rose had doubled and Mike Schmidt, who has one hit in his last 14 at-bats. walked.


Bob Boone doubled down the left field line, easily scoring Rose. As Luzinski chugged into third, Herndon kicked the ball away. Then he caught up to it, stepped on the ball and kicked it behind him, allowing the Bull to score and Boone to get to third.


Schmidt walked for the third time in the eighth and Luzinski sent a hanging slider into the seats in left field for his 218th homer, fourth best in club history, and 127th at the Vet, most by any player.


That made it 6-2, since the Giants had scored two runs off the previously invincible Kevin Saucier in the seventh, featuring Murray's fourth RBI.


"Murray has trouble with the breaking ball, so he hits a curve ball out of the park," said Green. "Then he breaks his bat on a slider and gets another RBI. We must have led the world in broken bats tonight, but it doesn't help you."


Neither do broken hearts. Randy Lerch is testing Dallas Green's patience to the extent that shock treatment may be in order. What could be next?


Why, the San Diego Padres, of course. Tomorrow night Randy Jones faces Dick Ruthven, another inconsistent starter giving Green heartburn less that a third of the way into the season. Anybody got any Rolaids?