Philadelphia Inquirer - June 23, 1980
Carlton tops Blue, Giants for No. 13
By Jayson Stark, Inquirer Staff Writer
SAN FRANCISCO – Between them, they have three fewer victories than the Cardinals (25-22). They have a combined earned-run average you can only pick up with a microscope.
They are both sure things for the All-Star game. And they are both having their most impressive seasons in years.
But yesterday, Vida Blue and Steve Carlton couldn't beat up on the rest of the world. Yesterday, they were stuck dueling with each other.
But what this duel produced was not the expected gunfight of scorching fastballs and smoking sliders. It was, instead, a test of how well each man coped with less than his best stuff.
And the man who coped best was Carlton. Though he gave up three runs in one inning, almost like a normal person, the Phillies sprang back against Blue and won No. 13 for him, 4-3.
It was the Phillies' fourth victory in a seven-game California trip. But significantly, it was their first since the last time Carlton went out there, Wednesday in San Diego.
"He sure straightens out a pitching staff awfully easily," sighed a thankful Dallas Green. "I'd hate to think where we'd be if he was even half close to what he's been."
Where they'd be is out to graze, instead of a game and a half behind first-place Montreal, which visits the Vet tomorrow for three. The Phils are 13-4 in games Carlton has started, 20-23 behind the rest of the rotation.
But really, you don't need team numbers to convey his value. All you need is his personal data: 13-2, 1.83, eight victories in a row, 93 hits allowed in 133 innings. He is six games and 27 days ahead of his 27-10 pace of 1972. And he has proved in his last two starts that even when he is mortal (for him), he is still better than your assorted Juan Eichelbergers.
"I was worried about him at first," Green confessed yesterday. "He didn't seem to be throwing the fastball. But later, when he lost his breaking ball, he came right back with a very good fastball."
Candlestick Park does not, to be sure, provide the kind of serene laboratory conditions Carlton likes to work in. He could stuff cotton in his ears to shut out a crowd of 27,315, but there wasn't much he could do to block the customary Hurricane Candlestick gales.
"He was struggling off the mound," Bob Boone said. "It's tough to concentrate when you're getting blown over all the time."
Still, Carlton blitzed through the first three innings with his standard one-hit, three-strikeout shutout. And the Phillies had handed him a 1-0 first-inning lead, courtesy of a Lonnie Smith takeout slide that kept the inning alive and Boone's two-out RBI double.
But in the fourth, Carlton struggled through the kind of inning he has been due for since about March 1.
Jack Clark (2-for-2 yesterday, 13-for-his-last-20) started it with a one-out triple off the top of the fence in right. Considering the groove Clark is in right now, he could probably hit a bowling ball up the gap.
Carlton turned around and fanned Jim Wohlford on three pitches. But along came Rich Murray, now destined to be known forever as The Man Who Made McCovey Retire. Murray went out after an outside fastball and slapped it to right. It plopped dead solid on the line for a double, and it was 1-1.
That launched an unheard-of procession of four straight two-out hits off Carlton. Joe Strain got jammed with a slider, but still pulled a ground ball between short and third. It died in the grass in left, so Luzinski had no shot to throw out Murray and it was 2-1.
Then Johnnie LeMaster plopped a perfect bunt down the third-base line for a hit. And Ed Sadek roped a fastball to right for another hit and another run. 3-1.
Carlton has permitted one other three-run inning this year the ninth inning of his second start, April 16 in St. Louis. But that was a game in which Green wanted to take him out after eight and couldn't quite get the bullpen ready in time.
Spotting Blue (9-4) a two-run lead didn't appear to be a great idea. In his last 10 starts before yesterday. Blue was 7-1 with six complete games and a 1.71 ERA. And he had won seven straight before a 2-1 loss to Montreal last week. Blue also was 5-1, 1.97, in Candlestick this year.
But Blue "just didn't have the breaking pitch" yesterday, he complained. "I think," he said, "I might have felt the grind from when I won seven in a row."
The Phils got back to 3-2 in the fifth when Manny Trillo walked, Pete Rose (eight-game hitting streak) singled him to second and Mike Schmidt got RBI No. 52 with a base hit to left. Then Luzinski almost made it 3-3, but Strain, the second baseman, made a great sprawling stop on the Bull's shot up the middle and flipped to second for a force on Schmidt and the third out.
But in the seventh, Smith stroked a leadoff single for his second hit. Smith is hitting .383 and continues, as Green put it, to be "offensively interesting." Then he stole second without a throw. And Schmidt waited patiently on a sinker away and drilled it to the base of the wall in right for a triple. Luzinski then also went the other way for a sacrifice fly, and Carlton had a lead he could close out.
On this trip, Schmidt and Luzinski had knocked in only three runs between them until they doubled that yesterday. Nobody is giving them anything they can pound halfway to Montana these days, so all they can do is adjust.
"If guys want to keep the ball away from you consistently and throw you all offspeed stuff, all you can do is pop it the other way," Schmidt said. "I guarantee you, if we had tried to pull those balls today out of the park, we'd be sitting here with our heads down now.
"You've got to hit those pitches just to prove to them you can hurt them with them. If you prove to them you can hurt them, you may buy the good home-run pitch before the game's over. That's my thinking."
NOTES: Larry Bowa had to leave the game after taking Wohlford's seventh-inning grounder off the same thumb he broke last season, the right one. But it turned out to just be a bruise. "I couldn't feel anything," Bowa said. "So I didn't want to take any chances.”... Dick Ruthven felt pain in his injured shoulder when he tried to throw Saturday. So Dickie Notes will start in his place tomorrow against the Expos. That, of course, is provided that Noles has not been suspended for his bat-tossing exploits by then. "Maybe," said Green, "it will rain Tuesday. That's a helluva way to look at things, isn't it?"... Giants G.M. Spec Richardson says he won't move disgruntled pitcher John Montefusco unless he can get a "quality pitcher." He can't get one for a guy who is 3-5, 4.10 and has a black eye, so Montefusco and Dave "Little Red" Bristol will just have to coexist.... Expos matchups: Noles (0-3) vs. David Palmer (4-1) tomorrow, Bob Walk (2-0) vs. Bill Gullickson (0-1) Wednesday, Randy Lerch (2-9) vs. Scott Sanderson (6-4) Thursday. Green wants to give Carlton a fourth day's rest, just on general principles. So he will open the Mets series Friday.