Sports Illustrated - June 23, 1980

Baseball – N.L. East


By Herm Weiskopf


This is scary." said Lee Mazzilli of the Mets (5-2), reflecting on the otherworldly quality of the team's string of come-from-behind victories. A 4-2 Pirate advantage was turned into a 6-4 New York triumph as the Mets stole four bases and Steve Henderson singled in two runs in the seventh. Then came the Mets' first three-game sweep of the Dodgers since 1974. New York, down 4-0 in the fourth inning of the opener, won 5-4 as Tom Hausman hurled five innings of shutout relief and John Stearns' apparent double-play grounder bad-hopped into centerfield and brought home two runs. The next night, Craig Swan gave up six hits and became a 6-2 winner when Mike Jorgensen hit a grand slam in the 10th. In the fifth inning of the finale, the Mets trailed 5-0, but no sweat. They won 6-5 thanks to three Dodger errors and three scoreless innings by Reliever Neil Allen, who got his 10th save. Then came another shocker against the Giants, who carried a 6-0 lead into the sixth. Henderson gave New York a 7-6 victory when, with two out in the bottom of the ninth, he climaxed a five-run rally with his first homer of the season, a three-run shot off Allen Ripley. Believe it or not. This topped off a .423 week for Henderson, whose .341 average is the league's third best. New York, once 9-18, has won 18 of its last 28 games. "Eerie," said Mazzilli.


No one, however, gained on the Expos (6-1). who led the East by two games. With three pitchers ailing and with Andre Dawson joining a lengthy list of injured players with a bruised right wrist after going 9 for 16, a call for help went out to the farm clubs. Up from Denver came Charley Lea, who pitched eight innings against the Padres and won 9-1. Up from Memphis came Brad Mills, who took over at third base against righthanded pitching for injured Larry Parrish and had 10 hits in 17 at bats. Meanwhile. Rodney Scott scored nine runs, Warren Cromartie batted .414 and Ron LeFlore hit .423 and stole a base in all seven games. Overall, the Expos hit .329 for the week, including .351 with runners in scoring position. Even one of the walking wounded contributed. After breaking and dislocating his ring finger during pregame pepper, Chris Speier put the finger back in place himself, played the full game and scored the decisive run in a 7-6 defeat of the Padres by sliding home headfirst in the ninth. Along the way, the Expos tied a team record by extending their winning streak to 10 games.


Since signing with Houston in 1969, Mike Easier has been shuttled to St. Louis, California, Pittsburgh, Boston and back again to the Pirates (4-3). Despite hitting .352 in the American Association in 1976 and a league-leading .330 in the International in 1978, he has never landed a steady job in the big leagues. Last week. Easier, who has batted only 87 times this season, raised his home-run output to 10, his batting average to .414 and his slugging percentage to a resounding .851.


"That's what Cy Young must have looked like," said Phillie Manager Dallas Green after Steve Carlton, with last-inning relief from Tug McGraw, beat the Padres 3-1. That left Carlton with an 11-2 record, a 1.78 ERA and 118 strikeouts in 116 innings. Supporting him were Mike Schmidt's 20th homer and Greg Luzinski's 15th. Philadelphia (3-3) also defeated San Diego 9-6, starting off the game with seven straight hits, one short of the major league mark.


Chicago (2-4) was shut out for the ninth time, 3-0 by Houston, and then lost to Atlanta 7-6. Dave Kingman was a day late returning to the club after going to San Diego to check on an alleged burglary in his house there. Although there was some question the burglary occurred (the local police had no record of it), there was no question that Kingman suffered a loss (the Cubs fined him a day's pay, or approximately $1,250).


Whitey Herzog's first day as the new skipper of the Cardinals (3-4) began with two misadventures. After missing a plane to Atlanta, where he was to join the team, Herzog caught a later flight and then ran up a $32 taxi fare when the cabbie took him to the wrong hotel. Herzog found a later runaround more pleasing as the Cardinals brought enough runs around the bases to beat the Braves 8-5. George Hendrick won the game with five RBIs and a three-run homer in the 10th. He defeated the Braves again two days later by singling in the 10th for a 4-3 victory.


MONT 33-21; PITT 32-24; PHIL 29-24; NY 27-28; CHI 23-30; ST.L 21-36