Reading Eagle - June 26, 1980
No Win for Walk, But a Big ‘Make’
By John W. Smith, Asst. Sports Editor
PHILADELPHIA – Bob Walk decided that “make or break” didn’t mean “life or death,” and that four seams are better than two.
As a result, the ace of the 1979 Reading Phillies pitched by far the best game of his month-long major-league career Wednesday night.
Oh, he didn’t win. But he gave only one run (unearned) and four hits in eight innings, and the Phillies did win in the 10th by 2-1 over the first-place Montreal Expos.
That lifted the Phils back within 1½ games of the Expos after a split of 10-inning decisions, with the finale of the key three-game series coming up tonight.
Mike Schmidt’s hit off the center fielder’s glove with the bases loaded and nobody out in the 10th settled things. But there never would have been a 10th if Walk had thrown the way he did in his first six starts.
ERA at 7.96
Sure, he was 2-0 for the six, but his ERA was almost as high as the prime rate at 7.96. He hadn’t made it till the end of the sixth inning yet, no had he given fewer than three earned runs in any game. His two wins were 6-5 and 8-5.
Wednesday he allowed just four runners to get past first base before retiring for a pinch-hitter in the eighth, as the Phils vainly loaded the bases in the 1-1 struggle.
“WE needed a good pitched game, and we needed a win,” exulted Manager Dallas Green, “and we got them both. We were hoping all along we could get an effort like that out of Walk.
“He got the ball over the plate and he made the pitches in the tough situations that he hasn’t been making.”
Dallas called Wednesday’s game a “make or break” game for Walk, declining to elaborate whether “break” would have been out of the rotation or out of the bigs.
Walk didn’t know that, but he could have been able to figure it out. At any rate, he didn’t let that worry him.
Aimed to Relax
“I tried to be more relaxed tonight,” he said. “This wasn’t a life or death situation.”
“If I would have thought about it, yes, it was a critical start for me. But I didn’t want to think about it that way; it would just have put more pressure on me. I tried to put the personal aspect of it out of my mind.”
Similarly, Bob felt he did better at keeping his composure when things started to go wrong. “I’ve lost my composure some times, and then my intensity,” he admitted. “Then I’ve tried to nibble – to make the pitch too good.
“When they got that leadoff triple in the eighth, I didn’t concede the run, but I didn’t get upset either. I wouldn’t have felt that way a couple of starts ago.”
Since he wasn’t trying to pitch too fine, he didn’t have his usual control problems. He walked four, but only one in the last six innings. A change in his fastball grip also helped the control. (He’d passed 15 in 26 innings.)
“I held it over four seams tonight, instead of over two,” Bob explained. “That cuts down on the movement and makes it straighter. Bob figures that will give him fewer strikeouts as well as fewer walks, but right now that’s a good trade.
Bob said he threw the fast one both ways at Reading last year (as well as a third way for a sinker). “After I got bombed at San Diego last week, I used the four seams while throwing on the side at San Francisco,” Walk elaborated.
“I told Herm (Starrette) about the change, and he thought it was an excellent idea.” Presumably, that’s what makes a good pitching coach.
Bob walked less than four per nine innings at Reading last year, but noted that in the majors “the hitters don’t go fishing so much; I used to get a lot of strikes on bad pitches.”
He indicated that he felt his early trouble Wednesday (five full cunts to the first eight batters) stemmed from borderline calls. “I was around the plate; when I did miss, I was low.” He didn’t run full after that.
Walk also pointed to two other differences from his early starts. The Phils have him pitching faster, so he doesn’t think so much (Boone’s supposed to do the thinking.)
“And tonight the balls were hit at people,” Walk said. “In other games, the grounders were in the holes and the flies in the alleys.”
Walk may have been more relaxed, but relaxed doesn’t equate with emotionless. After one inning-ending play, he spiked the ball. After the night’s big defensive play in the eighth, he spiked the glove. “My shoe was next,” he said.
The play came after Rodney Scott tripled to start the eighth and Andre Dawson grounded out, Scott holding. Gary Carter flied to shallow right and Bake McBride threw a strike to Boone, who was waiting for Scott.
That was fitting, since McBride’s muff of Warren Cromartie’s single in the fourth led to the Expo run. Cromartie made it to third and scored on Brad Mills’ sacrifice fly (on which McBride made a fine catch despite hurting his elbow).
But that wasn’t McBride’s only act of atonement. He tied the game with a line-drive homer to right in the sixth off another recent call-up, Bill Gullickson, who gave up just five hits in 7-1/3.
Ageless Woody Fryman got out of the bases-loaded jam in the eighth by fanning Lonnie Smith. He left for a vain pinch-hitter in the 10th, and the Phils picked on Stan Bahnsen to win it for Ron Reed (6-1), who had pitched a perfect ninth and 10th.
Bahnsen walked Greg Gross (hitting for Reed) on four pitches, then went 1-0 on Pete Rose. Rose was supposed to fake a bunt and swing away. He missed the sign and just swung. The result was a line double into the right-field corner.
“I have no qualms about letting Pete Rose do what he wants, with his bat control,” said Green. McBride was purposely passed and Schmidt hit a 1-2 fly which is an out if the outfield is playing normally – which of course it couldn’t do.
Thus ended the game which Green said Walk needed “to prove to himself he can pitch here.” If he can keep throwing like he did Wednesday, he’ll be here for a long time.
PHIL-PHILLERS – Greg Luzinski was scratched because of an intestinal upset… It was Schmidt’s sixth game-winning RBI, breaking a tie for the team leadership with Luzinski… McBride has hit in 15 of his last 16 games. He said he had only one throw in him because of the elbow… Green said he was encouraged by the progress of Ruthven and Espinosa… The Phils are now 2-3 in overtime games, 12-10 in one-run games… Rowland Office in right averted defeat in the ninth by catching Boone’s fly while on the ground… Expos had pounded 18 hits in Tuesday’s 7-6 win in 10.
Noles Drops Appeal
PHILADELPHIA (UPI) – The Philadelphia Phillies announced today that rookie pitcher Dickie Noles has decided to drop his appeal of a $500 fine and a three-day suspension for a June 17 bat-throwing incident in Los Angeles.
A spokesman said Noles began serving the suspension today.
National League President Charles “Chub” Feeney handed down Noles’ penalty Tuesday and the pitcher filed an immediate appeal through the Players’ Association.
Manager Dallas Green said Noles’ suspension means he will have to alter his pitching plans for Saturday’s twi-night doubleheader against the New York Mets. Noles was scheduled to start one of the games in place of Dick Ruthven, who has missed a week with a shoulder injury.
“Now I’m hoping Ruthven will be able to go in one of those two games,” Green said. “If he can’t, we’ll have to work out something.”
Green also said he was dropping a $250 fine he had levied against Noles shortly after the incident.