Philadelphia Inquirer - June 5, 1980
Carlton delivers 10th win, 4-3
Phillies hang loss on Bucs
By Jayson Stark, Inquirer Staff Writer
PITTSBURGH – He is The Stopper, and the Phillies sure needed stopping.
They had lost five of their last six. They had taken the lead on the Pirates twice in two nights, only to hear the rumblings of Sister Sledge in the background and watch the world champs thunder back to win. They had fallen four games out of first and to only two above .500.
But fortunately for the Phillies, last night was Guaranteed-Win Night. No, that is not a new Bill Giles promotion. That is an old Steve Carlton promotion.
It is tough for the Phillies to slide too far when they have Carlton going out every fourth day, pushing them back up the slopes of Mount N.L. East. The Phillies have not been swept in a series yet this year. And No. 32 is the reason.
Carlton did it again last night, with a 4-3 victory over the Pirates. He is the only Phillies pitcher to win in Pittsburgh since April 18, 1979. He also is now 10-2 on the year, and no other pitcher in baseball has won more than eight.
That helps explain why he was selected National League pitcher of the month for May. Mike Schmidt joined him as the league's player of the month.
"The guy's got 10 wins, and how many have we got? (24)" said Dallas Green. "Where the hell we'd be without him, or with him having an off year, I'm afraid to say."
Carlton did it last night on an evening when he was far from his best. Compare last night's stuff to other nights, and this one ranked in the bottom third, Green said. Except, that is, for a fastball that might have been his best of the year.
What Carlton did not have was his greatest weapon, his no-hope, exploding slider. Without it, his strikeouts fell from 11 in his last two starts to four last night.
But the Phillies had pulled a come-from-behind act of their own. They overcame two Pittsburgh leads, handed Carlton a 4-3 advantage with a three-run sixth and then watched him seal it.
He struck out three and gave up just two hits over the last four innings. One was a ninth-inning double by Lee Lacy. But Dale Berra's two-out liner floated long enough for Greg Gross to slurp it up on the run, and that was that. Carlton, it was clear, had simply sensed the kill.
"You remember how a Koufax used to put a game away," said Green. "Or a Robin Roberts, a Jim Bunning, a Tom Seaver in his prime. He smells the last little shot, and he really goes after it. Steve has that knack, certainly – that knack of closing it down."
This year Carlton has had a pretty fair knack for opening it up, too. He had not allowed an earned run in the first inning all year – until last night.
But he walked Dave Parker with two outs, failing to get Parker to bite at the low-and-away sliders he has eaten him up with for two seasons. Then Bill Robinson lofted a fly to right-center that even rightfieder Lonnie Smith agreed was catchable. But Smith broke the wrong way, then almost used his sprinter's speed to recover. All he could do in the end was make a diving glove save, but the ball squirted away and it was 1-0.
The Phillies got even in the second, but the Pirates jumped back on top with a run in the second and a run in the fourth.
Pitcher John Candelaria knocked in the second-inning run with a throw-the-bat-at-it single up the middle. Then Steve Nicosia made it 3-1 in the fourth, thunking a good pitch through a drawn-in infield.
Then in the sixth, Bowa and Trillo singled, Carlton bunted them to second and third, and Smith made it 3-2 with a single to right. Smiih then almost ran the inning into oblivion, taking off for second without checking to see whether Parker's throw to the plate would get cut off.
It was, by Bill Robinson. But maybe the sight of Smith streaking down No Man's Land got Robinson excited. He dropped the ball as he went to throw it, and a nearly embarrassing moment turned into the key break of the night.
"Did I cause him to rush by going? I sure hope so," sighed Smith. "I turned the bag hard, and I heard (coach) Ruben (Amaro) say, 'If he throws, go.' I saw he came up throwing, so I just took off."
That was the difference between Pete Rose's single up the middle tying the game and winning it. After Rose made it 4-3, the rest of the show was Carlton's.
He walked Parker in the sixth, then blew down eight in a row. But Parker lined a two-out single in the eighth, Maddox let it get away for an error, and Carlton suddenly had to deal with Robinson with the tying run on second. He got behind, 3-and-1, then came back with three straight sliders. Robinson fouled off two, missed the last one and it was on to the ninth.
Lee Lacy continued an incredible tear (22 for his last 45) with a one-out double. But Nicosia popped a slider to Maddox, and Carlton then turned his attention to Berra, as Willie Stargell awaited in the on-deck circle.
He got to 2-and-2. Boone flashed the sign. Carlton waved his glove for something else. Boone flashed again.
Berra took a half-swing at the fastball and lined it to right. But it refused to sink, Greg Gross (a defensive replacement for Smith) grabbed it thigh-high and so The Stopper had stopped again.
Three runs or not, this was a masterpiece
By Bob Smizik, Special to The Inquirer
PITTSBURGH – The box score might tell you that it was not an especially excellent performance. True, Steve Carlton had won the game, his 10th of the season, but in the process he had given up three runs, seven hits and two walks while striking out only four batters.
But if you listened to the Pittsburgh Pirates, who had just gone down, 4-3, to Carlton, it was no ordinary win. It was a masterpiece.
"He's in a class by himself as a lefthander," said Pirates' third-baseman Bill Madlock, a two-time National League batting champion. "The only guy in the league I've seen close to him is Jerry Koosman when he was having his good years.
"They say Flanagan (Baltimore's Mike Flanagan) is good, but he can't even walk down the same street as Carlton."
It was vintage Carlton. Hittable early, unhittable late. The Pirates scored three runs in the first four innings, then could manage only two hits over the last five.
"If you don't get him in the first five, you might as well put your bats away," said Madlock, who doubled and scored in the fourth. "I don't know what it is or what you call it, but he's got it. He just goes after you once he gets into the late innings."
"His record (10-2) proves he's the best in the league," said Pirates manager Chuck Tanner. "He's got great control and he's got a fantastic slider. And he can still throw the ball as hard as he ever did when he wants to."
To prove his point, Tanner recalled a 2-2 pitch that Carlton threw to Dave Parker, another two-time National League batting champ, in the sixth. "It was as hard a pitch as he's ever thrown in his life," said Tanner.
With two doubles, Lee Lacy had the most success of any Pirate against Carlton, but he came away just as impressed as the rest. Lacy worked his way up his scale of adjectives. "He has a good fast ball, great control and an exceptional breaking ball," he said. "The only thing that surprised me was that he didn't throw his change. He has a great change, too."
Bill Robinson, a former teammate, has noticed a change in Carlton over the years.
"He's a pitcher now," said Robinson. "He doesn't have to overpower people anymore. He can finesse you now. He's a smart, smart pitcher.
"He's so good that you don't get mad at yourself when you make an out. I respect him as much as any pitcher in the league."
For Robinson, the biggest difference in Carlton is his slider. "He's just come up with one hell of a slider," said Robinson, "and that's the toughest pitch in baseball to hit. It looks like a strike and the next thing you know it's breaking down a foot."
When Robinson was up with Dave Parker on second and two out in the eighth, Carlton went to his slider. "It came right in on my knees and started down," said Robinson. "It was nasty." Robinson struck out.
Madlock also knows about Carlton's slider. "He has the best slider in baseball," said Madlock. "Look at how many guys swing at pitches in the dirt against him. The slider looks good until you swing, and then it's in the dirt."
One Pirate who never faced the "old" Carlton still has the same high regard for him as do his more experienced teammates. "He's the best lefthander I ever faced," said Dale Berra, in his first full major league season.
Berra was the last batter to face Carlton and he faced him with a chance to tie the game. With Lacy on second, Berra saw the best of Carlton. And Carlton saw the best of Berra.
"His control is so fine that he wouldn't give Dale anything that wasn't on the outside corner," said Tanner.
"You never know what to expect from him," said Berra. "He has so many pitches and control over all of them." Berra got a fast ball and ripped it to right.
"For a second, I thought it was a hit and it would tie the game," said Berra. "But I hit it too hard. I would have been better off breaking my bat."
He didn't break his bat, and Greg Gross made the putout in right field. Steve Carlton was 10-2.