Pittsburgh Press - June 5, 1980
Carlton Slides Bucs A Quiet Defeat
By Russ Franke
Whether they have a bat or a pencil in their hand, Steve Carlton gets them out.
Those with a bat get three strikes; those with a pencil get one. And thus Carlton slides his way through baseball as its most effective and least quotable pitcher.
Carlton won his 10th game of the season last night at Three Rivers Stadium, treating the Pirates with the same disdain that he treats reporters.
His pitches were not quite as sharp as his tongue but they were good enough for him and the Philadelphia Phillies to luck out a 4-3 win over the Pirates that went down to the last pitch – which seems to be the story with the Pirates these days, win or lose.
Carlton is effective because his slider baffles the hitters. He is unquotable because he believes there is no point in talking to reporters. On both counts be was not quite himself last night.
For one thing, he let a quote slip by. It was crude, though printable. When a reporter attempted to approach him after the game, Carlton turned him aside with: "Listen, I don't even talk to my wife."
He almost let the Pirates slip by on more than one occasion, and the last one momentarily knocked the breath out of the crowd of 32,000-plus when Dale Berra lined Carlton's last pitch into the hands of Greg Gross in right field with the tying run on second base.
"I hit it too hard," said Berra, automatically becoming the first batter ever to regret that he creamed a Carlton slider. A Carlton slider, according to the Phillies – as well as the Pirates – is generally unhittable. It is alternately described as "wicked" or "nasty" or "explosive."
Now that catcher Tim McCarver has graduated to the Phillies' radio booth, Bob Boone has become Carlton's receiver, and Boone is rapidly becoming as erudite as McCarver in the role of Carlton's press secretary.
"The reason Lefty's slider is so tough," said Boone, "is because the batter thinks it's a fast ball when lie starts his swing – then the ball explodes downward and it's too late to think any more. And he's got the ability to throw it to zones. When we really need it, we go to that slider."
From the batter's viewpoint, the story is the same.
"Look at how many guys swing at pitches in the dirt," said Bill Madlock. "His slider looks good until you swing, then it's in the dirt From the middle on, he dominates a game."
The only way to beat Carlton, said Madlock ruefully, is to "hope he gets hurt before his turn comes up in the rotation."
Carlton, of course, did not throw sliders all night. He still has an overpowering fastball and a better-than-average curve that he uses to keep the hitters honest He was fortunate on two of his fastballs.
In the ninth inning Madlock sent one to left field that was caught on the warning track. In the sixth inning, according, to Boone, Bill Robinson "just missed" on a fastball. Boone thought it was a home run pitch just before the moment of contact.
But these are the "ifs" that make Pirate-Phillie games the intense things that they have become. They split their first series in Philadelphia last week in four thrillers highlighted by a brawl. After the Pirates won easily here on Monday, the series settled back to normal with a 4-3 Pirate win Tuesday and then last night's tight battle. Four of the seven games have been decided by one run.
"It's been a helluva rivalry for about eight years," said Dallas Green, the Phillies' manager. "If we played the Pirates every night we'd both be drained before long, there's so much pride in both clubs. We're gonna contend and we're gonna stay right in there with the Pirates all season."
As tough as Carltop was, the Pirates had him where they wanted him until the fifth inning. John Candelaria held a 3-1 lead when the Phillies went to work for Carlton, scoring three runs. That was all Carlton needed – a one-run lead.
According to the Phillies, Candelaria did not let down or lose his effectiveness. Pete Rose, who drove in the tying and winning runs with a ground-ball single through the middle, said he was "impressed" with Candelaria and noted that three of the Phillies' four hits in the fifth were ground balls, and that Candelaria broke Larry Bowa's bat on the hit that started the rally.
Then there was a badly-handled throw from the outfield that contributed to the Phillies' cause.
After that there was no more scoring – only threats. Carlton did not allow a hit in the fifth, sixth or seventh. In the eighth Dave Parker singled and went to second on Garry Maddox' error, but Carlton struck out Robinson with his most wicked slider.
In the ninth Lee Lacy skipped a liner off Mike Schmidt's glove for his second double of the game, Steve Nicosia flied out and Berra drilled the line drive that Gross caught knee-high on the run.
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PIRATE NOTES - After an off-day today, the Pirates begin a New York-to-Cincinnati road trip that opens tomorrow night with Bert Blyleven facing the Mets' Pete Falcone... Last night's win was only the second in the Phillies' last nine games at Three Rivers... Candelaria is 7-2 against the Phillies for his career. Carlton is 30-21 against the Pirates... Carlton was voted the National League Pitcher of the Month for May. Schmidt is the Player of the Month, beating out Lacy.