Wilmington Evening Journal - June 5, 1980
Carlton makes fast work of the Pirates
By Ray Finocchiaro, Staff Writer
PITTSBURGH – Even on an "off" night, Steve Carlton is the National League's premier pitcher.
Baseball made it official for May, naming the Phillies' left-hander the Pitcher of the Month. And Carlton made a good start on June, beating the Pittsburgh Pirates 4-3 in a brisk hour and 53 minutes last night at Three Rivers Stadium to run his record to 10-2.
"There's no question Lefty's one of the best pitchers in baseball history," said Phillies Manager Dallas Green, responding to that very question. "Check the last 10 years. His record's outstanding, in all phases of pitching.
"You know that he's a wine connoisseur: Well, Lefty improves with age, too."
Carlton had to scuffle with his normally impeccable slider last night, so he went back to what he considered his best fastball of the year, snuffing out two late Pirate rallies in what may have been the most crucial game so far of a young season.
Instead of leaving town five games behind the defending world champions, the Phillies are three out. Still, they have won just two of their last seven games and the winning pitcher in both has been Carlton.
That fact was not lost on Green, who was asked if he considered himself fortunate to be managing a team with a vintage Steve Carlton on it.
"It's nice on this one," Green said. "He's won 10 games and how many have we won?"
Just 24, Dallas, of 45. So count your blessings.
"Sure, it's gotta make me a little nervous that Lefty's won both games in the last seven," said Green, "but we'll get our act together... somehow. I've got no master plan; I just have faith in the guys I throw out there that things will tall in place.
"As long as Steve gives us the breathing space every fourth or fifth day, it's like money in the bank."
The Pirates threatened to make an early withdrawal last night, scoring single runs' in three of the first four innings against Carlton.
Bill Robinson doubled home Dave Parker in the first, as right fielder Lonnie Smith couldn't quite make a sliding catch. Losing pitcher John Candelaria singled home Lee Lacy in the second, and the Bucs made it 3-1 in the fourth on Bill Madlock’s double and a single by Steve Nicosia.
"This wasn't one of Steve's better ones," conceded Green. "He didn't have his best stuff. I've never seen his slider hit like it was tonight. His fastball was very good and that's where he was tough tonight."
The Phillies loaded the bases on three singles with nobody out in the second, but could only manage one run on Manny Trillo's double-play bouncer.
In the fifth, however, the Phils got the three runs they needed for Carlton's 30th lifetime victory over Pittsburgh, his high against any club.
Larry Bowa and Trillo singled and were sacrificed up a base on Carlton's bunt. Smith singled home one run and Pete Rose singled home two more, with Smith scoring from second like his life depended on it.
Maybe his didn't, but the Phils' existence seemed to.
As usual, the Pirates made it interesting, threatening in the eighth and ninth. The Bucs got runners to second base, but no farther, in both innings.
Lacy, who had doubled and scored in the second, doubled off third baseman Mike Schmidt's glove with one out in the ninth. The Pirate fans had visions of Tuesday night's game – a winning rally in the ninth against Tug McGraw – but Carlton was more than a match for Nicosia and Dale Berra, though Berra drilled the ball on a line to right.
Greg Gross, a defensive replacement for Smith, raced in and caught the ball waist-high to end the game as the fans jumped to their feet and then beat a fast retreat for the exits.
"I've gotta charge it," said Gross as the team dressed for the flight back to Philadelphia. "The tying run was on second. If I get there in time to catch it, the game's over. Otherwise, I'm in position to get him at home.
"The ball was hit pretty good off the bat, but I knew it wasn't going over my head. It was hit just hard enough to stay up. If it bounced, it could have gone anywhere on this stuff."
Dallas Green tried to dismiss suggestions that three straight losses to Pittsburgh would have prematurely doomed the Phils' pennant chances. He said he has no doubt that the Phils will snap out of their current doldrums.
And he felt beating the Bucs was no cheap thrill, either.
"This was a helluva game!" he said, smiling broadly. "It's always fun to beat the Pirates. We've got a helluva rivalry. It's fun to beat the best and they're the world champs."
Until somebody takes it away from them. So far the pretenders to the throne have had a hard time staying in line but, as Dallas Green keeps saying, it's early yet.
Or else later than he thinks.
EXTRA INNINGS - Greg Luzinski was hampered by a sore left shoulder that he had injured by running into the left-field wall Tuesday night... Green penciled Luzinski into the lineup only after the Bull took some pregame swings... Luzinski played in pain for seven innings before being replaced by George Vukovich... Schmidt was named NL Player of the Month for May with 12 homers, 29 RBI, a.305 batting average and 19 runs scored... Enrique Romo pitched the final two innings in relief of Candelaria (2-5), who hasn't won in over five weeks... The Phils haven't scored off Romo (1-0, one save) in four outings covering seven innings this season... Pittsburgh relievers haven't allowed a run in their last five games... The Cubs open a three-game set at the Vet tomorrow night at 8 05 with Mike Krukow facing Phils' rookie Bob Walk.
Phillies sign top two draft picks
PHILADELPHIA - Top draft choices Henry Powell and Larry Knight signed contracts yesterday with the Phillies. Powell and Knight, both 18, will report Tuesday to the Phillies' Helena, Mont., farm club in the Pioneer rookie league.
A 5-foot-11 right-hander from Pine Forest High School in Pensacola, Fla., Powell was the Phillies' first selection. He is a catcher.
Knight, a 175-pound, 6-footer, is a right-handed pitcher from Lookout Valley High School in Chattanooga, Tenn.