Camden Courier-Post - May 10, 1980

Lerch victim as Phillies bow


By Rusty Pray of the Courier-Post


CINCINNATI – Randy Lerch has pitched some good innings for the Phillies this year. He has also pitched some bad innings. In that respect, the 4 he pitched last night in a 5-2 loss to the Reds were a microcosm of his season.


The inconsistencies of the lefthander's pitching surfaced soon enough, when he walked three in the first inning but still managed to escape with only one run scored against him. Lerch followed a similar pattern in the second, allowing two hits and a fourth walk that the Reds could turn into only one run.


"He (Lerch) was having trouble (with his control) all night said Manager Dallas Green. "His fast ball was moving so much, I don't think he had any idea where it was going. We finally tried to get him to throw it for the middle of the plate and let the natural movement of the ball do the work.


"YOU CANT try to pitch to spots when you have that kind of moving fast ball – especially when you want to get ahead of a guy."


Lerch was angry with himself after giving up the run in the second with two out. The anger apparently carried him through the third and got him out of the fourth after he yielded a leadoff triple to the opposing pitcher, rookie lefthander Charlie Liebrandt.


"That shows you what he can do," said Green. "He pitched out of a helluva jam and I felt pretty good about it. I felt, again, that we were going to score some runs."


GREEN'S FEELINGS, as it turned out, were unfounded. Liebrandt who went into the game having allowed three runs or less in his five previous starts, basically kept the Phils in the park. As 32,583 onlookers in Riverfront Stadium craned their necks, Liebrandt let his outfielders run under a dozen fly balls and kept seven hits well scat-tered.


"It impressed me that he (Liebrandt) hung in there, made good pitches and got better when he could've pitched himself right out of the ballgame," said Green,


Which is exactly what happened to Lerch, whose 0-4 record reflects none of the decent innings he has produced this season.


LERCH'S FLIP-SIDE began showing when Johnny Bench opened the fifth with a single. The catcher promptly stole second, becoming the 23rd base runner to steal successfully in 29 attempts against the Phillies. An out later, Lerch issued his fifth and sixth walks – the former intentionally to set up a bases-loaded situation for No. 8 hitter Sam Mejias.


Mejias, who is filling a spot in the outfield while George Foster mends his sore rib cage muscles, is not the hitter his .333 average going into the game says he is. Kis career .217 average is a better barometer of his ability. But the center fielder, after Lerch fell behind him on the first pitch, ripped a three-run triple to right-center. It was Mejias' second major league triple and it put the game out of reach for the Phillies.


It was suggested to Green that perhaps Lerch was pressing, that maybe the young lefthander is searching too hard for his first win.


"EVENTUALLY," Green responded, "you have to quit looking for excuses and go out and pitch a game and win – which Randy will. But you can always find excuses. There are always reasons why you lose."


The Phils took a short-lived 1-0 lead in the first when Pete Rose opened with a walk, went to second on Bake McBride's grounder to second and scored on a double by Bob Boone. That was it until the seventh, when Lonnie Smith slapped a pinch double to right and eventually scored on a single by McBride.


"To me," said Greg Luzinski, "he (Liebrandt) threw like Tommy John ' and that's not meant as a rip. I didn't see a breaking ball all night and our report said that's all he threw.


"HE'S THE type of pitcher you got to make him make a mistake. You got to be patient. If the umpire's not calling a pitch for him, then you have to make him bring the ball over the plate."


Indeed, Liebrandt struggled with his control in the first, walking two, but did not issue another walk until the ninth, when pinchhitter Manny Trillo – making his first appearance since spraining his ankle April 19 – worked one with two out.


Trillo, Smith and McBride were the only base runners Liebrandt allowed after the fourth.


PHIL UPS – Reds have now beaten the Phils 27 times in their last 34 regular-season meetings at Riverfront, dating back to the middle of the 1974 season... Lonnie Smith's pinch double in the seventh gave Phils' pinch hitters 12 hits in their last 20 at-bats after starting season 0-for-10… Phils went into game with 4-1 record against West Division clubs... Griffey left game in fifth with sore knee... Mike Schmidt's eight-game hitting streak was stopped... Garry Maddox, returned to the lineup after spraining an ankle last Saturday, went 1-for-4... Series continues this afternoon with Steve Carlton, tied for the National League lead in victories with a 5-1 record, going against Tom Seaver.