Cincinnati Enquirer - May 10, 1980

Leibrandt, ‘Intimidated’ By His Phillies ‘Heroes,’ Regroups In 5-2 Victory


By Ray Buck, Sports Reporter


ATLANTA – Charlie Leibrandt says he was never much into bubblegum cards but he did grow up in America, land of Chevrolets and hanging curveballs.


He read all the magazine stuff that kids in America read. And because he was born when Ike was living in the White House, he grew up on many of the baseball stars still In the game today.


This explains why the 23-year-old rookie left-hander of the Cincinnati Reds felt a little "intimidated" Friday night when Pete Rose brought his famous crouched stance to the plate at Riverfront. And Mike Schmidt and Greg Luzinskl were waiting in the dugout.


But Leibrandt dried his palms in time to pitch the Reds to a 5-2 victory over the Philadelphia Phillies and boost the Reds into a virtual first-place tie with the Houston Astros in the National League West.


THE ASTROS, who have now lost three of their last four games, dropped a 5-4 decision in Atlanta Friday night and lead the Reds – winners of five of their last six – by 11 percentage points. The Astros are 17-9 (.654); the Reds 18-10 (.643).


Sam Mejias, celebrating his 28th birthday and subbing for the injured George Foster, provided the big offensive blow for the Reds with a three-run triple off the right-field boards in the fifth inning to chase Phillies' starter Randy Lerch (0-4) to the clubhouse.


Leibrandt (3-2) has allowed three runs or less in all six major league starts. Friday night, he retired 16 of the last 19 Phillies to finish with a seven-hitter and reduce his ERA to 2.11 – best among Reds' starters.


"Sure, I'm surprised I'm doing this well," said the rookie left-hander with no mention that the five runs Friday night equaled the most support he's received since winning a spot in the starting rotation this spring.


LEIBRANDT HAS remained exceedingly calm, confident and low-profiled throughout his meteoric rise from Miami University to the major leagues in less than 22 months.


He spoke of the Phillies after the game in polite terms of "big guns" and "star-studded lineup" even though Schmidt and Luzlnski – the 1-2 home run hitters in the league – were reduced to an 0-for-7 night.


Leibrandt, who maintained that he had "fair stuff... I've had better," became the first left-handed starter to defeat this stacked team of right-handed hitters.


Okay, so he walked two of the first three batters of the game and allowed the Phillies to draw first blood, 1-0, on Bob Boone's RBI double into the left-field corner.


"I was a little Intimidated to start with," Leibrandt explained. "I was facing guys I've read about all my life. This team has more big power hitters, plus a guy named Rose who is a baseball hallmark.


"SO I started aiming the ball a little. And when you get behind these guys, you're in trouble."


When asked what he was thinking when he walked Rose on five pitches to open the game, Leibrandt replied, "I guess I wasn't thinking anything because 1 walked him. I wasn't in the game, he intimidated me so much."


Leibrandt, who has allowed only 2.6 walks per start, walked Rose, who is hitting below .230 but has been on base In 21 of 22 games this season. Rose eventually scored on Boone's two-out double.


In the bottom of the first inning, Ken Griffey, who reached second on a fielder's choice groundout and second baseman Ramon Aviles' throwing error, stopped at third on Davey Concepcion's single to left and scored on Johnny Bench's sacrifice fly to right.


It was Bench's fourth RBI of the season and his first since April 25.


After Lerch retired the first two batters of the second inning, Collins doubled and scored on Griffey's single to center. The Reds led, 2-1, a cushion that Leibrandt would never give away.


CREDIT GRIFFEY with his third game-winning RBI and list him as "improbable" for today's game at 2:15 p.m. The Reds' right fielder left the game in the fifth inning with a "stiff" right knee.


It's not the same knee on which Griffey had surgery last August. Nevertheless, he has been developing fluid on it the past week or so, presumably from favoring the other knee.


In the explosive fifth, Bench singled and stole second. Junior Kennedy was issued a one-out intentional walk and Dan Driessen walked on four pitches to load the bases.


Mejias then ripped a one-hopper off the right-center field wall clearing the bases – and Lerch was gone.


"It was a good birthday," Mejias smiled. "My wife came to town with our baby (9-month-old Sam, Jr.) yesterday; I had my birthday today and I got a triple tonight."


The Phillies came back with a run in the seventh when pinch-hitter Lonnie Smith sliced a double down the right-field line, moved to third on a groundout and scored on Bake McBrlde's infield single up the middle. It was 5-2. Also, the scoring was over.


Griffey extended his hitting streak to eight games and is 16-for-30, plus seven walks.

Rose Says Players Uninformed On Strike


By Ray Buck, Sports Reporter


Pete Rose isn't thinking about the impending players' strike, to begin May 23 if there is no contract settlement. "I don't think most of the players like to talk about lt because we don't know what the bleep is going on," Rose admitted. "I guess you just want to get into first place by then. Right? If it's a long strike, I'm sure we won't make up the games. We didn't make them up In '72."... Rose on his return to Riverfront the second year around: "The big difference was that I was hitting .340 in June when I came in here (for the first time) last year. But we haven't played that many games (22). I very easily could be hitting .340 in June this year."


Vic Correll, the Reds' disabled catcher, will shed foot cast Tuesday and still has mid-June in mind as target date for his return to active roster. Correll, who severed achllles tendon in spring training drill two months ago and underwent surgery, says he's here "because I couldn't get all the games on the radio."... Foster, who has missed 10 games with strained rib-cage muscle in left side, took extra batting practice before Friday night's game but his return to lineup remains a mystery. "It's day-to-day but he's improving," said manager John McNamara who won't know if Foster can play today until just before game time.


Phillies are on the mend. Manny Trlllo came off disabled list Wednesday after being sidelined since April 19 with severely sprained ankle. "When I start running, I feel lt. But once I get going, it's okay," said the Phils' regular second baseman. When asked if he will return to lineup today, Trlllo smiled, "I don't know, I don't hit (Tom) Seaver very well."... Garry Maddox was back in center field after recovering from sprained ankle suffered last Saturday.