Wilmington News Journal - May 10, 1980

Fastball flees from Lerch as Reds win


By Hal Bodley, Sports Editor


CINCINNATI – Randy Lerch's fastball last night was darting left and right like a berserk fly. Seldom has the left-hander had such a live fastball. The only trouble was he had no idea where it was headed when it neared the plate.


So, in the end, Randy Lerch lost his fourth game in as many decisions because of the unpredictable fastball.


Rookie Charlie Leibrandt, who admitted he was in awe of some of the Phillies he faced, choked off their potent bats in crucial situations as the Reds won 5-2 on a pleasant night at Riverfront Stadium.


Sam Mejias tripled home three runs off Lerch in the fifth to carry Leibrandt to his third victory in five decisions.


"When I went out there in the first few innings I was honestly intimidated," said Leibrandt, who was pitching for Miami (Ohio) University two years ago. "I mean, when Pete Rose and Mike Schmidt and Greg Luzinski came up, all I could think about was how much I had read about them when I was a kid. Luckily, I was able to settle down."


"We had our chances," said Manager Dallas Green. "A key hit here or a key hit there would have probably finished him off, but we couldn't do it."


The Reds nursed a 2-1 lead into the fifth inning and even then Green thought the Phils, who lead the National League in runs scored with 112 in 21 games, would come back.


But when Mejias cracked his bases-loaded triple, bis optimism changed.


"Randy's fastball was moving better than I have ever seen it move," said Green. "The only problem was he had no idea where it was going to go. Finally, we told him to just throw it over the middle of the plate and let the natural movement take care of itself."


Lerch has pitched much better than his 0-4 record shows, but in each of his losses a bad inning, plus the lack of offense from his teammates, has kept him from winning.


"I'm frustrated and I know Randy's frustrated," added Green. "He's not going out there and trying to have bad innings. I know that. But at the same time I think he has pitched long enough that he should be able to eliminate them."


"Tonight it was my fastball," said Lerch. "It really had movement, but that was what caused me all the trouble. I just couldn't control it."


"You have to give Leibrandt credit,'' said Green. "He showed me a lot of poise the way he came back. I felt all along we could beat him, but we didn't. Really, his control wasn't all that great, but he battled us. He got better as the game went on."


The Phils took a 1-0 lead in the first inning against Leibrandt, but it lasted only until the Reds came to bat.


Pete Rose led off with a walk and went to second when Bake McBride grounded out. Mike Schmidt walked and Rose scored on Bob Boone's double to right. The inning ended with Garry Maddox popping out to second.


Dave Collins walked to start the Reds' comeback and when he was forced at second, Ken Griffey was safe at first on the fielder's choice and continued on to second when, Ramon Aviles' throw sailed past Rose.


Dave Conception followed with a single to left, the runner stopping at third. Johnny Bench lofted a sacrifice fly to right and it was 1-1.


With two down in the second, Collins doubled and scored on Griffey's single up the middle.


Lerch's best inning was the fourth. After giving up a triple to Leibrandt, he got Collins on an infield out, Griffey on a pop to the shortstop and fanned Conception on a fastball.


The Reds vaulted up 5-1 in the fifth, sending Lerch to the clubhouse.


Bench opened with a single to left and, with Ray Knight batting, stole second. After Knight popped out, Junior Kennedy was walked intentionally to allow the left-handed Lerch to face the left-handed Dan Driessen. Driessen, however, walked and Mejias, who was celebrating his 28th birthday, tripled to the gap in right-center.


Lerrln LaGrow relieved and got out of the inning when Collins bounced into a doubleplay.


The Phils, who managed seven hits to the Reds' nine, scored their second run in the seventh when pinch-hitter Lonnie Smith doubled, went to third on Rose's infield out and scored on McBride's single.


EXTRA POINTS – Rose has been on base in every game this season except the April 15 loss to Pete Vuckovich and the Cardinals... The Phils, who were 4-8 vs. the Reds last year, won only two of six games in Riverfront Stadium... Griffey, who left the game after the fourth inning because of a sore knee, has hit in eight straight games, Dave Collins in seven... George Foster has not been in the Reds' line-up since April 29... He has a strained left side... Steve Carlton (5-1), who has never had a 6-1 record in his career, goes against Tom Seaver (1-1, 3.55) in today's nationally televised game at 2:15... Dick Ruthven faces Mike LaCoss tomorrow after which the Phils jet to Atlanta.