Philadelphia Inquirer - May 12, 1980
A resurgent Ruthven turns back Reds, 7-3
By Jayson Stark, Inquirer Staff Writer
CINCINNATI – Dick Ruthven read the theories, all 14,278 of them.
He read that he was psyched out by surgery. He read that he was too weak to throw hard any more. He read that he wasn't even trying to throw hard.
He read theories by his manager, theories by coaches, theories by writers. Everybody, it seemed, had a theory why Dick Ruthven was getting hammered except Frank Rizzo, Stockard Channing and Dick Ruthven himself. Until now.
"I think I just might have been trying too hard," Ruthven said yesterday after pitching the Phillies over the Reds, 7-3. "I was getting frustrated and it was causing me to try and throw too hard.
"I know the opposite thing was stated – that maybe I was not trying to throw the ball, that I was not throwing hard enough because I was hurt. But those statements made absolutely no sense to me."
Three starts ago, Ruthven started to turn it around. He pitched well against the Dodgers in a no-decision May 2. He beat Atlanta last Tuesday, allowing only one earned run. But his seven-inning, two-run, eight-strikeout performance yesterday was, he said, "by far the best I've pitched this year."
"That's more like the Dick Ruthven we know," said Dallas Green. "He had all his pitches going for him, and he was much better able to spot his ball in this game than before. He didn't lapse into that three-or-four-hitter wildness that seemed to always come up with him somewhere along the line. And his fastball was very good today."
It was that fastball that was the difference between the Ruthven of yesterday and the Ruthven of any outing since May, 1979. He still won a couple games in the interim, by changing speeds, hitting spots, moving the ball around. But that fastball had gone the way of Wes Covington, Wayne Twitchell and Durward Kirby – flat-out missing in action.
"It felt like it didn't take as much effort to get good results with it today,", Ruthven said. "Whenever I've pitched good in the past, it seemed like it was kind of effortless.
"Today I was throwing the ball hard and effortless, and I just seemed to get that good jump on it. That sets up my change-up, especially. Plus, I was getting my breaking ball over. And that sets up the type of game a pitcher loves, where they can't sit on one pitch. And in all the games I'd pitched this year, they've been able to sit on my fastball."
Ruthven helped himself with his bat yesterday almost as much as he did with his fastball. In the second inning, after Reds second baseman Junior Kennedy had booted a potential double-play ball, Ruthven looped a two-run single to right, giving him a 2-0 lead off Mike LaCoss.
Then LaCoss, who has gone four starts without a win, really fell apart in the third. But again some Cincinnati defensive blunders didn't help him.
LaCoss got himself in trouble by allowing no-out singles to Bake McBride and Mike Schmidt and then walking Greg Luzinski. But then Bob Boone bounced one to third that practically had "Double Play" flashing on it in neon and Reds third baseman Ray Knight got it stuck in his glove.
Knight got only the out at second, and the, Phils led, 3-0. Then Greg Gross one-hopped one back to the mound. But LaCoss took his time throwing the ball to second for the force, so Gross beat Dave Concepcion's relay. Larry Bowa and Manny Trillo followed with back-to-back singles, it was 5-0 and LaCoss was gone.
Ruthven was able to get through five shutout innings. But the one that seemed most pivotal in keeping the Reds from getting back in it was the second.
Ruthven had fanned the first two hitters, Ken Griffey and Ray Knight, for strikeouts Nos. 1 and 2 on his way to a two-seasons high of eight. But Dan Driessen and Kennedy singled, and the Reds had a first-and third opportunity.
Don Werner, the Reds' .120-hitting backup catcher, then popped one up behind third base for what would not exactly be a routine third out. Schmidt called for it, then decided maybe it was Bowa's ball. He looked at Bowa, saw the shortstop had peeled off, and then had to make a lunging, over-the-shoulder stab to catch it.
"I don't know who else (in baseball) would have caught it," Green said.
Driessen ended Ruthven's shutout with an RBI double in the sixth. And Harry Spilman ripped his first career homer off Ruthven in the seventh. But by then the Phils had plenty of runs, thanks in part to the Pete Rose Baserunning Theater in the seventh.
Rose, who hadn't stolen a base all year, stole three in one inning, a first even for him. He walked, stole second on what was supposed to be a hit-and-run, stole third on his own and then stole home off the back end of a double steal with Schmidt.
"Nah, I don't guess I've ever stole three bases in one inning before," Rose said. "But then, I also guess I never tried."
And so the Phillies avoided what might have been a catastrophic sweep in Riverfront Stadium. And even more importantly, said Green, "now we know we've got a healthy Dick Ruthven on our hands. I'm more confident about saying that now than I have been."
NOTES: Garry Maddox was in Green's original lineup but scratched later. "He felt a little uncomfortable with it today," Green said. "I'll say again, I'm not in any hurry to rush him out."... Ruthven's ERA has dropped from 9.56 to 5.66 in his last three starts.... Before yesterday, Ruthven hadn't beaten the Reds since April 28 1973, the first time he ever faced them. He had lost 11 straight since.... No new Bowa-Concepcion stories yesterday. But when Concepcion argued the call on Rose's steal of second, Rose turned to umpire Bruce Froemming and asked, "Hey Bruce, can you hit .198?" Froemming said he thought he could. "Well, why don't you switch places with Davey, because he wants to umpire."... Larry Christenson vs. Doyle Alexander tomorrow. Green isn't sure of his pitcher for Wednesday.