Wilmington Morning News - May 14, 1980

Phillies can’t stop Braves’ ‘brilliance’


By Hal Bodley, Sports Editor


ATLANTA – Randy Lerch says he feels like a wounded animal with the dogs closing in.


Last night the dogs were the not-so-talented Atlanta Braves.


The Braves, who have never been mistaken for a Gold Glove defense, made some brilliant plays afield, squeezed the most out of their hits and embarrassed the Phillies 7-3 on the terrible turf of Atlanta Stadium.


For Lerch, the setback was just another in a series of disasters that have left him with an 0-5 record.


Doyle Alexander, a loser to the Phils last week in Philadelphia, held on to win his first game after two losses.


As a contrast to outstanding fielding plays by Atlanta's Luis Gomez and Jerry Royster that snuffed Phils' threats, Mike Schmidt was charged with two costly errors. His first, in the first inning, let in two unearned runs.


And reliever Lerrin LaGrow, who gave up three runs in the eighth after the Phils had closed to within a run in the top of the inning, has to be wondering what he has to do to be effective. An infield nubber and a flare to left field produced two quick runs before Dale Murphy homered.


"But the bottom line is Randy Lerch is 0-5," said Manager Dallas Green. "It's the same pattern. He gets himself in a lot of trouble in an inning or two, then pitches well."


After falling behind 4-1 in the second inning, Lerch retired 10 Braves in a row and 16 of the last 17 he faced. Only a walk to Jeff Burroughs leading off the sixth kept him from pitching five perfect innings.


"Randy's problem in the early innings was the fact he was not using the inside part of the plate," said Green. "We talked to him about this and it seemed to help.


"In fairness to Mike Schmidt, the field here is the worst in the National League. It's just awful. The outfield is a mismatch of sod and burned-out grass and the infield is so rough it's impossible to field some balls. But on the other hand, the Braves had to play on it, too."


In the fifth inning, with one out, Lerch walked and Pete Rose followed with a scorching grounder just to the left of Gomez. The shortstop backhanded the ball beautifully and turned it in to a double play.


"It was a one-hopper," said Rose. "I can't hit a ball much harder than that. I'm surprised he came up with it."


In the eighth, after the Phils had closed to 4-3, they had runners on first and second with one out. Bob Boone hit a bouncer to to the third baseman. Schmidt crashed into Royster in an attempt to break up the double play, but the second baseman got the throw off.


"I don't know how he got it off," said Schmidt, who refused to blame the field for his costly first-inning error. "He must have thrown just before I hit him."


Lerch, started when Green decided not to take a chance with Larry Christenson who had stiffness in his elbow, felt a Chris Chambliss double to the gap in left-center in the first was the key.


With two out and a runner on second, the count went 2-2 on the first baseman. Lerch then threw seven pitches that were fouled off before Chambliss ripped a change-up that was over the plate.


"That was one of the best at-bats I have ever seen," said Lerch. "He kept fouling off pitches that were a foot inside, then I made the mistake."


To make the night even more distasteful for the Phils, shortstop Larry Bowa became the first member of the team to be ejected this year. Home-plate umpire Steve Fields tossed Bowa who argued a strike call in the seventh. Bowa flied to center.


Shoddy Atlanta fielding and heads-up base running by Rose gave the Phils a short-lived 1-0 lead in the first inning.


Rose was safe at first on Chambliss' error and raced to third when catcher Bruce Benedict threw wildly to second base.


Schmidt followed with a double off Horner's glove and it was 1-0.


A two-base error by Schmidt on Gary Matthews' grounder with two out in the bottom of the inning opened the gates for two unearned runs.


With Matthews on second, Chambliss doubled to left-center for the first run. Jeff Burroughs then doubled home Chambliss.


With two down in the second, Alexander singled to left. Consecutive singles by Royster, Horner and Matthews produced the two runs.


The Phils closed to within a run in the eighth George Vukovich, batting for Lerch, walked and Rose followed with a screaming double to the gap in left-center.


Alexander was replaced by Rick Camp who immediately gave up a two-run single to Bake McBride. Schmidt was hit by a pitch to put runners on first and second with nobody out, but Greg Luzinski fanned and Bob Boone bounced into a doubleplay.


The Braves put the game out of reach in the eighth, scoring two runs in the eighth and again taking advantage of poor Philadelphia fielding.


Matthews opened with an infield single and Chambliss followed a hooking triple to left that bounced away from Luzinski. Chambliss continued on home when Schmidt's relay throw was wild.


Dale Murphy then blasted LaGrow's 3-0 fastball over the fence in right-center for his fifth homer of the year and it was 7-3.