Camden Courier-Post - May 19, 1980

Ryan’s bionic arm throttles Phillies


By Rusty Pray of the Courier-Post


HOUSTON – There is a rumor circulating among National League hitters that Nolan Ryan, at his best, is not really human. Ryan, the theory goes, is actually a mythological figure that appears once a week in a Houston Astros uniform to torment the innocent.


He materialized in the Astrodome yesterday, his bionic right arm spewing cruise missles, and blasted away the Phillies, 3-0, for his 43rd career shutout. Even before he struck out Bake McBride, Greg Luzinski and Mike Schmidt to get himself out of a two-on, no-out jam in the eighth, it was clear Ryan was at his best.


"That," said Phillies Manager, Dallas Green, "is the understatement of the year."


"HE WAS," agreed Luzinski, "just rearing back and letting go. He was making good pitches with his breaking ball, too."


Despite the fact Ryan's fastball was three times clocked at 98 miles per hour, it was his breaking pitch that made him all but unhittable. In the crucial eighth, after Ryan walked pinch-hitter Greg Gross and Pete Rose punched his third single of the game, Ryan used nothing but searing heat to fan McBride, Schmidt and Luzinski.


Until that inning, Ryan had been feeding the three a steady diet of breaking pitches, giving the Phils' Nos. 2, 3 and 4 hitters nothing appetizing.


"He'd thrown me three breaking balls in a row, I had no idea he was going to fire (in the eighth) because of(the pattern he had been pitching me," said Luzinski. "The first time up, I was teeing off on the fastball and I got nothing but breaking balls. In this league, you don't see many i guys with his velocity. But the big thing was, he got the breaking ball over.”


RYAN, who signed with the Astros as a free agent for $1 million a year, had gotten off to a slow – relatively speaking, of course – start, going into yesterday's game with a 1-3 record and a three-game losing streak.


"I was inconsistent with my fastball and my breaking ball," said Ryan. "And, for me to be successful I have to get my breaking ball over."


His game, however, came together with the suddenness of one of his fastballs, ending a Phillie winning streak at three games and giving the Astros their first win after five straight losses. Ryan allowed just four hits, the three to Rose and a triple of Manny Trillo, and struck out a season-high 10. It was the 129th time in his career, most of which was spent in the American League,. that Ryan struck out 10 or more hitters in a game.


"That's the best he's pitched this year," said Bill Virdon, the Houston manager. "That's what he's capable i of doing if he's throwing well. He's thrown the ball fast on occasion, but never that consistently.


"WHEN YOU lose five in a row like we did, it becomes a time when you almost have to have a good pitched game."


The trick to beating Ryan, or J.R. Richard, or Tom Seaver or any of the better pitchers in the game, is to stay close and hope you can take advantage of a mistake. But the Phils found themselves down three runs before the third out of the second inning was recorded. And, on this day, spotting Ryan one run would have been one too many.


Randy Lerch, the Phils’ frustrated lefthander, continued his pattern of calamitous pitching by falling into instantaneous trouble. Lerch gave up a single to leadoff hitter Rafael Landestoy and an RBI single to Jeff Leonard in the first. Now 0-6, Lerch has been victimized in first innings this season for 17 hits, 12 runs, three home runs and one batting out of order. He's also issued eight of his 17 walks in the first inning of his eight starts.


"He seems to be giving up a run or two each outing," said Green. "Then he seems to get his act together and pitches well. He's very frustrated right now, and that's understandable."


LERCH yielded RBI singles to Landestoy and Terry Puhl in the second, but the key to the inning was a walk he gave to Ryan after Luis Pujols had doubled with one out.


"Any time you walk a pitcher… It's not something you want to do," said Green. "It's probably as much mental as anything else. He's certainly not trying to give them (early runs) up."


Green and pitching Coach Herm Starrette tried varying Lerch's warmup method before the game – warming him up, resting him, then warming him some more. The hope was it would get Lerch mentally past the first inning. Their hope, however, went unrewarded.


Now Green says he will alter Lerch's training routine. "We're going to try something different, change his routine, and maybe jar him loose."


PHIL UPS – Ryan's fastball was also was clocked at 97 m.p.h. nine "times and, on the three strikeout "pitches to McBride, Schmidt and Luzinski, it was timed at 96 m.p.h.

Talks suspended, strike near


NEW YORK (AP) – Just four days before a strike deadline, talks have been suspended in the baseball contract dispute with no new negotiations scheduled in the gloomy picture that threatens to interrupt the season Thursday.


"We have recessed negotiations subject to my call," said federal mediator Kenneth Moffett, who returned to Washington, D.C., following yesterday's fruitless talks. "I met privately with both sides and there was no movement as far as either side was concerned . Then I decided to call the recess because there had been no movement in either separate or joint meetings."


Yesterday's joint meeting lasted no more than two or three minutes, although the two negotiating teams held morning and afternoon sessions. Moffett, who has been involved in these talks since March 31, seemed depressed.


"THE CHANCES for averting a strike are not good," he said.


Moffett said he would remain in touch with both sides and expected to summon them back to talks before the midnight Thursday deadline. It was expected the recall would not take place before Wednesday.


"There has been no progress and the climate is highly charged," Moffett said.


The free agent compensation issue continues to block the talks. Management wants relief in the form of replacement players for free agents who sign with other teams and the players association has balked at that idea.


ON FRIDAY, each side rejected proposals from the other and the negotiations have been stalemated since. Management turned down a union bid that the rest of the contract be settled while the free agent issue is placed on hold for a two-year study. Then the players rejected the owners' . pledge to maintain terms of the expired ; 1976 agreement until spring training of 1981 while bargaining continues on a new contract.


"A comprehensive proposal was made to the players," said Ray Grebey, chief negotiator for management. "It is still there and the clubs have pledged to maintain the status quo in all respects while bargaining toward a new agreement."


Marvin Miller, executive director of the union, rejected the latest owner proposal, objecting particularly to the criteria that defines premium free agent players for whom compensation would be due.


"Under their criteria, batters who hit .222 and pitchers with an earned run average of more than 6.00 would be classified as 'premium players,"' Miller said.


AS FOR the owners' offer to maintain terms of the agreement that expired Dec. . 31, Miller called it "a nothing proposal," and accused management of trying to get "a year free."


"It is clearly an attempt to con the players into accepting no improvements in the contract... to play under 1976 terms while the owners collect 1980 revenues."