Wilmington Evening Journal - May 19, 1980
Nolan Ryan makes believers out of shell-shocked Phillies
By Hal Bodley, Sports Editor
HOUSTON – Nolan Ryan's career record through 1979 was 187-159. Before he faced the Phillies yesterday he was 1-3 in 1980.
The Phillies don't believe those statistics. They believe the Houston Astros wen certainly of sound mind when they gave free-agent Ryan a contract last December calling for a million dollars a year.
The 33-year-old Ryan, who lives 20 miles down the road from here in Alvin, Tex., pitched an awesome four-hit 3-0 victory to snuff a five-game Houston losing streak.
He struck out a season-high 10 batters, mostly with his highly publicized fastball that was clocked three times at 98 miles per hour. Heck, the Phillies think the tornado warnings over the weekend were kids' stuff compared to Ryan's storm.
"It's hard for me to believe this guy is not too much more than a .500 pitcher," said shortstop Larry Bowa. "I just don't believe it."
"Can you imagine what it would be like to have Nolan Ryan and Steve Carlton on the same pitching staff?" asked Greg Luzinski, one of two Phils who fanned three times. "It would be all over. He struck me out once with a change-up and I didn't even know he had one."
Ryan's most impressive inning was the eighth.
He walked pinch-hitter George Vukovich, and Pete Rose, who had three of the Phils' four bite, singled to center. With the bullpen active, pitching coach Mel Wright went to the mound.
"We weren't going to take him out, just wanted to settle him down," said Houston Manager Billy Virdon, a slight smile showing on his face.
Wright left and Ryan then struck out Bake McBride, Mike Schmidt and Luzinski. The crowd of 33,950 in the Astrodome gave their new hero a standing ovation.
“They know I'm a fastball hitter and that's what they threw me most of the time today' said McBride, who also-fanned three times as his 12-game hitting streak came to an end. “In the eighth, he threw a fastball past me. Can you believe that?”
The three strikeout pitches in the eight were each clocked by the radar gun at 98 mph. His fastball reached 97 mph nine times enroute to his 43rd career shutout and third in the National League.
"Today, I felt I had to throw a shutout,” said Ryan. "We have been having trouble scoring runs, so I figured I had to go out there and try to keep them from scoring. The key today was the fact that I was able to throw all three of my pitches (fastball, curve, change-up) for strikes. Plus, my velocity was consistent. I seemed to get strong as the game progressed and was not at all tired at the end even though I threw a little under 130 pitches.
"This is obviously the best he has pitched this year," said Virdon, who juggled his lineup against lefthander Randy Larch yesterday. "A couple of times he has thrown this hard for an inning or two, but not an entire game.
"We got three runs today and be shut them out That's what they did to us on Friday. That's the only way you can win when you're struggling like we have."
Virdon said Ryan has a history of slow starts, a fact the Astros were well aware of.
"In each outing, though, he has improved," the manager said. "His problem in some of his losses was the fact he got behind in the count frequently. Today, he stayed ahead. To me, that was the difference."
Luis Pujols, who replaced Alan Ashby behind the plate, had never caught Ryan before.
"He was so consistent," said Pujols, who doubled and scored the Astros' second run. "His velocity was the same all day and he got all of his pitches across the plate. The eighth was his best inning."
For the Phillies, ineffective early innings by Lerch were costly.
In the first, a single by Rafael Landestoy, a sacrifice and a single by Jeff Leonard made it 1-0. In the second, Pujols' double, a walk to Ryan and singles by Landestoy and Terry Puhl accounted for two more runs after which Lerch retired the next seven batters in order.
Lerch, who is now 0-6, has allowed 12 runs on 17 hits in the first innings of games he has started.
"We changed his warm-up routine some today, hoping that would help," said Manager Dallas Green. "We had him pitch for a few minutes, then sit down, then pitch. When we get back home, we are going to have to try to come up with something to get him out of that early inning slump."
After Lerch left, Green got three strong innings from Ron Reed and Tug McGraw, despite giving up two hits, held the Astros scoreless in the eighth.
EXTRA POINTS - The Phils left immediately after the game for Philadelphia where they open a three-game set against the Reds tonight... Steve Carlton will go against Frank Pastore... There will be two more games with Cincinnati, then a tension-filled open date on Thursday when everyone will learn whether or not there will be a players' strike at midnight... Ryan, who last faced the Phillies when he was with the Mets in 1971, has struck out 10 or more batters 129 times in his 12-year career... The three-game set in the Astrodome drew 111,085.
Hopes dim in baseball talks
NEW YORK – 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."