Little Luis Gives Phils Big Lift
By Bill Conlin
NEW YORK – You know the old ballteam is in a hitting slump when the manager, clinging to the sheer face of a 2-1 lead, takes off a bunt sign in the eighth with nobody out.
You know the old ballteam is swinging whiffle bats when Joe Torre elects to let a lefthander pitch to Mike Schmidt and Greg Luzinski with one out, runners on second and third. That's either stupidity or arrogance. But when Pete Falcone pumped a called third strike past Schmidt and popped Luzinski up in the sixth it became sheer genius.
Thank heaven for little second basemen.
While the Phillies lineup poked at Falcone – the in-and-out lefthander tied a major league record by striking out the first six hitters in Dallas Green's revamped batting order – reserve second baseman Luis Aguayo was having his best game as a big leaguer.
"That was the Luis Aguayo Show, offensively and defensively." Green said after the 21 year-old Manny Trillo replacement carried Steve Carlton to his fourth victory with his first major league homer, a two-run shot into the Phillies bullpen in the fifth inning. Outstanding defensive plays by Elliott Maddox at third and Dan Norman in left robbed Luis of two hits. The kid, who had the jitters in the field the first week, looked like the Gold Glover he has a chance to be someday.
I WONDER IF Manny Trillo ever heard of Wally Pipp?
Carlton blanked the Mets until the seventh, when he lost his location and wound up loading the bases with two outs. He walked E. Maddox on four pitches, forcing in Doug Flynn. Green brought in Tug McGraw. who has been preening for the late inning shot he felt he needed to restore his credibility as the Phillies left-handed short man.
This was not just another game for The Tugger. He was on record in a New York daily Tuesday as desiring a return lo his former seat of glory if the Phillies saw fit to give up on him. Getting lit up would not have been the high point of a career where McGraw often seemed diplomatically suited for service in the Carter administration. He says what is on his mind and you've got to like him for that. It would not have done a thing for his career to have come in last night and surrendered Carlton's lead.
Pitching with emotion, he got Lee Mazzilli. a No. 3 hitter with one lonely RBI to date, on a one-pitch bouncer to Mike Schmidt. He one-two-threed the Mets in the eighth, stood with racing heartbeat while Garry Maddox went back 405 feet to pull down Norman's leadoff fly in the ninth, applauded Aguayo for an outstanding play in the hole on Flynn and applauded himself for the screwball he unfurled to pinch-hitter Alex Trevino to end the game.
"I went from fireman to janitor." McGraw said while the New York guys scribbled furiously. "The fireman comes in and puts out the fire, a janitor comes in and mops up. I'm auditioning for the job of fireman again."
HE MAY HAVE EARNED the part.
"We needed that." said Green after the Phils pummeled Falcone and Neil Allen for five hits. "It was a spot where we really needed a job out of the bullpen. He did the job and he did it with good stuff."
McGraw led off the eighth after pitching out of the seventh-inning crucible. He slung a single into center and hardly anybody in the slim Shea crowd of 5.928 expected Lonnie Smith to do anything but bunt Smith was leading off and playing right field. Pete Rose was batting second as Green scuffled to get more offense from the top of a lineup that went 13 innings here without scoring against the Mets' extremely suspect pitching.
Lonnie, swift enough to leg out any well-placed bunt on the heavy Shea infield, had a bunt sign early in the count, but Green had Lee Elia take it off. He skied a 2-1 pitch to right and McGraw died on first.
"The way we've been swinging the bats even if we get Tug to second we need one, maybe two hits to score him." Green said. "We thought we could get Lonnie a fastball to hit and we got him one. We've got to hit our way out of this thing."
Just when almost everybody who saw him for the first time was remarking on Aguayo's startling resemblance to Pirates third baseman Bill Madlock, Luis went and shaved his beard Tuesday, blowing the whole effect. Now he just looks like Luis Aguayo again, a handsome young man with a thin mustache and a lot of talent.
"I NEVER PLAYED in this country with a beard before," said Luis, who wears one during the Winter League season in Puerto Rico. I thought maybe I shave it and it will change my luck."
Not that the kid's luck needed that much changing. He has held his own offensively but didn’t look all that comfortable in the field. It was a matter of learning the hitters and he's been getting help in that department from Bobby Wine and catcher Bob Boone.
"I need them to help me," he said, "and I am starting to feel more comfortable every game."
He appears to have all the rest – range, hands, courage and the body of a strong young man who will get stronger. Jim Bunning did nice work when he recommended signing the 17-year-old high school kid who was his utility infielder for the Caguas Criollas.
Thank heaven for little girls, little second basemen and auditioning 35-year-old relief pitchers.
PHILUPS; Tug McGraw was running through the repertoire of pitches he throws. "Fastball, curve, slider, screwball, changeup, knuckleball and a Peggy Lee fastball," he said. A Peggy Lee fastball? "Yeah." Tug said, "that's the one where the hitter is out in front of it and says, 'Is that all there is?" " He failed to mention his Frank Sinatra fastball "Fly Me to the Moon"... Pete Falcone finished with eight strikeouts after his furious opening flurry. "He had excellent location with his fastball tonight," Dallas Green said. "He was still throwing real well in the sixth, so I'm not all that surprised that Joe Torre chose to challenge Schmitty and Bull"... Another big start for Dick Ruthven. He'll face 1979 Rookie of the Year Rick Sutcliffe tonight when the Phils open a weekend series with the rampaging Dodgers... Paul Owens likes Bert Blyleven, but his semi-lifetime contract reads like War and Peace and the disgruntled Pirates righthander seems determined to pitch in Southern California... Lonnie Smith played well, singling in the fourth for the first hit off Falcone and stealing a base in the sixth after reaching on an error.
4 More Win In Payoff
There were four winners in the Daily News Home Run Payoff last night. In the eighth inning of the Phillies-Mets eame. Jim Brimmer of Philadelphia won $10 and four tickets to a Phillies game on a Tug McGraw single. Kristina Noga and Leo McKnight of Philadelphia and Anthony Rando of Stratford, N J, won tickets.
So far the Daily News has paid out $2785. To enter, clip out and mail the coupon on Page 96.