Philadelphia Inquirer - May 2, 1980

Carlton beats Mets for No. 4


By Jayson Stark, Inquirer Staff Writer


NEW YORK – Pete Falcone buzzed through the first six Phillies hitters like a power saw ripping through frozen yogurt.


Lonnie Smith – fanned on a breaking ball. Pete Rose – fanned on a fastball. Garry Maddox – fanned. Mike Schmidt – fanned. Greg Luzinski – fanned. Bob Boone – fanned.


Six up, six down, six strikeouts.  What was this – the screen test for the Sandy Koufax Story?


Heck, not even Koufax ever struck out the first six hitters in a ball game. Only four pitchers ever have (John Hiller, Ray Culp, Bert Blyleven, Andy Messersmith). And nobody got to seven.


Falcone didn't, either. Larry Bowa took his best rip at Falcone's first pitch of the third inning. Must have drilled it, oh, 30, 40 feet. Falcone picked it up, tossed it to first and the streak was through.


Somehow, the Phillies weren't. They weren't, and they came back to beat Falcone and the Mets, 2-1. They weren't because it has been the story of Falcone's career that he can look like Koufax one second and he can be beaten by Luis (Home Run) Aguayo the next.


That's what happened to him last night. Aguayo interrupted a Phillies scoreless string of 17 straight innings with a two-run homer off Falcone in the fifth. And Steve Carlton (4-1) and Tug McGraw made it stand up.


And though it wasn't beautiful... and came on a night in which they got only five hits... and struck out nine times... and in which Carlton won when the other guy had the great stuff, they will still take it, no questions asked.


Nobody ever said that victories don't count if they're not fit for shipment to the Hall of Fame film library.


Nobody even said they don't count if your two big home run hitters (Schmidt and Luzinski) strike out five times and it's a 173-pound second baseman with no previous big-league homers who hits one out to win it.


Aguayo actually used to be a home-run hitter of some renown, but that was in a Puerto Rican Little League.


"I watched him get the six in a row, and I thought, 'I'm not going to let him get me,' " said Aguayo.


Falcone jumped ahead of him, 0-and-2, on breaking balls that first time up. But he came back with a fastball, and Aguayo smoked it. Only a lunging catch by Mets third baseman Elliott Maddox kept it from being a double.


Aguayo's next shot at Falcone was in the fifth. He saw breaking balls on the first two pitches again.


"But the second time he got behind me (2-and-0)," Aguayo said. "So I was looking fastball, looking for my pitch this time."


He got, instead, a slider, down and in. He adjusted and golfed it into the Phillies bullpen in left.


So it was up to Carlton to hold it. Carlton, who started off by also fanning the first two hitters, had pitched out of trouble all night.


Aguayo started a tough double play to help him out of the third. Elliott Maddox lined into another double play to get him out of the fifth. In the seventh, he walked in a run after loading the bases with a two-out walk and a pair of singles. And McGraw had to come on to get him out of that one.


"Lefty had real good stuff," said Boone. "When he started he had excellent location. But in the sixth he hung a couple pitches and got away with them. And in the seventh he had a lot of trouble finding the plate. He was just tired."


So Carlton left, and McGraw came on because Dallas Green wanted to keep Lee Mazzilli, the next hitter, batting righthanded. Mazzilli, who is 1-for-17 (.059) from the right side, bounced a slider into a force play on the first pitch. And McGraw went on to throw 2-1/3 innings of hitless relief for his second save.


Green even let McGraw bat in the eighth. That was a show of confidence designed to answer McGraw's public complaints earlier in the week that Green had apparently decided to bypass him and make Dickie Noles his No. 1 short man.


"Dallas said something early in the season that he was going to find out about me and Ron (Reed) early," McGraw said. "That didn't exactly sound like a vote of confidence.


"I wasn't surprised he was using Dickie, because I knew Dickie could do the job. I was just surprised because I felt he was a little bit hasty on the decision he might have been making about me."


So McGraw and Green talked it out early in the week.


"He told me he hadn't lost any confidence in me," McGraw said. "He said he was just finding out what guys could do, and he promised I'd get plenty of chances to pitch. I really wasn't worried. I just wanted to understand the situation."


Well, apparently that's all understood. Now maybe somebody could try to help Pete Falcone understand how Luis Aguayo wrecked his trip into the record books.

It’s no crime to enjoy a win


By Bill Lyon, Sports Editor


Nine nights ago, Mets' relief pitcher Jeff Reardon struck out pinch-hitter Randy Lerch with the bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth to save a 3-2 victory over the Phillies. No sooner had the third strike settled in his glove than John Stearns challenged the world record for the standing-broad-jump-while-wearing-catching-gear, landed near the mound and wrapped his arms around Reardon. "I felt like Yogi Berra after Don Larsen's perfect game," Stearns said.


Two nights ago, Mark Bomback finished beating the Phillies, 2-0, and Stearns rushed to his side, eyes sparkling, arms waving, his mouth spewing out words of unbridled jubilation.


Watching those two scenes you'd have thought the pennant was on the line. But this was spring, not fall, and these were the Mets, not the Yankees. Each of those victories merely moved the Mets into a tie for last place, hardly cause for a wild celebration... unless you know John Stearns.


He is not part of the new, cool breed of big league ball players. He does not work at keeping his emotions under control on the theory that to display them – to show joy at winning or agony at losing – is to be less than professional.


Stearns loves to win, and playing for the Mets hasn't changed that feeling; if anything, it has made him savor victory even more. Especially when those victories come against the Phillies, the team that traded him away.


Not everybody understands what makes Stearns tick, or tries to understand. Suffice it to say that if they held an election for most popular opposing player in the Phillies clubhouse, John Stearns would not be a finalist.


"There is a definite feeling about John as far as the club is concerned," Bob Boone said one day during spring training.


That feeling is so strong that Jose Cardenal, another ex-Phillie, laughingly recalled the time Stearns went charging toward the Phillies' dugout in pursuit of a pop foul. It's common baseball practice to warn a catcher when he gets too close to the dugout; after all, he might take a bad fall. But on this occasion, Cardenal claimed, nobody said a word. If Stearns fell – well, those are the breaks.


"A lot of guys think he's hot-doggish," Larry Bowa said, "but I think he just likes to play hard. He's a helluva competitor. Like Pete (Rose). A lot of guys hated Pete before he came over here because of the stuff he did. When Stearns plays us, it seems like the whole ball club tries doubly hard to get him out."


Stearns thrives on that rivalry. There was a time when he seemed to get carried away, when he tried too hard to win the battle. Now, he appears to be under control... and the result has been some good nights against his old team. But to John, the only really good night is a winning night... and those don't happen often enough when you're a Met.


"I think in three years the Mets are going to be a helluva team to play for," he said. "I think people are going to be out at the ballpark. I think a lot of things.... But that's a long time to wait." And John Stearns is an impatient young man.


"We're the laughing stock of the league," he said one day this spring "I always wonder to myself, 'Why? How did I end up here?' I was right there (in Philadelphia), and then I was gone."


Stearns wanted to make it with the Phillies, wanted to be the catcher on a team that was a legitimate contender. But Bob Boone beat him to the Vet, and Boone's presence made Stearns expendable. Not surprisingly, there was considerable bad feeling between the two men for a while, although that seems to be abating now. "I personally like Boonie," Stearns said. "I think he's a great catcher. I also think if it wasn't for Boonie I'd probably be in Philly. Anybody with less ability back there when I came along, they wouldn't have dealt me."


But they did deal him and here he is, catching for a team that has finished last three years in a row and figures to make it four.


"Everybody's had me wrong all along," Stearns said. "I'm not out to hurt anybody or anything else. All I want to do is win."


And, on those special occasions when his team does win, especially against the Phillies, don't blame John Stearns if he jumps for joy and embraces his pitcher and acts like a catcher whose pitcher has just thrown a perfect game in the World Series. When you play for the Mets, there's no point in waiting until October to celebrate.