Wilmington Evening Journal - May 2, 1980

McGraw throws bucket of water to put out Mets’ late-inning fire


By Hal Bodley, Sports Editor


NEW YORK – "Hey, Tug," Larry Bowa shouted from a distant corner in the Phillies' clubhouse. "Can we call you fireman again?"


McGraw, his heart still pounding and his words flowing just as fast, became suddenly serious.


"Let's wait and see," Tug answered through a mob of reporters. "I've gone from fireman to janitor. The fireman comes in and puts out the fire, the janitor comes in and mops up."


Last night in Shea Stadium, Tug McGraw was the fireman. With the Phillies clinging to a 2-1 lead in the seventh inning against the Mets, he doused the fire with one pitch to preserve the team victory and Steve Carlton's fourth success in five decisions.


His most impressive relief stint since last July came at a time when the critics were taking dead aim at the Phils' bullpen. It also came a few days after a New York reporter wrote a story stating that McGraw would like to return to the Mets.


"Let's get one thing straight right now!" McGraw told the predominantly New York press. "The reporter came up to me and mentioned I'm on the last year of my contract with the Phillies. He asked if I didn't remain with them, would I like to come back to the Mets. I said I would. I'd like Boston, too, because they have a lot of Irish whiskey up there."


Times have been difficult for McGraw. After a fast start last season, he became ineffective and on several occasions was unable to hold leads.


With the game on the line last night, however, he proved he can still handle a tense situation and that his screwball is still his out pitch.


Carlton, coming off his record-breaking one-hitter against St. Louis last Saturday night, entered the seventh with a 2-0 lead thanks to rookie Luis Aguayo's two-run homer.


With two down, Carlton loaded the bases on two singles and a walk, then proceeded to walk Elliott Maddox to force in a run.


In came McGraw. He threw just one pitch to Lee Mazzilli, who forced Maddox at second.


Then, be put down the Mets in order in the eighth and ninth innings, striking out pinch-hitter Alex Trevino for the final out.


"I had four pitches working tonight," the zany McGraw bubbled. "I had fastball, curveball, slider, screwball, knuckleball and Peggy Lee fastball."


Peggy Lee fastball?


"Yeah," said McGraw. "The hitter swings too soon and he misses it and says, 'Is that all there is?' Peggy Lee sang the song, 'Is That All There Is.’”


McGraw could joke last night because the Phillies have been struggling to stay above water. In the early days of the season they remind you of a crew trying to keep the boat from sinking by bailing as fast as they can.


The pitching staff has taken the brunt of the criticism.


"The guys I have talked to feel we (pitchers) are being judged too early," McGraw said. "We just got through April and there was some inconsistency, but spring training was short this year. Seven or eight of the exhibition games were cancelled and pitching in those simulated situations is not the same. Pitchers did not get the normal amount of innings in they usually get. I just think our pitching staff wasn't quite ready."


With two down in the fifth, Bowa lined a single to right. Aguayo followed, sending a 2-0 Falcone delivery over the left-field fence to end a 17-inning scoreless drought for the Phils.


"As I ran around the bases, I realized that this gave Steve Carlton the lead," said Aguayo. "At that stage of the game, considering the way he was pitching, I thought that was important."


Carlton wiggled out of trouble in the early innings.


In the seventh, he got the first two batters on infield outs, but Doug Flynn singled to center and Jose Cardenal, batting for Falcone, walked.


Mike Schmidt saved a run when he made an outstanding stop of Frank Taveras bouncer, but was unable to get an out.


With the boases loaded, Carlton walked Elliott Maddox on four pitches and Green came out with the hook.


"I think Steve was tired," said the manager. "That was the second straight pressure game he had pitched in. He pitched a lot of innings where he could not afford to make a mistake. That type of a situation drains you."


"Lefty had good stuff early," said catcher Bob Boone. "He started missing a little in the fourth and in the sixth he got away with some hanging pitches. Maybe Dallas is right about the pressure angle, but Lefty is the kind of guy who blocks things like that out of his mind."


The Phils managed iust five hits to the Mets' eight, and as the New Yorkers began to come to life, a wasted opportunity in the sixth loomed important.


EXTRA POINTS - The Phils blew a chance to pad their lead in the sixth when they had runners on second and third with one out, but could not score... Falcone struck out Schmidt and got Greg Luzinskl to foul out to the catcher... Pete Rose struck out for the first time this year in the first inning... In all, Falcone struck out eight batters... The Dodgers come to Veterans Stadium tonight, with Dick Ruthven facing Rick Sutcliffe... Larry Christenson goes against Burt Hooton tomorrow afternoon and Randy Lerch faces Don Sutton on Sunday.