Wilmington Morning News - May 26, 1980
Phillies one-two power punch flattens Astros…
By Rod Beaton, Staff Correspondent
PHILADELPHIA - Back-to-back, they're hardly an awesome sight. Sure, Mike Schmidt is a well-built 6-foot-2, 203 pounds and the newly, almost-svelte Greg Luzinski is a muscular 6-1, 225. But there are guys lounging on the beach and in the bars of Rehoboth this weekend with the same physiques.
Not one of them can wield a bat with same elan, or they'd be on Ruly Carpenter's fat payroll, pronto. Not that Carpenter and the Phillies really need another slugger.
Schmidt and Luzinski are doing quite nicely, thank-you. Back-to-back in the Phils' lineup, they've been waging their own home-run derby. Yesterday, again, the Houston Astros felt the brunt – and the barrel – of their bats.
Schmidt and Luzinski hit back-to-back home runs for the fourth time this season to open the fifth inning. Along with Garry Maddox' solo shot in the second, they fueled a 6-2 setback for starter Ken Forsch and a three-game sweep of the Astros.
The surge could not have come at a more opportune time for the two sluggers, the Phils and Manager Dallas Green. Coupled with the Pirates' 5-2 home loss to San Francisco, it moved the Phils with one game of the world champions and East Division pace-setters. It also helped dispel some of the gloom that followed the announcement that a questionable pitching staff would be further depleted by surgery to Larry Christenson's elbow.
Dick Ruthven is coming off similar surgery over the winter. After a sluggish, perplexing start to the season – and also in yesterday's game – he's come on strong. Ruthven was touched for two runs and five hits, including three triples in the first three innings. Helped by three base-running blunders by the Astros, he settled in for eight strong innings. With ninth-inning help from Dickie Noles, Ruthven lifted his record to 5-3, lowering an ERA that once looked like an Indy 500 qualifying speed to 4.34.
And Schmidt and Luzinski wrested ownership of the major-league home run lead from Ben Oglivie of Milwaukee with each at 12.
"Everyone has been waiting for me and him i Schmidt) to be hot at the same time," said Luzinski, who is a blazing 12-for his last-22 at-bats, including yesterday's cannonade to center and second-inning double (he scored on a single by Bob Boone).
"There's no question I've been in a good groove. It's a lot easier than being 0-for-18."
Asked if the start was his best ever, Luzinski said: "I haven't looked back, but I think it would be. I've had some slow starts. My big month is usually June."
May has been quite acceptable, thank-you. The Bull's average is hovering near .300 (.296). He hit No. 12 more than two months earlier than last year (July 29).
Luzinski acknowledged that a trimmer Bull was a more potent one. He added that there was more to his resurgence than that.
"That (the 20-pound weight-loss) contributed to it," he said. "The glasses have helped, too. I've said before, I'm picking the ball up better."
So are several other Phils. While Luzinski was stretching his hitting streak to six games. Bake McBride, crashed a two-run single in the second, driving the game-winning run. McBride has hit in 18 of his last 19 games, lifting his average to .311. And Schmidt has base hits in 19 of the last 22 games.
"All of us are swinging good now. It's a good groove," said Green. "We're playing our kind of baseball right now. We're getting a few home runs and a lot of singles and doubles."
The Astros ran themselves out of more substantial production from their early hitting. Craig Reynolds tripled to right in the first and scored on Terry Puhl's sacrifice fly. Cesar Cedeno doubled with two outs in the second, reached third when Ruthven dropped Pete Rose's toss during a play at first, and scored on Forsch's single.
But in the third, Puhl foolishly tried unsuccessfully to score from third (he'd tripled) on a hard, one-out smash to Larry Bowa, playing in. Then, Joe Morgan, who reached first on the fielder's choice, failed to score when Jose Cruz doubled to the gap in right-center. Dennis Walling stranded both.
Boone's RBI single in the bottom of the inning expanded the Phils' lead to 4-2, and the consecutive homers sealed the triumph, the Phils' fourth straight.
To add to the Astros' embarrassment, in the eighth, Morgan tried 1 scoring from first on another double by Cruz. Relay man Manny Trillo had McBride's throw even as Morgan rounded third. Trillo's throw beat Morgan by so much, the former Reds star didn't bother sliding.
"That second one was bad judgment," said Manager Bill Virdon of the Astros. "Any time you get thrown out behind 6-2, it hurts."
Making his first appearance since 1978 against the Phils, Forsch (5-3) was hurt by a wandering breaking ball. It wandered a little too high too often to suit Virdon.
"Forsch wasn't himself today," Virdon said. "He made some bad E itches, especially with his breaking all. He got some pitches up."
They aren't quite Mantle and Maris, but Schmidt and Luzinski, with a special guest appearance by Maddox, were glad to get a couple pitches up – and over – the fence.
PHILS FACTS - Just-recalled righty Bob Walk gets thrown into the fire immediately. He'll start tonight (6:05) against Bert Blyleven (0-4). At 7:35 tomorrow, Henry Bibby (5-1) against Steve Carlton. Pirates will start Don Robinson (0-1) Wednesday and Buddy "Call me Eddie" Solomon Thursday...Trillo went 3-for-4 and is hitting .349.
… Christenson set for surgery
PHILADELPHIA – When it comes to their humble pitching staff, the Phils try to let the chips fall where they may. But Larry Christenson's aching right elbow was too persistent and too harmful to remain ignored.
As a result, the Phillies placed Christenson on the 60-day disabled list, lining up Wednesday surgery for the removal of bone spurs. Dallas Green assured one and all it was no spurs-of-the-momement decision.
"He has experienced some swelling and some discomfort on some pitches," said Green, referring to his hard-luck 3-0 pitcher with the bloated 6.23 ERA. "It's not worth taking a chance on the guy's career. The best we could get from him is four or five innings. Then we'd have to borrow a day or two on his next start."
The Phillies aren't borrowing a day or two before starting their latest addition. As soon as they recalled Dan Larson, a veteran right-hander from Oklahoma City, he was thrown into action in a successful start against Houston Saturday.
Yesterday they summoned hotshot prospect Bob Walk, a 23-year-old, hard-throwing righty. Walk, who arrived in town yesterday, has fine stuff and finer credentials, a 5-1 record and 3.12 ERA in Oklahoma City (Triple-A).
The credentials won't mean a thing to Dave Parker, Willie Star-gell and the other lefty swingers of the world-champion Lumber Company. Walk will start against them at 6:05 tonight. He'll have to hope his stuff is as good as advertised, or he'll be taking lumps in more places than his throat.
"We're in a crisis situation," said Manager Dallas Green of the Phillies. "We've got to take the best guy down there."
With Scott Munninghoff not yet available because of the required 10-day wait on recalls, Marty Bys-trom still ailing, and Burke Suter and Paul Thormodsgard terminally mediocre, Walk was the best guy down there.
He was the best guy "down there" in Reading (Eastern League) last year. Walk was 12-7, leading the league with a 2.24 ERA and 135 strikeouts. He also led the league with 77 walks.
"I don't think Bob Walk is wild," said Green. "Inconsistent is the word I'd use."
His Triple A stats are more encouraging – control wise. In 49 innings, he walked 15 and fanned 35.
"He throws mostly hard stuff," said Green. "A fastball, slider and a hard curve ball."
Nino Espinosa, another ailing Phillies pitcher, can't throw the hard stuff now, or in the near future.
Christenson, meanwhile, is facing surgery for the third time. Bone chips were removed from the same elbow in Dec., 1973, and last Sept. he was cut to repair a bone spur in his right collarbone.
Dick Ruthven couldn't fully recover from his elbow surgery, performed in the off-season, until a few starts ago. Danny Ozark, then the Phils manager, watched the staff crumble last season. Green is watching an encore presentation.
Green would not write off Christenson for the season, but he has to be alarmed.