Allentown Morning Call - May 29, 1980

Lerch beats Pirates, 6-3, for first win


By Jack McCallum, Call Sports Writer


PHILADELPHIA – One of the most popular topics of recent Phillie history has psyche of Randy Lerch. In fact, the enigmatic lefthander has spent more time on manager Dallas Green's symbolic couch lately than he has on the mound. 


Last night, however, Green let him off the couch and – are you listening Dr. Freud? – Randy came through with his first win of the season, a 6-3 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates that put the Phillies back in first place by percentage points. 


If you think Lerch's agony wasn't real, how would you like to be taken out of the rotation in favor of two minor leaguers (Dan Larsen and Bob Walk) as Lerch had been since he lost his sixth straight game to Houston May 18? 


"How did I feel?" asked Lerch after winning his first game since Sept. 20 of last season, also over Pittsburgh. "I was (bleeped) off about it you might say. When Larry (Christenson) got hurt I thought I'd be back in but Dallas didn't use me. It hurt and I was mad.


"It was tough just sitting around. I thought I was a forgotten man. Anybody who looks up on the scoreboard and sees he's 0-6 is hurt if he has any pride. I didn't know what my status was and that's a tough way to play baseball. Hopefully, it's (his status) is changed now." 


One would think so after Lerch pitched eight innings, scattering 10 hits and giving the Bucs just three runs. And two of those came on a two-run home run by Lee Lacy (his second of the game) in the ninth inning that prompted Lerch's removal. But Green feels he played a winning psychological game with Lerch and he's not ready to stop playing the mind game. 


"Let 's just say that this game helped him get back,” said Dr. Green. "I removed him from the rotation because I thought he showed a lack of demeanor and a certain lack of enthusiasm out there. He was being backoffish. But tonight he took a much better approach to the game. We talked about using the inside part of the plate and he did that tonight.”


It should be noted, too, that Lerch got three first-inning runs, a cushion that pitchers would bleed for. In at least two of his six losses (a 1-0 decision to the Mets and a 3-1 decision to the Cardinals), Lerch has pitched well enough to win but didn't get the offense. 


A leadoff double by Pete Rose (3-for-5), a run-scoring single by Bake McBride and an upper-deck missile by Mike Schmidt got Lerch his three runs in the first. And after Lacy hit his first homer in the second, the Phils came back to make it 5-1 with two runs on RBI doubles by Rose and McBride in the fourth. 


Lerch's real test came in the eighth when pinch-hitter Manny Sanguillen led off with an infield single and Omar Moreno doubled him to third. It looked like the inevitable Lerch collapse as pitching coach Herm Starrette made his way to the mound. 


"I thought I was gone," said Lerch, "but I knew that Herm hadn't yanked anyone all season. 


"We felt it was a real key situation for him," said Green. "I thought it was a good time to give him a shot." 


Right again, Dr. Green. Lerch got Tim Foli to ground to third, he stabbed a hard smash by Dave Parker and threw him out and struck out the dangerous Bill Robinson swinging on an 0-2 pitch to escape. 


After Bill Madlock doubled and Lacy homered in the ninth, Green sent for Ron Reed who retired the next three hitters. 


But by that time, Randy Lerch had salvaged his pride… and possibly the whole season.


NOTES – The real key for Lerch might have been his first three-up, three-down first inning of the season. In his eight starts this season he has given up 12 runs, 17 hits and eight walks in the first inning…


Schmidt's home run gave him 14 for the season. In his two previous fastest starts, last year and in 1976, he had 15 by the end of May. Last season he finished with 45 homers, his best ever. 


Rose's two doubles gave him 625 for his career, moving him past Hank Aaron into sixth place on the all-time list… 



McBride's two RBIs pushed his total to 32 for the season, among the top five in the National League. Considering that McBride – who has hit in 20 of the last 22 games – is doing it from the second spot in the batting order, it's an outstanding total…