Philadelphia Inquirer - May 29, 1980
Lerch wins as Phils beat Bucs
Schmidt hits 14th home run
By Jayson Stark, Inquirer Staff Writer
For 10 days he sat around forgotten. For 10 days Randy Lerch pitched in the same number of baseball games as Trini Lopez – zero.
He didn't start. He didn't relieve. He didn't even warm up.
The team called up two pitchers from Oklahoma City. They both started. He didn't. Larry Christenson headed for the operating room. He still didn't start. At that point Randy Lerch started to wonder.
"I guess," said Lerch, "I was a little ticked off, you might say."
But Randy Lerch returned last night to pitch again. He hadn't won since he beat the Pirates last Sept. 20 with Keith Moreland catching. That was 11 starts ago. But last night, with Keith Moreland catching again, he beat the Pirates again, 6-3. Shades of Carlton and McCarver?
"No way," said Dallas Green. "I'm not getting into one of those things again."
But for one night, anyway, it worked out. Lerch got his record up to a glittering 1-6, with ninth-inning relief from Ron Reed. Moreland got a pair of hits. And the Phillies are back in first place.
Pete Rose banged three more hits. Mike Schmidt crashed homer No. 14 in the first. Bake McBride knocked in two more runs, which gives him 32 RBIs in 35 games.
But those are all continuing trends. If last night marks any kind of Randy Lerch turnaround, that is the most significant thing to happen to this club since Greg Luzinski discovered not eating.
"When you're 0-6, as Randy was, it goes back to being very frustrated," said Green. "And you could see Randy's frustration building with every game he started. He lost his concentration. And with the lost concentration comes the loss of throwing the ball like he's capable of throwing the ball. And that's what happened to him the last two or three starts."
But what Green was worried about went beyond "stuff," he said.
"There's a certain demeanor I like," Green said, "an aggressive demeanor. And what I was concerned about with Randy was what looked like a lack of enthusiasm for pitching.... a non-aggressive type attitude. The other team picks that up quickly and pounces on it."
Green watched the Astros pounce on it – or pounce on something – to hand Lerch his sixth loss on May 18. Then he yanked Lerch from the rotation. The idea, Green said, was "just to let him think about it."
Lerch thought about it, all right. He thought about it just long enough to know he didn't like it.
"What made it tough was when Larry got hurt," Lerch said. "We brought the two guys up, and I thought I might be forgotten. Plus, I was in the bullpen, and I didn't even get up. I felt kind of like the forgotten man. I didn't know what my status was."
Lerch got his status back last night with a strong business-like effort marred only by two Lee Lacy home runs, in the second and ninth innings. Green thought he saw a "much better approach, a much better demeanor" from Lerch. But Lerch said that if he looked more excited out there, it was only because he wasn't 0-6 any more.
"Don't get me wrong. I've got no gripe with Dallas Green whatsoever," Lerch said. "I'd have half as many innings right now if Danny Ozark was still here. But for him to say I have no enthusiasm, I think that's wrong. I think 'aggressive' would be a better word than 'enthusiasm.' Sometimes, if anything, I've got too much enthusiasm."
Lerch sure had an awful lot of it after he pitched out of a delicate eighth-inning mess. There he was, nobody out, runners on second and third, heart of the Pirates order on tap. And pitching coach Herm Star-rette heading toward the mound.
"I thought," said Lerch, "I was gone."
But Green gave him the chance to pitch out of it. And Lerch did. He got behind the first hitter, Tim Foli, 2-and-0, then stepped off the mound and tried a little positive thinking.
"The first two pitches, I was overthrowing," Lerch said. "Foli's a guy who's almost impossible to strike out, but that's what I was trying to do. I said to myself, 'Hey, you're not going to strike him out.' I thought I'd try and move the ball in on him and see what happens."
He jammed him with the next pitch. Foli bounced it to Schmidt. And the runners held. Next up was Dave Parker, a guy Lerch has somehow been able to handle over the years. Parker drilled a vicious one-hopper up the middle but Lerch stabbed it, looked the runners back and got the second out.
Next came Bill Robinson, who has turned two out of every three hits into RBIs thisyear. But Lerch was as charged up as the 30,209 people in the audience by then. He fanned Robinson on a 1-2 slider, almost in the dirt, and bounced off the mound, shaking his fist.
Lerch's other major jams, in the third and fourth, were taken care of by the gold glove of one Jesus Manuel Trillo. Trillo played Bill Robinson perfectly in the fourth, backhanded his shot up the middle and turned it into a double play. In the third, with Omar Moreno on second, Trillo sprawled after Foli's two-out grounder in the hole and threw him out from his knees.
Trillo has not heretofore been regarded as any threat to Jenny Chandler in the Olympic diving trials. But in this case, he said, "I don't want to let this one get through, especially with the runner on second."
Maybe Lerch's key inning, however, was one that went 1-2-3 the first. In his eight previous starts this year, he had allowed 12 runs and 17 hits in the first. This time he powered third strikes past Moreno and Foli, and got Parker to chop softly to Trillo.
Then a Rose double, a McBride single and Schmidt's satellite off the drain pipe that runs below the leftfield upper deck gave him a three-run lead in the bottom of the first. Maybe, Lerch suggested, those developments were not unrelated.
"Maybe I showed them I was on tonight," Lerch said. "And they showed me, too."
Then back-to-back RBI doubles by Rose and McBride made it 5-1 in the fourth. And Lerch squeeze-bunted in the final run in the eighth. Lacy's second homer got him out of there in the ninth, but it didn't cost him a win that was eight months and eight days incoming.
"Tonight's a big night for me," said Randy Lerch. "A really big night."
Never has a 1-6 record looked so good.
NOTES: Dave Parker took batting practice wearing a hat that had, "Pittsburgh City of Champions," inscribed on it. 'Hey," Parker kidded Larry Bowa, "you ought to get a hat that says, 'City of Second Place.'"... Kenny Bush, the Phillies' clubhouse attendant, got a telegram notifying him he had been fined $500 for running onto the field during Monday's fight. The telegram also warned that if he did it again he would be banned from baseball. All it takes is three dirty socks to disturb Bush anyhow, so he was approaching major apoplexy until he learned the telegram was a hoax, sent by Phils owner Ruly Carpenter.... Bowa got a gold star from the Pirates for being slugged in the mouth during the brawl.... Bill Madlock had struck out four times in six weeks before Steve Carlton fanned him three times Tuesday.... Pete Rose said he couldn't figure out why second-baseman Phil Garner covered second with George Vukovich running in the 11th inning Tuesday. Rose had hit three ground balls to Garner earlier. Shortstop Tim Foli fielded this one and turned it into a double play. Actually, Foli said last night, neither was covering because they didn't expect Rose to strike out.... Burke Suter is 5-0 at Oklahoma City. Paul Thormodsgard has seven saves. But Marty Bystrom repulled his hamstring and is back on the disabled list.... Dick Ruthven vs. Eddie Solomon at 12:35 p.m. today.... Pitcher Larry Christenson underwent surgery to remove bone chips and spurs from his pitching elbow. Team physician Dr. Phillip Marone pronounced the surgery successful and said Christenson would remain in the hospital for another day or two. Christenson has been placed on the 60-day disabled list.
Praise to Bull
Editors of Sports Illustrated have chosen Phillie Greg Luzinski as the magazine’s Player of the Week in its edition of June 2. From May 18 through 24, Luzinski slammed four homers and two doubles, batted .476, drove across seven run s and stole a base.
Relievers need short memory
By Bill Lyon
They all have their pet pitch. For Tug McGraw, it's the screwball. For Bruce Sutter, the split-fingered fastball. For Sparky Lyle, the slider.
And they all have their special idiosyncrasies. Rollie Fingers waxes his mustache. Al Hrabosky meditates himself into an assassin's frame of mind. Kent Tekulve pretends he's a submarine.
But all relief pitchers will tell you they have one thing in common. The same sort of disposition; namely, a don't-give-a-damn attitude and a short memory.
"You have to be very resilient," Tekulve agreed, "and I'm not just talking about a limber arm. You have to be able to bounce back mentally. Temperament means a lot.
"A starter, he's got three-four days to regroup. A reliever, he's got one night. What you did yesterday means nothing, because there's always going to be another game on the line today. In our profession, it's possible to pitch in six games in a row, throw very effectively and still end up losing three or four of them."
Good, bad streaks
Relievers, like crap shooters, tend to go through streaks. They may, as Pittsburgh's gaunt, gangling Tekulve did this season, win or save four games in succession, and then get lit up. And managers, subscribing to the theory of going with what's hot, will keep dialing the same number in the bullpen.
Managers, however, being human, also will go sour very quickly on a reliever who fails to deliver. It's the old what-have-you-done-for-me-lately syndrome. The relief pitchers union is most distressed by this attitude, considers it the most grievous error. And yet you see it over and over; the pet of the bullpen gets rocked, management loses confidence, panics and tries someone else.
And the man who has been the "stopper" suddenly finds himself discarded.
What relievers say they want – indeed, need – is to be forced right back on top of the horse that has just dumped them.
Have to face it
"You have to be tossed right back out there again," Tekulve said. "It's like a batter being hit by a pitch. The best therapy is to get back out there as soon as possible. You can't sit around and think about it."
It's not that relievers are masochists. It's just the nature of the job, and the special temperament required to handle it, the enjoyment of wading into continual chaos, and the stoic acceptance of reality, knowing that some days you will restore order and some days you will be engulfed.
"Some days," said Tug McGraw, part Leprechaun, part philosopher, "you tame the tiger. And some days the tiger has you for lunch."
Through most of his career, first with the Mets, now with the Phillies, McGraw has spent more time making the tiger jump through flaming hoops than he has being consumed as the blue plate special. But last season was especially trying. He was battered for four grand slams and even his shrugging, easygoing nature was beginning to fray.
Not easy to take
"Just because you say you have to keep things in perspective doesn t mean you always can," he admitted. "I had a tough time living with those slams. But when you're at the bottom of the barrel emotionally, you have to muster enough confidence in yourself to know that you're capable of coming back and doing the job.
"Every time you come into the game, it means something," McGraw noted. "Usually, you're the hero or the goat; there's not much in-between. You can make one bad pitch and hear about it for a month. What most fans don't realize is that you're more upset than they are."
But you can't show it, can't dwell on it, because there is, hopefully, always another game. Relievers must convince themselves that yesterday's game is gone and is irretrievable; tomorrow's game has not been played yet; so that leaves only today's game, and it is the present that counts.
The tiger that Tug McGraw talks about is always waiting, ready either to do tricks or to inhale you. In the face of such pressure, it is mandatory to maintain a constant emotional equilibrium, never too high, never too low.
So a Kent Tekulve reads a magazine in the clubhouse. A Tug McGraw comforts himself with the "frozen snowball" theory ("In a few million years the earth will be iced over, and who will remember whether I struck out Willie Stargell or he slammed me?").
Or, as the indefatigable Mike Marshall suggests: "Let's keep things in perspective. These are baseball games; it's not my daughter with a terminal illness It's nothing that's going to affect my future life permanently."
They keep earning their keep
By Lewis Freedman, Inquirer Staff Writer
Now you know what they pay them for.
Mr. Mike Schmidt ($565,000 annually) and Mr. Pete Rose ($800,000) are the Phillies you want at the plate when offense is mandatory.
And offense – not to mention a little boost for Randy Lerch's relaxation – is what they provided last night.
You could almost see Lerch, the southpaw who this year has gotten off to more bad starts than a sprinter with bad anticipation, mentally smack Schmidt and Rose on the cheeks with kisses after their first-inning duet in the Phillies' 6-3 triumph over the Pirates at Veterans Stadium.
Rose, who "at 39 is supposed to be ready for an athletic rocking chair, but who sneaks enough sips from the fountain of youth to perpetually confound folks, opened the bottom of the first inning with a double, then dashed around to score on a single by Bake McBride.
And when Schmidt, the next batter up, propelled a Don Robinson serving almost into the second deck for a two-run homer and a three-run lead, that was almost the ball game.
Rose didn't stop there, either. He singled in the second inning and doubled and scored again in the fourth for a 3-for-5 night that raised his batting average 11 points to .275, all in one evening.
But that's nothing. Rose, who spent the first month of the season hitting the ball hard, but right at fielders, is hitting .322 for May and has in-Creased his average 72 points since May 4 – exactly the kind of hitting expected from Pete Rose.
"I hit fastballs," Rose said of last night's performance – and they were line drives. "Robinson had pretty good velocity.
"Last night (Tuesday, in the Phillies' 3-2, 13-inning loss to the Pirates), I hit the bell hard four times, but I only got one hit.
"All's I can do is hit the ball. They've got the gloves."
The lifetime .312-hitter has had these spells before in a 17-year career, and he knows how to recognize a true slump. This did not fit the definition.
"It's not that I haven't been hitting the ball hard," he said. "That's why I didn't let it bother me. When you go to bat 6S0 times in a season, it happens. You just accept it."
Rose is moving up so quickly on so many all-time lists that simply climbing a notch higher doesn't give him much of a thrill anymore. He knows how many hits he's got, but he doesn't study the other numbers like a high school calculus student.
His two doubles and two runs scored each were milestones last night.
The doubles moved him into sixth place on the major-league list with 625, one ahead of Hank Aaron. And the runs pushed him to 12th at 1,774, one ahead of Charley Gehringer.
"I don't keep track of that," said Rose, for a change shrugging at the mention of his statistics. "I have an idea of the big ones, but when you pass a guy for 10th, or eighth, or sixth, I don't worry about that."
The homer for Schmidt – his 14th – lengthened his National League lead in that category over teammate Greg Luzinksi, who has 12.
It was a rocket that rose and careened off the concrete of the super boxes in left field.
"It was a fastball, inside," he said.
Manager Dallas Green is among the observers who say that Schmidt is in a rare groove, one that even the three-time league home-run leader does not settle into every day.
"Most of his hits have been power hits," Green said. "He's in a power groove."
Green also suggested that the Rose-Schmidt first inning aided Lerch, now 1-6.
"I think that was a hell of an edge," he said. "It allowed him to relax. Sure, the three runs bouncing out like that helped him relax."
But it wasn't like Schmidt was calling a shot and saying, "This one's for you, Randy.
"I'm sure it helped him as a pitcher," said the Phils third baseman. "But that ain't never enough against the Pirates.”
Schmidt, who also leads the leaene in runs scored with 33 and is hitting just shy of .300, is undeniably on a hitting streak, but he dislikes that description.
"If you don't have a year or two under your belt at .300, they call you a streak hitter," Schmidt said.
Then he smiled. "This is by no means a streak as far as I'm concerned. I'd like to go like that the whole year."
Today's sports calendar
Day and night excitement
For those of you who like to parlay baseball and harness racing, this is the perfect occasion.
The Phillies host the Pirates today in a rare weekday afternoon game at the Vet (12:35 p.m.).
After the game, harness racing buffs have plenty of time to rest up and check the entries before heading for one of three tracks going tonight.
There's Liberty Bell, right here in town; Brandywine, across the border in Wilmington, and the Meadowlands, up the pike.
PHILLIES vs. Pittsburgh at Veterans Stsdlum (Radlo-KYW-1060, 12:35 p.m.)