Pittsburgh Press - May 29, 1980
Pirates Pump Life Into Lerch
By Dan Donovan, Press Sports Writer
PHILADELPHIA – Did the Philadelphia Phillies polish an old apple of their eye, or did Randy Lerch just happen to stick in his thumb and pull out a plum?
Lerch may have been more lucky than good in the Phillies' 6-3 win over the Pirates last night, but the Phillies hope he took a step toward returning to his prominent role on their pitching staff.
Lerch was the Phillies' Bert Blyleven at the start of the season – good, but unlucky.
The Phillies scored early-season runs in clumps – except when Lerch's curly head was on the mound. Lerch was unable to take it in stride and it affected his pitching.
"You could see his frustration build," Philadelphia Manager Dallas Green said. "He had a loss of concentration and with that came a loss of control. That's why he wasn't as strong the last couple of times out."
As Lerch sulked, his record fell to 0-6 and his earned run average grew to 5.14. Lerch didn't leave the Phillies, but Green didn't like the lackadaisical way Lerch pitched.
"He had a lack of enthusiasm," Green said. "His demeanor on the mound wasn't right. I like aggressiveness on the mound, as opposed to reticence. The other team picks up on a lack of aggressiveness."
Green took Lerch out of the starting rotation, even when Larry Christenson underwent elbow surgery, choosing to start raw rookie Bob Walk against the Pirates Monday.
"We decided to drop Lerch out of the pitching rotation and let him think about it," Green said. "He was upset when I started Walk and we talked about it. I told him I didn't have to, but I explained my decision."
Lerch admitted he "was a little hacked off at myself."
"Anybody who has any pride would think 0-6 is pretty degrading," Lerch said. "This time I did pitch with more aggressiveness."
Lerch admitted his anger at Walk's start.
"I thought I should have been in the rotation before," Lerch said. "But I guess this shows that Dallas was right."
Not that Lerch gritted his teeth, reared back and overpowered the Pirates, singlehandedly putting the Phillies back in first place in the National League East. The Pirates had just as many hits as the Phillies, 10, but could score only when Lee Lacy hit the ball over the wall, which he did twice.
Most of the time, a Philadelphia glove was standing in the way of a line drive.
"I didn't pitch that much better today," Lerch said. "It just seemed every time I would make a mistake, they would hit the ball hard right at somebody."
That somebody was occasionally second baseman Manny Trillo, occasionally first baseman Pete Rose and once center fielder Garry Maddox.
"I remember two plays Manny made," Lerch said. "Both times there were men on base. Once Manny was playing in just the right spot, the other time he dove for the ball and came up with it. They bit the ball hard, but boom – no runs."
Lerch did endure one good test of his mettle in the eighth, when pinch hitter Manny Sanguillen singled and Omar Moreno doubled.
No one was out, the score was 5-1 and Tim Foli, Dave Parker and Bill Robinson were coming up. It was time for Lerch to put up or shut up.
"I left him in for two reasons," Green said. "It was a chance to see if he could get out of a key situation. If he did, it might help him. And we didn't have our act together yet in the bullpen."
Lerch kept his act together, getting two ground ball outs and a strikeout. But did he earn a return to the Phillies' starting rotation?
"He'll probably get another shot next week in Pittsburgh," Green said cautiously.
Then maybe we'll know better if Lerch has gone sour, or if he'll help a Philadelphia pitching staff that needs strong arms by the bushel.
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PIRATE NOTES - Pirate Manager Chuck Tanner let pitcher Don Robinson bat for himself in the fifth, even though he planned to replace him with lefthander Rod Scurry in the bottom of the inning.
"I did it because Robinson is a good hitter, and I wanted to keep my bench intact in case I needed it later on," Tanner said.
Tanner's strategy worked; Robinson go! his second hit of the game. The manager was able to save Sanguillen for the eighth, when he came through with a single.
Sanguillen has four hits in his eight pinch-hit appearances.
Mike Schmidt, who homered in the first inning, has 10 home runs and 24 RBIs in May.
Pete Rose's two doubles put him sixth on the all-time list with 625.
The pitching matchups for the three-game weekend series with the New York Mets at Three Rivers: John Candelaria against Pat Zachry tomorrow, Bert Blyleven against Craig Swan Saturday and Jim Bibby against Pete Falcone Sunday.
Lacy Speaks Softly, Swings A Hot Stick
By Dan Donovan, Press Sports Writer
PHILADELPHIA – The unexpected is expected in the Pirate clubhouse. That's why it wasn't too unusual to find the Pirates' hottest hitter quiet and their coldest hitter noisy.
Lee Lacy is not only the Pirates' hottest hitter, but, according to Pete Rose, "the hottest hitter in baseball right now."
Lacy is batting .446 and his two home runs last night produced every Pittsburgh's runs in the Pirates' 6-3 loss to the Philadelphia Phillies.
Lacy sat quietly, putting ice on his sore right hand, unable to be ecstatic because the Pirates had lost.
"We are the champions," Lacy said. "We have to go out and show that we are."
"Lacy is just smokin' it," Pirate Manager Chuck Tanner said. "Even his outs are hard-hit."
Lacy was unable to explain his spree in Philadelphia.
"I've never been able to hit home runs here," Lacy said, "and I've never had two home runs in a game before."
Lacy is threatening to equal his 1979 statistics by the Fourth of July. Last year he had 45 hits, scored 17 runs, hit five home runs and drove in 15 runs.
Already this season he has 33 hits, scored 12 runs, hit three home runs and driven in 10 runs.
His hand was hurting for one reason.
"It's the way I slide," Lacy said. "I always drag my hands. I've got to learn to put my hands into the air."
Also hurting is the slumping Pirate, Dave Parker, who has tendinitis in his elbow.
"I'm getting pretty frustrated with my performance," Parker said. "The tendinitis is cutting down what I can do. It limits me to the inside pitches – I can't do much with the outside ones."
Parker may try to cut down on the medication he's taking, hoping it will snap him from bis slump. He has hit .200 since the Pirates left for the West Coast May 9.
He is two-for-13 in Philadelphia.
Of course, he's not the only Pirate who, going into today's game, has had a hard time hitting in Philadelphia.
Several Pirates are 0-for-Philadelphia, including Bill Robinson (0-12), who usually tears up Veterans' Stadium, Phil Garner (0-13) and Steve Nicosia (0-7). In addition, Omar Moreno is 3-15 and Tim Foli is 2-14.
"That's the good thing," Tanner said. "This club is not hitting the way it can, yet we are playing good baseball, winning enough games to keep us up there with the Phillies."
And that's why Parker was noisy. He is the team's loud leader and he was already pumping his teammates up for today's game.
"Let's get lots of sleep," Parker bellowed. "One win and we leave here the same way we came – in first place."