Wilmington Morning News - May 29, 1980
Lerch comes through with solid effort in first victory
By Hal Bodley, Sports Editor
PHILADELPHIA - The story was right there in black and white. No victories, six losses. Earned run average 5.14.
Dallas Green had gone about as far as he could with Randy Lerch. After the young left-hander lost his sixth game of the year on May 18, Green yanked him from the starting rotation.
Had it not been for an injury to Larry Christenson, Lerch might still be smoldering in the bullpen.
But the Phillies needed a starting pitcher to go against the Pirates last night and Green pointed the finger at Randy Lerch.
The left-hander answered the call. He turned in a solid effort at Veterans Stadium as the Phillies whipped Pittsburgh 6-3 to regain first place in the National League Eastern Division by four percentage points.
Lerch, who had allowed 12 runs, 17 hits and eight walks in first innings of his previous starts, allowed only Lee Lacy's home run through eight innings and it was a two-run homer by Lacy with nobody out in the ninth that kept Randy from gaining a complete game. Ron Reed was summoned and got the last three outs to gain his second save of the spring.
Mike Schmidt, who has 24 runs batted in this month, continued his torrid homer pace with a two-run shot in the first inning off losing pitcher Don Robinson. It was his 14th of the year.
Pete Rose blasted two doubles and a single to lead the Phils' 10-hit attack. His two doubles moved him into sixth place on the all-time list with 625, one better than Hank Aaron.
"I guess I went out there a little ticked off tonight," said Lerch. "Sure, I had lost six games and it was right there. But when we needed some pitching help, Dallas went to Dan Larson and Bob Walk. I felt bad about that and had a talk with him."
"I tried to explain it to Randy," said Green. "When we started Walk on Monday night we didn't know what to expect. I told Randy that if Walk didn't get his act together he might have to be in there. So, that might keep him from making a start on Wednesday."
Lerch's problem in most of his six losses was one or two innings, usually the first. Take away these innings and most pf his starts were acceptable.
"As he continued to lose, he got more and more frustrated," said Green. "When he lost the sixth game, we decided it was best to send him to the bullpen and let him think about what had happened. We talked to him frequently, but did not want him to brood.
"Tonight, he had a better approach. I thought he had more enthusiasm and aggressiveness than he did in the past."
"Putting the Pirates down in order in the first was the key," said Lerch. "That gave me confidence. Then, my teammates came back and got three runs in the bottom of the inning. Really, though, I did not pitch too much differently. In some of those other games I tried to overthrow the ball at the start. Tonight, my fastball was moving and I used my curve and slider on occasion."
"Randy Lerch really showed us something in the eighth inning," said Pittsburgh Manager Chuck Tanner. "That pitch he struck Bill Robinson out with was the best he threw all night."
The Phils scored five runs early, then added another in the eighth when Larry Bowa scored from third on Lerch's squeeze bunt.
"That kinda completed the night," added Lerch. "We got some hits and the defense was beautiful. I have to be happy and I am."
The Phils, who had to scratch for runs on Tuesday night, vaulted to a 3-0 lead in the first against Don Robinson. Rose opened with his first double, a shot to left field. He quickly scored on Bake McBride's single to right-center and it was 3-0 when Schmidt blasted a 2-0 pitch high to left field.
The Pirates got a run back in the second when Lee Lacy homered to left field, but the Phils added two more in the fourth.
With one down, Manny Trillo singled to right and was forced at second when Don Robinson elected to go there with Lerch's bunt.
Lerch, however, scored from first on Rose's double to center and Pete raced home on McBride's double to right. Lerch, aided by double plays in the third and fourth innings, was never in serious trouble until he eighth.
Pinch-hitter Manny Sanguillen was safe at first on a high chopper. Omar Moreno followed with a double to right putting runners on second and third.
Lerch then got Tim Foli to ground out, fielded Dave Parker's shot back to the mound and fanned Bill Robinson as the Veterans Stadium crowd of 30,209 gave him a standing ovation.
EXTRA POINTS – Pitcher Larry Christenson underwent successful surgery by Dr. Phillip Marone at Methodist Hospital yesterday for the removal of bone spurs in his right arm... Christenson, who is out for at least 60 days, will remain in the hospital of a day or two more... Pitcher Marty Bystrom, who lost a chance to make the varsity because of a pulled hamstring during spring training, has been placed on Oklahoma City's disabled list... The right-hander pitched three times for the Phils' top minor league team... Schmidt now has 249 career home runs, second on the Phils' all-time list to Del Ennis' 259... The series continues today at 12:35 when Dick Ruthven (5-3) goes against Eddie Solomon (1-0)... After the game, the Phils jet to Chicago for a three-game weekend series with the Cubs.