Wilmington News Journal - May 31, 1980

Balk helps Cubs’ 10-7 grand Larsony


By Ray Finocchiaro, Staff Correspondent


CHICAGO – Nobody was pointing fingers at anybody but themselves, but everybody in the Phillies' clubhouse agreed that a bases-loaded balk was Dan Larson's worst option in the first inning yesterday.


Particularly when the balk unnerved Larson enough to serve up a three-run homer to Tim Blackwell – who'd never hit one in slices of seven big-league seasons – to give the Chicago Cubs a 6-0 lead en route to a 10-7 victory at Wrigley Field.


"A thing like that (balk) bothers you," said Larson, "but you have to go after the next hitter without thinking of it."


It proved next to impossible. After balking home the Cubs' third run on a full-count pitch to Blackwell, Larson served him four straight fastballs. The fourth rode the gusty wind into the right field bleachers and the Cubs were off and running.


"Blackwell hit it as good as he can," said Larson of the former Phillies' catcher who is filling in for the injured Barry Foote and signed a new contract yesterday morning.


"But you throw a guy 3-4 straight fastballs and he's gonna hit one. They bad guys on second and third with first base open and the pitcher (Rick Reuschel) coming up, even if I walk him, I should've thrown him something else. That's my fault."


The pitcher always has the last say on what he throws, but catcher Bob Boone initially called the pitches. Maybe a kid who knows he's fortunate to be here instead of Oklahoma City doesn't feel like he should shake off the All-Star catcher.


Or maybe the balk was still on his mind.


Boone put the pickoff play on after the Cubs scored twice and loaded the bases against Larson, who was struggling with his control and strong winds blowing straight out.


"Boonie put the pickoff play on at second and when Danny saw that nobody was covering, he got flustered and didn't throw it," said Manager Dallas Green, still shaking his head over the Phils' ill fortunes.


Larson stepped back, wheeled and double-clutched, swinging his arm but holding onto the ball. Second base umpire Billy Williams, the crew chief, immediately signaled balk and Larry Biittner trotted home.


"Boonie came out to the mound and I guess it looked like something was on," said Larson. "But it was my fault for not knowing what to do."


Or was it?


"We practiced that play a lot in spring training," said shortstop Larry Bowa, who joined Manny Trillo in not covering for a pickoff throw on Jerry Martin. "But Danny wasn't with us then. It's a good play, if you know how to work it.


“I'd have tried it myself on the time before. Danny could've tagged the guy out himself, that's how far he was off the base. But once Boonie went out to the mound, Jerry didn't take a step off the bag. They knew something was on."


And something soon flew out... Blackwell's homer.


"That was my fault," said Green. "He threw four straight fastballs. I should've gone out there and reminded him that first base was open. He was a little shell-shocked by then. But Blackwell had three good rips and fouled them off before hitting the homer."


Though everyone was claiming the loss as his fault, Green was quick to point out – and the “friendly confines" of Wrigley Field just as obliging to prove – that "six runs in this park doesn't hurt the Phillies."


So the Phils got six of the next seven runs, eventually coming as close as 7-6 in the fifth. But, as Green noted, the Cubs "got a few more runs that did (hurt).”


And Reuschel mastered the elements, 13 Phils' hits and seven runs to even his record at 4-4.


"Reuschel didn't pitch any worse than any other time against us," said Green of the right-hander and his 13-7 lifetime mark against the Phils. "We got seven runs off him. I wouldn't say that's good pitching, but he came out of it with the W (win). That's what counts."


Bowa wasn't as critical of Reuschel as his manager.


"He's one of the best pitchers against us," Bowa said grudgingly. "He's always tough against us. And has Mike Vail ever had a bad game against us? Even when he was with the Mets, he always had three or four hits a game against us."


Vail was a perfect 4-for-4 yesterday, raising his batting average to .403 with two singles, a double and a two-run homer off Lerrin LaGrow that eventually was the winning margin.


Hitting in his eighth straight game, Vail singled in the first after Pete Rose's error set the stage for four unearned runs. Vail doubled home a run in the second, homered onto Waveland Ave. beyond the left field bleachers in the fifth for a 9-7 lead and singled in the seventh.


"The guy's a good hitter," said Green, agreeing with Bowa's assessment. "We've got to figure out a way to pitch him because we obviously don't know how yet."


The Phillies' considerable offense began with Boone's two-run homer in the second and continued in the three-run third. Rose led off with a double and scored on Mike Schmidt's single.


After Greg Luzinski doubled, Garry Maddox – moved up to fifth in the batting order ahead of Boone – singled home two runs, making it 7-5. Schmidt doubled in the fifth and scored on Maddox' sacrifice fly to left in the fifth.


Bake McBride, 0-for-3 with Rose on base, singled in the seventh and homered in the ninth, both times with no one on. And that was the ball game on a day that began in a torrential rain that had everyone convinced no game would be played.


But then the sun came out and shone on the Cubs, who'd been scratching for runs and had managed just 13 in their last six games.


"Six runs in the first inning is a lot to work with," said Green.


Of course, the Phillies have won marathons by scores of 23-22 and 18-16 here, too. In contrast, yesterday's seven runs were only a pittance.


EXTRA INNINGS - Larson's only victory last year was an 8-1 decision over the Cubs' Lynn McGlothen... McGlothen, scheduled to pitch against Steve Carlton in today's 2:15 p.m. game (Channel 17), is slowly recovering from an injury, so Willie Hernandez will start in his stead... Rookie Bob Walk vs. Dennis Lamp in tomorrow's series finale before the Phils' three-game set in Pittsburgh... Cub pitchers hadn't given up more than four runs in any of last 14 games... Green used four relievers and three pinch hitters yesterday. "You can go through a pitching staff fast in this park, he said. "I almost ran out of pinch, hitters before I did pitchers."