Wilmington News Journal - May 4, 1980

Luckless Christenson muffles LA


By Hal Bodley, Sports Editor


PHILADELPHIA – When Larry Christenson was a teenager, a doctor suggested to his parents he take up the violin a safe alternative to pitching baseballs with a spine minus one vertebra.


Larry Christenson laughed and continued to throw harder than anybody around.


Larry Christenson has always been hard-headed about baseball, especially when you consider the numerous injuries he has endured.


He made another of his mini-comebacks yesterday in the Veterans Stadium sunshine, pitching superbly for nearly seven innings as the Phillies brought the Dodgers back to the real world for the second day in a row, this time by a numbing 7-3 count.


Mike Schmidt and Greg Luzinski blasted home runs during a second-inning, six-run outburst against Burt Hooton and except for an alarming ninth-inning injury to center fielder Garry Maddox, the Phillie Phanatic's second birthday party was a smashing success.


Christenson, however, almost missed the bash. He had not pitched since he pulled a groin muscle in the first inning on April 23. Yesterday morning, he was quietly doing some stretching exercises when he felt a twinge in the groin area.


"When I went to the mound I tried to be as careful as I could," said Christenson, who some day should write a book on all the injuries he has suffered. "I knew if I hurt it again, I would have a complete setback."


If Larry Christenson was trying to take it easy, don't tell the Dodgers, who rode in here Friday night on the crest of a 10-game winning streak.


For four innings, Christenson did not allow a hit. Then, Ron Cey hit a high chopper to deep, deep shortstop and the television instant replay indicated Larry Bowa had thrown the runner out. The umpire had other thoughts and the no-hitter was a one-hitter.


After that, L.C turned in a routinely professional effort. Considering the layoff, his control was excellent.


In the seventh inning, the Dodgers loaded the bases with two out and Manager Dallas Green called on reliever Lerrin LaGrow, who signed with the Phillies last winter after playing out his option with the Dodgers.


LaGrow was shaky at times, but that didn't matter because of the large lead.


"When you have that many runs to work with, 'you can relax a little and pitch within your abilities," said Christenson, who sent a scare through the Phillies' dugout when he singled to left in the fourth and pulled up as he tried to run to first.


"We told him not to swing the bat and try to leg out hits," said Green. "For some reason every pitcher thinks he is a great hitter."


"The take sign was on for the first pitch and I didn't look back at the coach after that," said Christenson. "I just took a nice-and-easy swing at the ball."


Pete Rose followed Christenson to the plate and ripped a liner to the gap in right-center. He had to settle for a double as Christenson, with a slight limp, pulled up at third.


"I didn't want to take a chance," said Christenson. "Under normal circumstances I would have scored and Pete would have had a triple."


"Our pitching is encouraging right now," said Green, who watched Dick Ruthven throw well in Friday night's 9-5 victory. "We didn't expect L.C. or Dick to blow out nine innings for us. All I wanted was an honest effort for six or seven and that's what I got. Christenson threw 102 pitches today. His fastball was really cracking in the early innings and he had a good slider.


"I'll tell you, I told everyone when we were losing they weren't seeing the real club and that it would take some patience. I'm encouraged."


The victory was the third in a row, the first time the Phils have won that many straight this year. It was also the eighth straight victory over the Dodgers at the Vet.


Christenson has a chronic back ailment, fractured a collarbone in February of 1979, had an off-season operation for the removal of a bone spur on the collarbone, and suffered from a severely bruised leg when hit by a Jason Thompson liner in spring training.


"I just want to stay healthy and pitch," he said. "The club needs it. I felt they were not driving the ball today like the Dodgers do. I didn't really think about the no-hitter because it was too early, but everyone felt that Bowa threw Cey out."


Schmidt opened the Phils' second with his sixth homer of the year and before the inning was over, 11 men had batted and Hooton had been replaced with Bobby Castillo. Luzinski followed Schmidt, also with his sixth homer. Both are tied with Dave Kingman for the National League lead.


Maddox sprained his ankle when he was chasing down Mike Scioscia's triple leading off the ninth. "Maddox crumbled to the ground near the center-field wall and had to be supported as he went to the clubhouse.


Later, he was taken to Methodist Hospital where X-rays were negative.


"It's a pretty good sprain," said trainer Don Seger. "He definitely will not play on Sunday."


Seger said Dr. Phillip Marone, the team physician, will examine Maddox today and issue a more extensive report.


EXTRA POINTS - The victory balanced the Phils' record at 9-9 and left them 2½ games behind first-place Pittsburgh which lost to Atlanta 3-1... Reggie Smith, who had driven in one run in each of his last eight games, was stopped... He was hitless in four at-bats... The Phils have scored six runs in an inning three times this year... Hooton had won four straight games over the Phils before yesterday... He now has a 12-11 lifetime record against them... The Phils try to make it four in a row today when 0-3 Randy Lerch faces Don Sutton (2-0).