Wilmington Evening Journal - May 6, 1980

Carlton narrowly misses no-hitter again


By Rod Beaton, Staff Writer


PHILADELPHIA – The no-hitter pie has been divided up quite a few times since the turn of the century when Cy Young pitched on major league ballflelds with no outfield fence.


Somehow, Steve Carlton has never had a slice. The Phillies pitcher has come excruciatingly close to getting his piece of the action, but somehow, some way, Lefty has been left out.


Last night at Veterans Stadium, Carlton came closer than ever. The 6-foot-5, 35-year-old southpaw was four outs away from no-hitting the Atlanta Braves.


Bill Nahorodny calls Carlton "a friend." The Braves catcher treated his buddy to a hard single through the middle with two out in the eighth, burying another of Steve's many no-hit bids. Carlton settled for a 7-1 three-hitter, losing his shutout in the ninth on Dale Murphy's lead-off homer.


Carlton, now 5-1 this season, is almost always no-hit material, but he always seems to miss the curtain call.


"He had such super stuff, I knew he was going to get it," said Manager Dallas Green, who seemed as disappointed as anyone that Carlton didn't. "I feel bad for him. And I know he wanted the one-hitter when he missed that."


The Braves missed a number of his serves. With a smoldering slider and his customary hard stuff, Carlton struck out 11 and walked five.


He has been just one hit from Cooperstown on six occasions. The six one-hitters are a modern National League record.


But Carlton is a record that doesn't play – in the clubhouse. Like a reclusive film star, he has press agents. Carlton's is his catcher.


"He had a real good slider and an excellent fastball," said Bob Boone, the receiving end of Lefty's arsenal now that Tim McCarver calls signals in a broadcasting booth. "You could tell how good the fastball was because they kept fouling it off. The slider was really biting."


But the no-hitter bit the dust when Nahorodny ripped a high fastball back through the box. For Carlton it was another cruel irony. "Naha" was unaware of the no-hitter by his former sometime, springtime batterymate. Furthermore, he didn't even hit the pitch he was expecting.


"I was looking for a breaking ball on the outside part of the plate," said Nahorodny, whose hit was his first of the year. "I really wasn't aware of anything. I found about it when I got to first base."


He should have known en route. Not often do singles in a 7-0 game elicit a groan from 26,165 fans.


"Naha said. 'I didn't know they had a no-hitter going," said an incredulous Pete Rose, who stood with him on first.


The Braves knew Mike Schmidt was hitting. The Phils third baseman took the major league home run lead with two solo shots to the 400-level in left, giving him eight on the year. Coupled with the Braves' Little League fielding, it was more than enough to back Carlton.


Besides, Carlton knocked in the game-winning run with a second-inning single, his first hit of the season. Then, for good measure, he drilled a sacrifice fly in a four-run fourth.


"Steve is the complete pitcher," said Rose, who has viewed Carlton from every possible on-field vantage point, including the batter's box, during the pitcher's 16-year career. "He's the best left-hander in the league. When you strike out more guys than get hits, you're talking about Koufax and Seaver class."


The Braves are in a class of one defensively. They ought to be in detention, writing: "I will throw the ball straight and true" 100 times. They seem to have trouble throwing to their intended receiver any time.


Atlanta was assessed two bona fide errors that were key elements in the Phils' four-run fourth. But other, uncredited fielding miscues had a role, too.


Bake McBride had a first-inning bunt single when third baseman Larvell Blanks drilled his throw off McBride's arm. Blanks' fielding is little improvement on Bob Horner, the third-year slugger who is languishing in Manager Bobby Cox' doghouse.


McBride was forced by Schmidt (it should have been a double play, but a weak relay prevented that) and Greg Luzinski doubled Schmidt in.


Larry Bowa opened the second with a triple, a possibly playable drive down the line that eluded first baseman Chris Chambliss. Chambliss slipped.


So did the Braves, especially in the fourth. Chambliss threw a ball into left on an attempted force at second. On the nest play, two runs scored when second baseman Jerry Royster gobbled up a grounder and tried a play at the plate, but his throw was to the backstop.


In the midst of the bedlam, Schmidt popped his homers. With Carlton's awesome pitching, it provided some dignity while the Braves were scalped.


PHILS FACTS – Schmidt's second homer gave him 22 two-homer games. The team record is 23, by Chuck Klein. It was also the 243rd of his career, tying Klein for second on the all-time list. And Schmidt extended his hitting streak to seven James... Boone fell into the raves' dugout pursuing an eighth-inning foul by Luis Gomez. Had he caught it, Carlton would have been out of the inning. Gomez drew a walk before Nahorodny's hit, his first of the year... Put in for defensive purposes, George Vukovich dropped a simple pop to right in the ninth... Ramon Aviles replaced Luis Aguayo at second. Aguayo strained his right thigh in Sunday's game. He may have also strained Green's patience with some poor play afield... Tonight's 7:33 game matches the Braves' Doyle Alexander (0-1) and Dick Ruthven (1-2)... Tomorrow night features Phils' nemesis Phil Niekro (1-4) against Larry Christenson (2-0)... Phils pinch-hitting has been productive 11 hits in the last 19 at-bats.