Atlanta Constitution - May 7, 1980
Phillies Win As Braves Fall Apart In 8th
By Ken Picking, Constitution Staff Writer
PHILADELPHIA – With the Braves playing the Phillies tough, trailing 6-5 after 7½ innings Tuesday night, Atlanta manager Bob Cox was about to bring Bob Horner out of cold storage. Idle since his controversial demotion to the minor leagues April 21, the 22-year-old third baseman could have been the fifth hitter in the ninth if a rally – and circumstances – took the Braves that far.
But ineffective relief work by Al Hrabosky and shocking outfield misplavs by Dale Murphy and Brian Asselstine eliminated the urgency of Horner's dramatic return as Philadelphia exploded to a 10-5 victory before 25,302 at Veterans Stadium.
Failing to score the tying run from third base in both the seventh and eighth against reliever Dickie Noles, Cox called on The Mad Hungarian to suppress the Phillies in the eighth. But the results were catastrophic. Noles started the surge himself with a line drive to center. Then Pete Rose singled, his third hit.
What appeared to be a long sacrifice fly was then turned into a 371-foot single by Murphy. Bake McBride took Hrabosky to the wall but Murphy stood in position with his right hand guiding him by the 12-foot barrier. His glove was in position, but Murphy, playing the 18th game of his career in right, missed the catch by inches, and the bases were loaded for National League home-run leader Mike Schmidt.
Schmidt, who hit two out Monday, drove one to center. Asselstine, a dependable fielder, went back, back, back – but the ball still sailed over his outstretched glove. Noles, Rose and McBride crossed the plate like win, place and show at Churchill Downs, and Schmidt made it a four-run escapade by sliding home safely when Jerry Royster's throw bounced in the dirt and back to the screen.
Clearly deflated by the experience, the Braves were no threat in the ninth, Larvell Blanks and Murphy flied out, Chris Chambliss dropped in his third hit and Jeff Burroughs sent everyone home by fouling out to first baseman Rose.
Asselstine, a lefty hitter, was the fifth batter scheduled, and Cox, who had previously not given any indication of using Horner, said he would have called on the unhappy slugger if Noles had been replaced by left-hander Tug McGraw.
“The eighth was a nightmare," said Cox, whose club fell closer to sixth-place San Francisco by losing for the 15th time in 23 games. "I don't know what happened to Murphy, but it looked like when he bumped the fence it threw him off. Asselstine was playing deep enough, but Schmidt hit it a ton, and it still went over his head."
Murphy and Asselstine, class individuals even under the most depressing conditions, refused to make excuses.
"I just blew it; it was not a tough catch at all," said Murphy, who singled twice and drove in one run.
"I should have caught it; that's all I will say," Asselstine said, staring into the back of his locker. Cox used Mike Lum, Joe Nolan, Gary Matthews and Charlie Spikes as pinch hitters, leaving Horner and Bill Nahorodny for duty in the ninth. "I did not expect to hit because I don't know what to expect anymore," said Horner.
"I was definitely going to use Horner as a pinch hitter for Asselstine in the ninth if they brought in a lefty," Cox said. "I went with Spikes before Horner because Charlie has been getting base hits, as he did this time. There's a chance Horner will pity in Atlanta Friday, but we'll just wait and see. When Horner tells me he is mentally ready to play, he will play. There has to be no question in my mind that be can concentrate on baseball."
When informed of Cox's condition, Horner shook his head and replied, "They've never said that before."
Asselstine's miss in the eighth overshadowed his three-run double off former Brave Dick Ruthven in the first, which led to 4-0 advantage. All four runs were unearned due to a two-out, between-the-legs error by second baseman Ramon Aviles. Despite having what Cox called "his best stuff of the season," 'starter Doyle Alexander could not survive the third, when the Phillies scored four times to take a 5-4 lead.
"You won't see Doyle throw any better than that," Cox Said of the veteran right-hander who gave up eight hits and five earned runs. "His fastball was about a yard faster. Getting behind the hitters was what put him in trouble."
After Alexander and before Hrabosky, Tommy Boggs allowed one hit and one run over 3⅓ innings, and Rick Camp held the Phils scoreless in the seventh.
Then tragedy hit in the eighth, and the Braves lost their fifth game of the seven-game road trip.
Luzinski’s ‘Loss’ Is Phillies’ Gain
By Ken Picking, Constitution Staff Writer
PHILADELPHIA – The Bull shed 20 pounds, and he traded bis contact lenses for a pair of wire-framed glasses. Consequently, Greg Luzinski is once again one of the National League's most-feared fourth-place hitters. No bull.
"My weight wasn't the entire problem, but it was part of it," admitted Luzinski, proud of his trim, yet muscular 217-pound physique. "I tried some experimental, soft-lens contacts, and I never got completely used to them. And the Phillies knew I had a bad leg all year, if nobody else did. But when you are going bad, the weight is what everyone puts the emphasis on."
Luzinski isn’t telling Bob Horner anything he doesn’t already know.
After hitting 129 home runs and driving in 446 runs from 1975-78, Luzinski slumped to statistics of mere human in 1979, 18 homers and 81 RBI. Naturally, the fanatic Philadelphia fans turned fickle, and suddenly their beloved Bull was the Broad Street Bad Boy.
“You expect them to be with you when you are going good and against you when you are not," Luzinski said matter-of-factly.
Of course, the left-field "Bull Ring," where Luzinski's fans congregated during his super seasons, is full again, since its hero has regained his touch at the plate.
Until Mike Schmidt homered twice Monday, Luzinski was leading the NL in home runs with seven, and he is among the top five in RBI with 18. His .289 average is four points about his eight-year career mark.
"Feeling good physically also helps the mental approach," Luzinski said. "I was down last year, but that's all past. This team is pointing to the pennant, and that also keeps you up. Playing with guys as talented as we have here helps keep the edge. I just feel better all the way around, and that alone improves your performance. I'm back where I want to be."
NOTES – Pete Rose, who normally has a comment on everything, reserved his opinion on the Homer-Ted Turner controversy. "They are both friends of mine," Rose said. "But it was not very brilliant to dump your lineup after nine games, especially when they are against Cincinnati and Houston." Rose's average has dipped to an unusual .203. "When you are 39 there is always a little doubt if you still have it or not," the Player of the Decade said. "But it's not like I'm not hitting the ball. I'm just waiting for them to start dropping."... Reportedly, Al ThornwelL executive vice president of the Braves, said Tuesday he will have a trade to present to Gary Matthews Thursday. The only team the Braves are talking to is the Chicago Cubs... As might be expected, slump-ridden pitcher Gene Garber told a few of his friends on the Phillies he certainly would like to wear a Philadelphia uniform again... Brave manager Bob Cox held Phil Niekro back a day in the rotation because, "Doyle Alexander did not need another day of rest. Knucksie will be back pitching on three days rest his next turn."... Niekro (1-4) opposes Larry Christenson (2-0) Wednesday night in the final game of the 10-day road trip... The question now appears to be, will Horner go to Richmond Monday when the Braves play their Triple-A farm club in an exhibition?... Apparently the threat of a strike has not frightened the fans. Through last weekend, baseball attendance was 32,335 ahead of last year when an all-time record was established. Houston, Pittsburgh, Montreal and Oakland have had the largest increases... Rick Matula (1.97) and Larry Bradford (1.50) are the only pitchers on the Braves staff with earned run averages lower than 3.27... Ironically, Matthews, who has been held out of the Phillies series while trades are pursued, leads the Braves in career home runs at Veterans Stadium with seven... The Astros will start Ken Forsch on Friday, J.R. Richard on Saturday and Joe Niekro on Sunday in the weekend series in Atlanta. Joe Niekro will oppose Phil Niekro Sunday. It will be the eighth time the brothers have pitched against each other.