Wilmington Evening Journal - May 8, 1980

Mother Nature thwarts Phils’ chance to beat Phil Niekro


By John Bannon, Staff Writer


PHILADELPHIA - Water droplets and line drives rained all over the expanse of Veterans Stadium last night. Mother Nature, to the tune of "Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head," eventually won out.


It didn't come without a fight. The Phillies sat through first a two-hour rain delay .that began at 8:03 p.m. and then another of an hour and a half before the umpires finally decided aU that talk about a break coming in the weather was clouded with unrealistic optimism.


It wasn't an opportune time for the Phils to take a shower. They had pounded an old nemesis, Atlanta's Phil Niekro, for three first-inning runs.


Manager Dallas Green's boys had that 3-0 advantage when the deluge first halted things in the bottom of the second. They were nursing the same cushion when the umps threw in a soggy towel on the evening's festivities at a quarter to midnight.


Green, for one, was sorry to see the opportunity slip past his club.


"Sure, we wanted to play them," Green said. "We had hit Niekro in the first inning and that wasn't all the runs we would have gotten if the game had gone on."


More than just picking on the aging knuckleballer, Green feels Atlanta currently makes an attractive target.


"We would much rather play them now when they're going with that lineup without (Gary) Matthews and (Bob) Horner," Green said. "You'd rather play them now than give them a chance at us in July when they might have things straightened out."


The Phillies even thought a day late was better than never – or July.


"We wanted to play them Thursday," Green said, "but they refused."


The Braves reluctance to play was backed up by the collective bargaining clause that prevents a team fom playing 19 consecutive days.


"You can't blame them for not playing. They had an out and they used it," Green said. If we were in their position, we would have done the same thing."


Green had no unkind words for the umpires finally turning their backs on the drenched affair. Bill Giles, the Philly fellow with the pipeline to the heavens, finally couldn't be heard over the continual roar of the Zamboni machines.


"You can't be mad at the empires. They waited for a long time. 'There's only so many times you can go out there and look up at rain in your face," Green said. "You can only listen to Giles for so long before it sounds like a smokescreen.


"Hell, he had me believing the sun was going to break out any minute."


It never did.


The day, dreary as it was at night, wasn't without sunshine for the Phillies.


Manny Trillo, the second baseman who has been nursing a sprained right ankle on the disabled list, was returned to the active roster.


To make room for Trillo, who is expected to return to action this weekend in Cincinnati, the Phils placed Luis Aguayo on the disabled list, retroactive to Monday. The rookie second baseman is hampered by a sore right thigh.


Trillo said last night that he expects to play Saturday. Green hinted after last night's washout that it could come sooner.


"He should be 100 per cent very soon," Green said. "I probably could have used him tonight as a pinch-hitter and then run for him. The doctors tell me he even could run.


"Still, there's no rush. We've been getting adequate play by the people filling in,” Green said. "I don't want to rush him. I'd rather have him at 100 percent when he goes back in there."


Center fielder Gary Maddox, who injured an ankle Sunday against the Dodgers, is also making a rapid recovery. Green said he expects to have Maddox back for Friday's start of the road trip.


EXTRA INNINGS – The Kansas City Royals have signed ex-Phillies' reliever Rawly Eastwick to a Triple A contract with their Omaha affiliate... Niekro had won seven of his last eight decisions against the Phils entering last night’s contest... Bake McBride and Greg Gross both lost RBI doubles in the postponement... Rookie Keith Moreland was filling in behind the plate for Bob Boone last night... The Braves apparently are scrapping their plans to trade Matthews... Green said the lost game wouldn't affect his pitching rotation for upcoming games...Randy Lerch is expected to open the series tomorrow against Charlie Leibrandt and the Reds... The rain did push Nino Espinosa's schedule back. The arm-troubled right-hander was to pitch in a simulated game today before the Phils left for Ohio. After last night's late getaway time, Green scrapped that idea, moving the simulated game back to Monday when the Phils will be in Atlanta.