Wilmington Morning News - October 2, 1980
Dazzling Carlton muffles Cubs on 2 hits
By Hal Bodley, Sports Editor
PHILADELPHIA – The first hint came 20 minutes before the game' when Steve Carlton started firing his warm-up pitches to Keith More-land. The rookie catcher's eyes got bigger and bigger and when he finished, he was shaking his head.
"I've never seen a pitcher have that kind of stuff," Moreland would say three hours later. "I couldn't believe it. I've warmed him up for just about every start and this was by far his best. If ever he was going to pitch a no-hitter, it was going to be tonight."
For seven innings last night Steve Carlton baffled Chicago with nasty sliders, dancing curves and deceptive fastballs. He had the 25,658 Veterans Stadium fanatics riding on his every pitch until Mike Vail's leadoff single in the eighth shattered his no-hitter and Bill Buckner's two-out single in the ninth left the great left-hander with a two-hitter.
Almost overlooked on the next-to-the-last night of the regular season at the Vet was a solid 5-0 victory over the hapless Cubs that kept the Phils a half-game behind Montreal in National League East. The Expos blasted St. Louis 8-0 for their fifth straight success.
The Phils can pull even with the idle Expos tonight if they defeat the Cubs, thus setting the stage for the three-game showdown in Montreal beginning tomorrow night.
Mike Schmidt blasted his 45th homer of the year, while Greg Luzinski and Bob Boone, both back in the lineup, delivered key hits. Luzinski cracked his 19 th of the season seconds after Schmidt's and Boone came through with two hits and an RBI.
But the night belonged to Steven Norman Carlton.
Carlton, who holds the National League record of six one-hitters, " was never in serious trouble on the cool night as he struck out 10 to run his league-leading total to 286.
Carlton has had two shots at no-hitters this year. The first came on April 26 when the Cards' Ted Simmons' leadoff single in the second inning was the only hit off him. On May 14, with two in the eighth, Atlanta's Bill Nahorodny singled and Carlton had to eventually settle for a two-hitter.
The victory was his 24th of the year, second only to his 27 in 1972. The shutout was his 45th.
"He definitely had no-hit stuff tonight," said Manager Dallas Green. "He was virtually unhittable the first six innings, but I thought he began to get up with his pitches a little in the seventh."
"His slider tonight was like it was in the early part of the season," said Boone. "He also had an excellent curve and fastball. Really, he kinda spotted the fastball."
It was the fastball that Vail hit to ruin the no-hit bid.
The Cubs' left fielder swung and missed Carlton's first pitch and took the second inside for a ball. Vail lined the 1-1 pitch to center when the veteran Del Unser, starting in the place of Garry Maddox, tried to make a shoestring catch, but in the end let the ball drop three feet in front of him.
"We started Vail off with breaking balls," said Boone. "Lefty shook me off on the 1-1 pitch and threw a fastball. It was up an on the outside of the plate, not a bad pitch because that is where he usually throws the fastball in that situation."
"I was aware of the no-hitter and wanted to do everything I could to save it for him," said Unser. "I didn't think I had a chance, but wanted to give it everything I had. When it was obvious I wouldn't get it, I let it drop and stopped it."
Maddox, considered to be the best center fielder in baseball, probably would have made the catch. Maddox was originally in Green's line-up, but complained that an injured little finger on his left hand was nurung so much that he might not be able to swing the bat well. With this information, Green scratched the Gold Glove outfielder.
"I'm tired of saying Steve Carlton is the best left-handed pitcher in baseball, but he proved it again tonight," said Vail, who was hitting .296 at the time. "His slider is just unhittable. When I went up there in the eighth I was thinking about the fact we didn't have any hits because it was so obvious. I was just trying to get something going, something started for the club. I was looking for anything but that fastball he threw me. I think he was using it as a waste pitch to set me up with a slider.
"Carlton is a tremendous competitor. You say he just can't possibly get any better, but the next time up he does. I feel sorry for the Expos next weekend if he's got his best stuff. He is the Cy Young Award winner hands down."
Earlier, a brilliant stop and subsequent tag by Pete Rose on Buckner's grounder with one out in the fourth deprived the Cubs of a hit and moments later Manny Trillo leaped high to pull down Jerry Martin's high chopper before throwing out the batter.
After Vail singled, Carlton issued his second walk, to Carlos Lezcano. He then fanned the next three batters. Pinch-hitter Dave Kingman sent a scare through the crowd when he sent a liner screaming to the left-field corner, only a few feet foul. He then fanned for the third out.
Carlton got two quick outs in the ninth before Buckner lined a hit off Trillo's glove above the second baseman's head.
Shortstop Larry Bowa, again booed by the fans and again playing outstanding baseball, forced Buckner at second on Martin's grounder to end the game.
The Phils waited until the sixth to move in front of Dennis Lamp. With one down, Schmidt sent a 1-0 pitch over the left-field fence for his 45th homer, tying his career high set in 1979. With that homer, he also scored his 100th run for the fifth time in eight years.
Luzinski, in a dreadful slump before being benched on Monday night in favor of rookie Lonnie Smith, hit Lamp's first pitch and it jumped out of the park. The Bull's last homer came off Lamp on Sept. 24 at Wrigley Field.
Unser then followed with a triple. Trillo beat out an infield single to deep third base. Unser scored on Bowa's infield single and Trillo waltzed home from third on Carlton's sacrifice fly to center. Carlton had singled his previous two times up.
Bowa's double and Boone's single produced the fifth run in the eighth off reliever Lee Smith.
"It was good to get an important hit tonight," said Luzinski. I know why Dallas sat me down. I wasn't hitting. When you're struggling and thinking about a lot of things, it is tough. I had a couple of days to work on my stroke. I felt better up there tonight than I have."
The media mob tried to make a big thing out of Maddox taking himself out of the line-up, but the center fielder wanted it known that the manager made the decision.
"When he said he didn't know whether or not he could play, I scratched him," said Green. "I am not going to play somebody who doesn't think he's ready. Del Unser is a quality ball player."
Maddox injured his finger against Pittsburgh two weeks ago and said he hurt it again on Sunday against Montreal. It was in that game when he lost Chris Speier's line drive in the sun for a triple that broke open a 2-1 contest.
EXTRA POINTS – Schmidt and Luzinski have hit back-to-back homers six times this year and nine times during their careers... Schmidt now has 116 runs batted in, tying his career high set in 1974 The National League record for homers in a season is 47 set by the Braves Eddie Mathews in 1957... Carlton has now pitched 304 innings, the second time in his career he has gone over 300... He pitched 346 during his 27-10 season of '72... His ERA is now 2.34... He has a 30-16 lifetime record against the Cubs and is 3-0 in 1980... Bob Walk against Randy Martz tonight.