Allentown Morning Call - October 4, 1980

Phillies one victory away from title


By Ted Meixell, Call Sports Writer


MONTREAL – After Tug McGraw paralyzed Montreal reserve shortstop Jerry Manuel with a fastball to cap a brilliant two-inning performance last night to give the Phillies a 2-1 win over the Expos and a one-game lead in National League East with just two to play, he did not leap off the mound and perform his customary victory gyrations. 


"This weekend is starting out very much like the last one," the Phils' happy but emotionally-controlled reliever said. "Our ballclub won Friday night last week (in the first game of a three-game set with the Expos at Veterans Stadium), but we were unable to gear ourselves up for Saturday and Sunday. 


"I tried hard to contain myself, to not get too excited, to pull myself together for tomorrow (today). I don't want what happened last weekend to happen again." 


What happened last week, of course, is that the Phils grabbed the Friday night encounter to go 1½ games ahead of Montreal only to be beaten Saturday and Sunday and fall right back to second place. 


A crowd of 57,121 – the fourth-largest in Expo history – poured into Le Stade Olympique confident that their beloved Expos would win the crucial series opener and' put the pressure squarely on the Phils. But McGraw and his playmates – most notably Mike Schmidt, Dick Ruthven and Sparky Lyle – had other ideas. 


The lessons of last week notwithstanding, there's no question the Phils have hopped into the driver's seat. The reason is simple: after Montreal beat the Phils last Sunday to lead by a half game, the Phils still had seven games to play and the Expos six. The schedule is a lot tighter than that today. 


The atmosphere last night was charged with pressure, and Ruthven, Lyle, McGraw and Schmidt met it with great poise. Ruthven, making perhaps the most important start of his career, scattered four hits until being lifted with two out in the sixth inning to pick up his 17th win against 10 losses. 


The Phils led 2-0 entering the inning on the strength of a firs-tinning sacrifice fly and a sixth-inning solo home run by Schmidt, his 47th of the season. (Schmidt, by the way, tied Eddie Matthews for most home runs in a season by a third baseman. Matthews hit 47 for the Milwaukee Braves in 1957.) 


But Jerry White lashed a single to right to start the inning and Ruthven walked Rodney Scott. Schmidt then made perhaps the play of the game. Office dropped a bunt down the third base line and Schmidt at first retreated, looking for a force at third. But Ruthven didn't get off the mound and Schmidt had to reverse himself, make a bare-hand scoop and an off-balance throw to nip Office at first.


The hot-hitting Andre Dawson clubbed a long sacrifice fly to score White. After Ruthven walked the dangerous Gary Carter intentionally, manager Dallas Green brought in Lyle, and Sparky ended the threat by getting Warren Cromartie on a checked-swing grounder to Manny Trillo, who forced Carter at second. 


Green said his decision to walk Carter with the potential lead run "wasn't that hard to do. Not when the guy's smokin' and the guy behind him isn't smokin' too much. Plus, we wound up with lefty against lefty, and that's just what I wanted." 


Said Ruthven, "In my mind I was sayin' I'd like to walk Carter but, for some reason or other, I didn't think about comin' out of the game. When I saw Dallas comin' out of the dugout I turned my back and thought for a minute about bein' mad. 


"Then I thought to myself, 'Heck, he's GOTTA' make that move." 


After getting Cromartie out, Lyle got through the seventh only after dishing out a walk to Chris Speier and a single to pinch hitter John Tamargo. Greg Gross pinch hit for Lyle in the eighth – and that left it up to McGraw. 


The wacky lefthander, who's given up just two earned runs since coming off the disabled list July 27, simply outdid himself, thumbing his nose at the pressure. 


He earned his 20th – and most important – save by fanning five of the six batters he faced. Three – Carter, Larry Parrish and Manuel – took the third strike. 


"In the eighth. I used my screwball a lot, but in the ninth, when I thought they were sitting on the scroogie, I just showed it to them and went with the fastball. Hey, these guys are good hitters. You have to outguess them.


If Tug McGraw outguesses the Expos this afternoon, Philadelphia may just win the National League East crown for the fourth time in five years. Stay tuned.