Pittsburgh Press - September 10, 1980
Pirate Pumpkin Squeezed By Phils
By Dan Donovan, Press Sports Writer
PHILADELPHIA – Garry Maddox flung himself, feet first, between the legs of Pirate catcher Ed Ott, scoring the winning run in the Philadelphia Phillies' 5-4, 14-inning win over the Pirates last night just about at the stroke of midnight. And the Pirates turned into pumpkins.
Oh, a fairy godmother could come along and turn the Pirates back into pennant-winners, but right now they look as dynamic as pumpkins.
The losing streak, no matter which figure you use, is bad. The Pirates have lost five straight, 13 of 15 and 17 of their last 22 games.
They dash into St Louis tonight trailing first-place Montreal by 3½ games, second-place Philadelphia by three. They are four games behind Philadelphia in the loss column, but more importantly, they have restored the Phillies' swagger.
The Phillies lost the big games, the tough games, so often the past few years they began to believe they couldn't win them.
But last night's game was fraught with suspense; it was a tough one the Phillies didn't lose.
The contrast was evident in the faces of the managers.
If Pirate Manager Chuck Tanner said it once, he said it a dozen times, "This was a tough one to lose."
Phillie Manager Dallas Green answered a telephone call from his wife, who was inquiring how long it would be before they could go home.
"You'll have a long wait," Green said. "My gut is going around and around."
It was probably jumping for joy. The Phillies finally showed they are the team Green wanted them to be right from the beginning – a tough team able to make the gritty plays in a tough game.
"That is called grinding it out," Green said and grinned. "I couldn't be prouder now."
The big plays were tough plays. Pinch runner Matt Alexander was on second when Bill Madlock hit a potential double-play ball to third baseman Mike Schmidt.
But second baseman Manny Trillo, trying to avoid Mike Easler's slide at second, couldn't throw to first and dropped the ball.
Alexander alertly tried to score, but Trillo's perfect, hard throw and catcher Bob Boone's effective blocking of home plate put Alexander out.
Maddox doubled against the sixth Pirate relief pitcher, Mark Lee, to lead off the 14th inning. He went to third on an infield out, and the Phillies needed only a fly ball to win the game.
At least, that's what Maddox kept shouting at batter Boone, thinking all the while about the squeeze bunt Boone was to lay down.
"I kept yelling at Boone about the fly ball and tried to stay close to the base so the pitcher wouldn’t think I was going. As soon as he committed himself, I went.”
The squeeze bunt was predicated on several things: Maddox's speed, Boone's ability to bunt, and his sore hand, and Lee's inexperience. Lee . . st nnp mm with the San Dieeo Padres, but spent most of this season in the minor leagues.
"I stared at Maddox as long as I could," Lee said. "Into my windup, I heard 'squeeze,' but there was nothing I could do. I had to throw to the plate.”
Boone bunted back to Lee, who picked up the ball and threw wide of the plate.
There were two distinct opinions on whether a good throw would have gotten Maddox, but we’ll never know.
"I thought a good throw would have gotten of the plate," Lee said, "but a lot of people told me there was no chance."
Ott thought he had the plate blocked well enough that a good throw would prevent Maddox from scoring.
Maddox doubted it but admitted Ott blocked the plate well.
"Ott's legs were apart, so I slid for the middle said. Maddox said. "If I had gone around him, it would have taken too much time. He tried to close his legs on me and they hit me across the face."
The loss was another slap across the face to the Pirates, who have to be well-nigh perfect in their last 23 games to win the East Division.
"We're going to have to win 18 or 19 ballgames,' Ott said. "Once we start, we have the talent to do that. This is the worst slump this team has been in for the last four or five years. We're due to come out of it."
The Pirates have lost in the worst way – by squandering leads. Until he left with a bad back, Pirate starter John Candelaria carefully protected a 4-2 lead.
"It's not in the cards for us to win," Pirate Bill Robinson said. "Every time we make a bad play, it costs us. Even when we make a good play, it costs us. Maybe we're not playing killer baseball. We're not putting them away like we should. Everyone is struggling so hard – maybe too hard.
Although he admitted the Pirates do look like pumpkins, even Green was not about to count them out.
"Nah, you can't count them out," Green said. "I still think all three teams will be in it until the end. They're a good team, but they're in that slump still. If they win one or two games, they'll get going. They're tough – but so are we."
« « «
PIRATE NOTES - Dave Parker left after the sixth inning because of knee problems.
"Whatever is rolling around loose in my knee got caught and my leg was locking," Parker said. "I wanted to get out before I hurt the team because I couldn't make a play. I almost took myself out before the game, but I didn't because (Steve) Carlton was pitching."
Parker said it was only the second or third time the leg has locked on him and be hoped he could play in St. Louis tonight.
"I saw a doctor who told me I should have it cut right now," Parker said. "But I'm stuck between a rock and a hard place. Right now I have to play as much as I can."
Willie Stargell will go to Lansing, Mich., tomorrow to see the doctor who drained his knee. If the report is good, he will play in Montreal this weekend.
Bill Robinson will ice his sore Achilles heel and hopes to play in St. Louis, where the Cardinals will pitch two left-handers, Don Hood and John Martin.
The Phillies scored one run in the second when left fielder Lee Lacy lost Boone's line drive in the lights for a two-out double with a man on base.
Pirate pitcher Jim Rooker underwent shoulder surgery yesterday to repair a torn capsule in his left shoulder joint. He is out for the season and, at age 38, faces a tough comeback trail next spring.
Slumping Tekulve Eyes Relief
By Dan Donovan, Press Sports Writer
PHILADELPHIA – It's as plain as the nose on Kent Tekulve's face. The Pirates aren't going to win the National League East unless Kent Tekulve starts to pitch well.
"Tekulve's got to get on the track," Pirate Manager Chuck Tanner said after the Pirates' 5-4, 14-inning loss to the Philadelphia Phillies last night. "He's got to start getting the ball down."
Tekulve is in a slump. Instead of "plop-plop, fizz-fizz, oh what a relief he is," Tekulve has been simply "plop-plop, fizz-fizz."
In his last nine appearances, he has four losses, giving up 11 runs on 14 hits in 13⅓ innings.
Last night he came into the game in the eighth inning with two out and a runner on third.
Mike Schmidt tripled and Greg Luzinski singled and the game was tied.
"I put this hard on myself," Tekulve said. "I'm not doing my job. In games like these where I come in during the eighth inning, I'm supposed to do the job. I'm supposed to stop them right then and there and I'm not doing it."
A slump doesn't surprise Tekulve – he has them every year – but this one couldn't have come at a more inopportune time.
"I'm in one of those ruts and I can't get started," Tekulve said. "I hope I can get out of it soon. I know I'm going to get out of it. I won't stay in it all the rest of the season."
Pirate pitching coach Harvey Haddix thinks Tekulve's problem began when a bout with the flu weakened him, but Tekulve says he feels fine.
"I've been throwing well in the bullpen, but I lose everything as soon as I walk in to the mound," Tekulve said. "I don't know what happens."
Tanner is firmly of the "dance-with-the-one-that-brung-ya" school even if he keeps stepping on your feet, and is not about to switch to another reliever.
"Teke is the guy who brought us here," Tanner said. "He's the reason we're where we're at. We have to go with the guys who've done the job."
Tekulve said the only way to get out of the slump is to keep pitching. He feels it is a rhythm thing, and he has to keep pitching to get his rhythm.
His slump, be feels, is similar to the slump that engulfs the entire Pirate team.
"We have to get over this hump, win a couple of ballgames and get our momentum going," Tekulve said. "Every day we're waiting for the one game that'll get us over the hump and it doesn't come. Once we get this thing going, we can win eight out of 10, or nine out of 11."
But getting that first one is hard. Especially without the ace relief pitcher pitching well.