Camden Courier-Post - September 12, 1980
Ruthven beats Mets, wins 15th
By Ray W. Kelly of the Courier-Post
NEW YORK – Phillies' righthander Dick Ruthven is a pitching chameleon, an ever-changing, always-adapting athlete with the capacity to win with whatever his arm happens to have on that particular day.
"That's my game. And, almost all my wins have been the result of my adjusting on the mound," said Ruthven last night after picking up his 15th victory of the season with a 5-1 decision over the New York Mets at Shea Stadium.
Don't let the final score fool you. It was a 2-1 game, with Ruthven protecting his slim lead all the way to the ninth inning.
THAT'S WHEN Manager Dallas Green, on a move-making hot streak of his own, pinchhit for his starting pitcher and watched as his club rallied for three runs that would insure the Phils of keeping pace with the division-leading Montreal Expos.
"I had great stuff warming up," said Ruthven, who is still gaining strength in his arm, which was operated on at the end of last season.
"But, when I got out there, my breaking ball wasn't doing anything."
Ruthven scrambled and scuffled out of one jam after another. He got some breathing room when Mike Schmidt blasted his 38th home run of the season off Ray Burris in the fourth inning.
STILL, HE knew he was in trouble.
"We had to ash-can the breaking ball and go with the fastball," explained Ruthven, who chalked up five of his eight strikeouts while putting down rallies in the third and fourth innings.
"The Mets were waiting on my fastball," he said. "They knew it was coming, but I had a good one. It was high, but it was moving."
A walk to Wally Backman, singles by Bill Almon and Mookie Wilson and a sacrifice fly off the bat of Joel Youngblood knotted the score at 1-1 in the fifth inning.
AGAIN RUTHVEN adjusted. This time, he began "cutting" his fastball, turning his wrist at the instant of release in order to make it sail.
"I used that as my breaking ball and mixed it with my regular fastball," he explained.
The suffering New Yorkers, who have been beaten eight straight times by the Phils at Shea Stadium, got only two hits the rest of the way in losing for the 12th straight game.
"I really didn't get my act together until the eighth inning. That was the best inning I pitched all night," Ruthven said.
BY THEN, he had a 2-1 lead as a result of a sixth-inning rally that was instigated by Ruthven's double to right field. He moved to third on Pete Rose’s single and scored as Bake McBride provided yet another winning run with a sacrifice fly to center field.
It was truly a night when the Mets could have gotten themselves a victory despite the fact that they began the evening with a clubhouse scuffle between shortstop Frank Taveras and coach Joe Pignatano. The lineup card, when Pignatano posted it (and didn't include Taveras), was torn into pieces by the infielder, starting the altercation.
Duly fired up, the Mets broke a chain of 24 scoreless innings with their fifth-inning run before running smack into Ruthven's quick change act.
"We kept thinking we were going to get to him," said Met Manager Joe Torre. "But, then we looked up and it was the ninth inning."
THAT'S WHEN Green came up with a little sleight of hand on his own.
"Ruthven could have finished up," said Dallas, "but, when Garry Maddox doubled and Bob Boone walked (with two away), I decided to get the runs."
Now, that's confidence.
Pinchhitter Del Unser smacked a run-producing double that bounced over the fence in right-center field. Then Del and Boone scored on Rose's single.
"JUST LIKE that," said Green, snapping his fingers and laughing.
"That's when I put Unser up there. I knew he was going to get a hit." Ruthven, who had some problems with the mound throughout the evening, thought Green's decision was just right.
"He has got to make that move, with the way Tug McGraw has been pitching out of the bullpen and the chance we had to add some insurance runs."
McGRAW BLANKED the Mets in the ninth, thanks in part to a dandy shoetop catch by right fielder McBride.
"I'll tell you one thing," said Ruthven. "It's sure nice to be here (pitching) in September. It beats the hell out of what I was doing last year at this time."
Ruthven's season and possibly his career was in trouble at this time last year. Yet, he has managed to become a major factor in the 1980 season despite having "nothing at all" in the first few months of the year.
"I'm not satisfied yet," he said. "But, I'm proud of my consistency."
What he has been is constantly changing. Ruthven knows not only how to survive. He knows how to win.
Tonight, Nino Espinosa will be the Phils' pitcher instead of Randy Lerch, because Nino has had better success against the St. Louis Cardinals. Bob Walk will hurl the other half of the Veterans Stadium doubleheader, which starts at 5:35 p.m.