Philadelphia Daily News - September 12, 1980
Mets Go Pfffft to Phils
By Bill Conlin
NEW YORK – The Mets have been scoring in clusters of one and none. Mostly none.
Joe Torre decided to juggle his lineup and his batting order last night. Some managers reach this stage of quiet desperation and throw names into a hat and draw out eight. Torre showed a little more imagination. He played a lineup that batted in reverse alphabetical order – Wilson, Washington. Trevino, Mazzilli, Henderson, Brooks, Backman, Almon and pitcher Ray Burris, who doesn't count in the lineup shuffle.
Notable in his absence from the Met lineup was shortstop Frank Taveras, who demonstrated his unhappiness by ripping the lineup card off the clubhouse wall. A scuffle with coach Joe Pignatano followed. Taveras will have to find a different way to fight his way back into the lineup. The fight was scored a draw.
THE PHILLIES mangled Burris and flame-throwing reliever Juan Berenguer for six hits. Since three of them produced three ninth-inning runs, the 5-1 victory looked a little easier than it was. In fact, when the Mets used two singles, a walk and a sacrifice fly to tie it. 1-1, in the fifth, several streaks ended. It was the first run allowed by Phillies" pitching in 20 innings. And it was the first run scored by the Mets in 24⅔ innings, a run which was not enough, however, to interrupt an appointment with their 12th straight loss, 17th in the last 18 games and 24th out of the last 27. The Old Magic went pfffffft.
The Phillies' first hit was an awesome 450-foot homer by Mike Schmidt into the new picnic area in left, No. 38. They took a 2-1 lead on Bake McBride's sixth-inning sacrifice fly.
Dick Ruthven, strong for eight innings on the way to his 15th victory, saw to it that the Mets did not exceed their run quota.
He doesn’t like to pitch high to any team, not even to a team which has smoked S3 homers so far, which is what Roger Maris had by himself at a similar stage of 1961. But he was high with his hard stuff in the first five innings. Fortunately, he also had more velocity than at almost any time in what has been a marvelous comeback season for the gifted righthander. Ruthven had six strikeouts after four innings. And he picked up the final two of his season-high eight after his breaking ball finally showed up in the eighth.
"THE EIGHTH WAS my best inning," he said after matching his career high for victories set in 1978, when the Phillies got him back from Atlanta on June 15. "My breaking ball and off-speed stuff finally started working."
But the Phillies had a rally working in the ninth and Dallas Green felt he had to have at least one more run. The manager is on a hot streak himself in the button-pushing department. With Two outs and runners on first and second, Dallas selected Del Unser to face Berenguer, a wild righthander whose fastball has been clocked at 100-plus MPH. Unser ripped a ground-rule double over the fence in center to score Garry Maddox, who started the late uprising with a one-out double. Pete Rose singled home two more runs and Green had the lovely pad he wanted for the long bus ride home.
It is tough to see what is going on from the Phillies' bullpen in left, especially for a pitcher warming up seriously. Tug McGraw didn't know. Rose had tacked two more runs on the score when he came in for his 46th appearance of the season.
"I thought it was 3-1, he said. "I thought it was a save situation."
He laughed. "I'm supposed to say I'm not thinking about a save, that I'm just glad we scored all those insurance runs."
The Mets had runners on first and third with two outs in the ninth. "I don't think Tug can get properly juiced unless he's got some runners out there," Green said on a night when the division-leading Expos and third-place Pirates won, preserving a status quo which left the Phils a half-game behind Montreal. "I don't think he likes to pitch from the stretch."
THERE IS LITTLE doubting that McGraw's biggest high in life comes when he is out there in a desperate jam with the game in his hands and 50,000 fans screaming. He is one of the few great athletes of his time who has learned to control nervous energy in a positive way. Most guys who can't get rid of the jitters, who never settle down, fall apart under pressure. Their adrenal glands betray them.
"That nervous energy just creates a lot of adrenalin flowing through your system," Tug said.
Gil Hodges, a man of Buddha-like emotions, helped McGraw channel the overkill of nervousness early in his career. "Now, unless I have it I'm kind of stuck," he said. "When I was playing for Hodges I had a lot of talks with him. A lot of players never got real close to him. For some reason he kind of took me under his wing. He used to talk to me and he had a real good friend named Joe Badamo, a guy who was a motivator-type. I used to have lunch with him all the time and we used to talk about the mental approach to things. I learned from him that, everybody's gonna get nervous.
"YOU'VE GOT to take that energy and use it in a positive way to help you. Instead of letting it eat you up and tense you up, you've got to enjoy that nervous energy, get it to work for you. Back in those early days with Hodges, I guess it paid off."
McGraw got pinch-hitter Elliott Maddox on a fine play by McBride in shallow right And he got the third out by throwing an infield out to centerfielder Mookie Wilson, the Mets' Mookie of the Year candidate.
"If he had allowed one more runner, Tug was out of there," said Green, who obviously never heard of Joe Badamo. "I would have brought in Ron Reed. I thought we were just a little flat tonight and it's understandable. We had the two barn-burners with Pittsburgh coming off a tough Coast trip, we go right back on the road and now we've got a twi-nighter , coming up at home."
That's what September baseball is all about. The days are short, the nights are long and all the games are awash with adrenalin.
PHILUPS: Dallas Green raised some eyebrows by nominating Nino Espinosa to pitch the second game against the Cardinals tonight. Espinosa pitched well in his last start in St Louis, but Randy Lerch, originally scheduled to start behind first-gamer Bob Walk, once had a reputation as a Cardinal killer. "I am pitching Nino because of his last performance against St. Louis," Green said…. Manny Trillo went 0-for-3 and dropped to.299, his first trip under .300 since early in the season. Frank Taveras said before his brief clubhouse scuffle with coach Joe Pignatano that he's dropped an appeal of a two-day suspension for jostling an umpire. He'll sit out tomorrow and Sunday.
Pennant Dreams For Unser
By Ted Silary
NEW YORK – Somehow, we are inclined to believe that a book recounting the days that Del Unser has spent in baseball, should somebody care to try it, would not draw the title, "Life in the Fast Lane," despite his penchant for fastballs.
Life in the fast lane, as we apply it to baseball, assumes some involvement in a chase for the pennant or two, complete with quickened pulses and sweaty palms prior to each at-bat and a result for the team (either way, of course) that has the whole town buzzing next morning.
On the subject of playing for extra money, however, Del Unser, with apologies, is forced to take a rain check.
Unser has labored for five different teams in 13 major-league seasons, most of which have "ended" a month-plus short of the final game, sometimes on the heels of the All-Star break.
AFTER LOTS OF practice, Del has learned to decipher the signs of a season that is headed for destruction faster than the Abscam defendants.
First, the mood in the clubhouse swings from Mardi Gras to morgue. Second, the manager is fitted for a noose in all major dailies. Third, a parade of hopefuls is asked to show its wares, leaving ol’ Del to rust on the bench.
"My wife and I have always talked about what it would be like to play baseball on a contending team, or even one going further," Unser said last night. Well, now the Unsers know. Or at least they remember. The last time Del played in late-season games that burst with pressure, the years were 1965 and "66, the team was Mississippi State and the league was the Southeastern Conference.
Those teams went 2-for-2 in terms of titles and Del would love to gain a third with the Phillies.
It could happen, too, especially if Unser can continue to contribute as he did in a 5-1 win over the magic-less Mets.
Nursing a 2-1 lead against dart-throwing reliever Juan Berenguer in the ninth, the Phils accepted a one-out double from Garry Maddox and a two-out intentional walk from Manager Joe Torre, with Bob Boone trotting to first.
With that, Unser strolled from the dugout to hit for Dick Ruthven and powdered a fastball on one hop over the 396 sign in deepest right-center, scoring Maddox and producing a ground-rule double. More production was forthcoming directly as Pete Rose lashed a two-run single to center, the kind of insurance which could cover even a ghetto fire trap.
"UH HUH. JUST LIKE that. When I want some runs, I just snap my fingers and get them," joked Dallas Green. "That's why I put the guy up there."
Last year. Unser was the guy always laughing. Del fashioned an average of .304 in 46 emergency at-bats, adding four home runs and 14 RBI. Three of the homers, lest we forget, were bashed in consecutive plate appearances, which established a major-league record.
Meanwhile, Unser's 1980 pinch-hitting totals read 9-for-34, 0 homers, 4 RBI.
"I've hit the ball about as hard this year, but I've been on top of it," Unser stated. "I've hit two balls off the top of the fence in pinch-hitting roles and I've hit two line-drive outs to infielders with the bases loaded.
"I had somewhere between 140 and 150 at-bats (141) last year. And now I've got less than 80 (79). Obviously, I would like to play and I do feel strongly about that. Then again, who am I going to play for?
"But there is one reason I feel better about this season in comparison to last season. We're right near first place."
For the last two-thirds of most Phillies' games, the place for Del Unser is in the clubhouse or the tunnel leading to the clubhouse. Contrary to widely held beliefs, pinch-hitters supreme do not chow down on the bench or engage in games of canasta.
From the third inning on, Unser leads the left-handed hitting brigade – a group which also includes Greg Gross and George Vukovich – through a time-honored, if not revered, routine.
"WE COME IN HERE and swing, do some stretching, especially when we're behind," said Unser, who boasts seven career pinch-homers. "Mostly, we give each other a hard time.
"All the players on the bench hang together pretty well. You have to encourage these guys. And let's face it: I need encouragement, too, even though I've been around for so long. When you've started six or seven games all year, you're not getting a whole lot of action. It's tough to stay sharp.
"But something like this feels wonderful, gives you a wealth of confidence."
Dallas Green's basic strategy with his lefty pinch-swingers is to use Vukovich (10-for-38) in the middle innings and save Unser and Gross (8-for-31) for magic moments.
Unser normally gets the call when the pitcher throws so fast, the ball appears more like a marble. Also when a long ball is desired. Gross mostly leads off an inning.
"Regardless of what kind of groove I'm in, if a guy just throws fastballs, I'm probably going to hit him," Del noted. "But my fourth pinch-hit homer last year was off a (Jim) Bibby curve ball.
"With this guy (Berenguer), I can't even take a full swing. I have to flip the bat through in a hurry. I can't take any time back here (near shoulders) or the ball will be by me."
FOUR SEASONS AGO, a pitched ball that did not get by Unser started his journey from full-time status with the Mets to part-time status with Montreal and later the Phillies.
He was hit on his throwing arm and, by his own admission, did a dumb thing and volunteered to stay in the lineup.
"My average went from something like .315 to .200," Unser said. "The Mets sent me to Montreal and with those good, young outfielders, I knew I wasn't going to play. So I took a lot of ground balls at first and caddied for Tony Perez.
"It seems ironic now, but I wanted to leave Montreal so I could play on a team with a chance to win something. Hopefully, we're going to win something here."
Maybe even a pennant, that tri-cornered hunk of cloth which the winning teams like to drape from their flagpoles. Somehow, Del Unser can recall what one looks like.
Phils Could Host Playoff with Expos
NEW YORK (UPI) – A coin toss has been used to determine the sites in the event a one-game tie-breaker is needed to settle a divisional championship in the National League.
In the Eastern Division, the possibilities are Montreal at the Phillies, Pittsburgh at Montreal and the Phils at Pittsburgh.
Houston at Los Angeles, Cincinnati at Houston and Cincinnati at Los Angeles are the possible Western Division combinations.
The games would be played Oct. 6 and begin 1 p.m. local time.
NL East Race: Take Your Pick
Al Michaels has a good sense of timing. During his first three years as a baseball announcer in Cincinnati the Reds went to the National League playoffs twice (1972-73), once to the World Series (72). During his first extended experience as a hockey announcer – at the Lake Placid Winter Olympics – the underdog United States beat the Soviet Union and won the gold medal.
Michaels, in his fourth year as a baseball and college football announcer for ABC also is somewhat of a prophet based on a statement he made earlier this summer on a WCAU radio talk show.
"It's kind of funny." said Michaels, who will handle the Reds-Dodgers telecast in Cincinnati Sunday with analyst Bob Uecker. "I was on a sports talk show in Philadelphia right after the All-Star break. Somebody called and asked me to predict what would happen. At that point I said Kansas City was a shoo-in because nobody in the division could possibly catch them. The Yankees then had an 11-game lead, and I thought they would win it, but before it was over Baltimore would give them a pretty good battle.
"In the National League I said the East would probably go down to the last couple of days, if not the last day. And in the West, I picked Cincinnati"
SO FAR, SO good for Michaels, with the exception of his old team – Cincinnati. "I still think the Reds are going to be there. They still have the two big, back-to-back series with the Dodgers."
But what Philadelphia fans want to know is: Who will win the mad scramble for the NL East flag nobody seems to want? We'll have a better idea after watching the Phillies chief combatants slug it out tomorrow and Sunday. The Pirates meet the Expos in Montreal tomorrow on NBC (Channel 3, 2:15 p.m.) and on ABC Sunday (Channel 6, 2 p.m.).
The Pirates have played miserably the last two weeks. But, incredibly, the Bucs have stayed within striking distance of the Expos and Phillies.
"The Pirates have been terrible," said Michaels. "Willie Stargell has been out, Dave Parker's knee is only about 75 percent, the bullpen has been spotty. But they're still very much in the race. That can't auger well for the other two clubs. The Pirates are too good of a team to keep falling on their faces like they've been doing.
“BUT YOU MIGHT as well flip a coin in that race. As I said earlier in the season, it's the one race that has a chance of going right down to the last day. The Expos, Phillies and Pirates, there's no way you can say one team is a whole lot better than the other. I really think that, man-for-man, those three teams are better than any team in the National League West. It might be a key injury that decides that race."
Tomorrow. Michaels will do play-by-play for the Michigan State-Illinois football game. Last year, he worked 11 college games for ABC. But he misses the day-to-day drama of a baseball pennant race.
"I love baseball," said Michaels. "In many ways I miss doing it every day. It's my favorite sport. It's the one sport I derive the most satisfaction from doing."
Tube Sports (Excerpt)
Compiled by Gene Quinn and Mike Kaine
Youth Has Served
The Phils' gutty assault on the National League East Division pennant can be summed up in one word – youth. Catcher-pinch hitter Keith Moreland. starting pitcher Bob Walk, reliever Dick Noles and outfielder Lonnle Smith are rookies who have brought the Phils to the verge of a division title.
Now, you can add the name of righthander Marty Bystrom to that list. Bystrom, a youngster who would have made the squad had he not suffered a leg injury during spring training, dazzled the Mets the other night with a five-hit shutout in his major league debut. Against the Cardinals Sunday, he opposes righty Silvio Martinez.
The Phils don't have to win 'em all, it would seem, to stay in the race. But a few wins against the going-nowhere Cards this weekend certainly would take the heat off the Phils in the six remaining games against Montreal.
Astros’ J.R. Going Home
HOUSTON (UPI) – Houston Astros pitcher J.R. Richard, hospitalized since suffering a near-fatal stroke late July, will be discharged from Houston Methodist Hospital today and return to his home.
"He will continue to undergo treatment as an outpatient for an indefinite period of time," an Astros spokesman said.
The spokesman added doctors felt Richard has made enough progress to return home and not be confined to the hospital. He will be treated by the same team of doctors that attended him in the hospital.
Richard had been allowed out of the hospital for brief periods, such as a ride in the car, a meal, or a visit ' with his teammates on off-days.
There were three winners last night in the Daily News Home Run Payoff contest. In the eighth inning of the Phillies-Mets game, winners of four tickets each to a Phillies game were George Dennis of Westmont, Jean Hill of Ridley Park and Philadelphians Jacqueline Johnson and George Cherry.
To date, the Daily News has paid out $16,705.
Today's entry coupon appears on this page.