Reading Eagle - September 12, 1980
Schmidt Starts Things Off
NEW YORK (AP) – The Philadelphia Phillies may think baseball is a fun game, but don’t tell that to the New York Mets.
“It’s a great feeling to be an integral part of a team that has a chance to win it all,” said Mike Schmidt after smashing his 38th home run of the season in Philadelphia’s 5-1 victory over the Mets Thursday night.
And the Phillies certainly do have a chance to win it all.
With 23 games left in the season, the Phillies trail the first-place Montreal Expos by one-half game in the National League East, although they are even in the loss column. Pittsburgh is in third place, another three games back.
“A pennant race seems like an eternity, then all of a sudden there are only three games left,” Schmidt added.
That’s how many games the Mets must wish were left in the season.
New York has now lost 12 games in a row – its longest losing streak since 1963 – and 24 of its last 27. It’s a streak that has left Manager Joe Torre frustrated.
“We’re flat. We’re not scoring runs and everybody’s confidence is shaky. Tension is the biggest problem and everybody is feeling it,” Torre said.
Mets starter Ray Burris, 7-11, didn’t show any tension early, retiring the first 11 Philadelphia batters before Schmidt’s fourth-inning homer gave the Phillies a 1-0 lead.
“I thought it was a big home run at the time because Burris was pitching well,” said Schmidt. “He was relaxed and getting the guys out.”
The Mets tied it in the fifth off Phillies starter Dick Ruthven, 15-9, on Joel Youngblood’s bases-loaded sacrifice fly. It broke a 24-inning scoreless skein for the Mets, dating back to last Sunday.
But Ruthven took matters into his own hands – or bat – in the sixth. He doubled with one out, advancing to third on Pete Rose’s single and scored the game-winning run on Bake McBride’s sacrifice fly.
Ruthven was just as impressive on the mount, striking out eight and walking two in eight innings.
“I had good stuff in the bullpen warming up but when I got to the mound, I had no breaking ball,” said Ruthven.
It didn’t seem to matter.
Ruthven was removed for pinch hitter Del Unser in the ninth when the Phillies added insurance runs on Unser’s double and Rose’s two-run single.
The Mets biggest outbreak of the day may have come in the clubhouse before the game when Frank Taveras got into a scuffle with first base coach Joe Pignatano over the shortstop being left out of the lineup.
“It was stopped fairly quickly and nobody was hurt,” said Torre. “It goes along with the losing streak. Tension is the biggest thing, maybe some fights will help us.”