Wilmington Evening Journal - September 12, 1980
Ruthven reaches back to pick up Phillies
By Hal Bodley, Sports Editor
NEW YORK – For the Mets, it was just another nothing game as they play out the September string of another losing season.
For the Phillies, it was another crucial night, the kind of game they cannot afford to lose as they chase the National League Eastern Division title.
It was a night when Dick Ruthven didn't have it. But it was a night when the right-hander kept reaching back for a big pitch and finding it, and the result was a 5-1 Phillies' victory.
When Ruthven left for pinch-hitter Del Unser in the ninth inning, the Phils were ahead 2-1 and the scoreboard in right field told them Montreal and Pittsburgh were well on their way to victory.
"These are the kinds of games you just have to win down the stretch," Pete Rose said after he drove in two runs in a three-run ninth with a clutch single. "It's OK to go out, play your butts off, but you cannot cough up games like this one. You just can't."
"For the first few innings I had no breaking ball at all," said Ruthven, who allowed eight hits and struck out eight. "I just had to challenge them with my fastball and they knew it was coming."
There was a time when Dick Ruthven would not have won last night's game. Knowing he did not have his act completely together, he probably would have gotten down on himself and even a team as weak as the Mets would have taken advantage of it.
"He showed me something tonight," said Manager Dallas Green as he prepared for the long bus ride home. "He didn't start getting his breaking ball over until late in the game and just kept reaching back for a big pitch. When they scored their run in the fifth, I thought I was going to have to go out there and get him. I thought he had lost it."
But Green stuck with the righthander and after Tug McGraw put out a brush fire in the ninth when the Mets had two on and one out, Ruthven had his 15th victory compared to nine defeats.
Ray Burris, who gave up Mike Schmidt's 38th homer of the year in the sixth when the Phils took a 1-0 lead, suffered his 11th setback in 18 decisions.
"You have to give Ruthven a lot of credit," said Mets' Manager Joe Torre. "He kept his composure and kept working out of jams. To me, that is the key to being an outstanding pitcher. When you can win with less than your best stuff, you show me something. Burris did a good job, but we didn't give him much offensive support."
"Rufus had a lot of trouble with the mound here," said Green. "He had to pitch over a hump and this is tough for a guy who likes everything smooth and depends on keeping the ball down. I thought he was really popping his fastball."
Nobody will ever know what would have happened, but with Garry Maddox on second and Bob Boone on first and one out, Green decided to lift Ruthven and call on Unser. The left-handed pinch hitter drilled reliever Juan Berenguer's delivery to right field, allowing Maddox to score. Rose followed with his second hit of the night, a two-run single to center.
Before that, the Phils had managed just three hits off the two New York pitchers and Green was fearful the 2-1 lead wouldn't hold up.
"I just had a hunch Unser would come through," said the manager. "If he is ever going to get a big hit, it's going to be off somebody like Berenguer. Ruthven told me he was not tired and was ready to go the ninth, but I felt trying to get an extra run or two was more important."
McGraw hit Hubie Brooks to start the ninth and after Wally Bockman grounded out, Bill Almon singled to center, The Phillies' top reliever, however, got the next two outs and skipped off the Shea Stadium mound. He was not awarded a save because of the Phils' large lead.
"I guess I did think about the mound a little too much," said Ruthven. "It's a good mound, but it's steep. I had it in my mind when I went out there tonight I had to adjust to that. When I finally got my breaking ball over in the last part of the game, it was easier. Before that, I just challenged them with my fastball. I had to forget about my breaking pitch because that was what they got their first four or five hits off."
Schmidt's homer, a towering blast high over the left-field bullpen to the new picnic area in left field, gave the Phils a 1-0 lead in the fourth. The Mets, who had gone 24 innings without scoring, took advantage of a walk and singles by Almon and Mookie Wilson to pull even.
Rose delivered the key hit in the sixth when the Phils moved out 2-1.
Ruthven doubled down the right-field line with one out and Rose sent him to third with a single to right, after which Bake McBride lofted a sacrifice fly to center.
EXTRA POINTS The victory was the fourth straight for the Phils and seventh in a row at Shea They ended their season play at this park with a 8-1 record... They are 10-6 overall with the Mets... A coin flip was held in the National League office yesterday to determine games sites should the Eastern Division end in a tie... A one-game playoff will be held on Monday, Oct. 6 at 1 p m... If the Expos and Phillies tie, the playoff will be in Philadelphia... If the Phils and Pirates tie, it would be in Pittsburgh, and if the Expos and Pittsburgh tie, it would be in Montreal... The Phils face a grueling weekend against the Cardinals, beginning tonight with a double-header, at 5:35... Pete Vuckovlch (10-9) and rookie Al Olmsted (0-0) will face Bob Walk and Nino Espinosa tonight... Tomorrow night, It will be Steve Carlton and Bob Forsch (11-8).