Philadelphia Inquirer - September 17, 1980
Bucs, Bibby delay Phils’ charge, 3-2
By Jayson Stark, Inquirer Staff Writer
PITTSBURGH – A lot of Phillies losses in Three Rivers Stadium have simply been scripted in Hollywood. They were familiar, slide-down-the-chute tragedies. You had seen them a million times, like a well-worn Western.
Then there are other nights – nights when they just get beat. Last night was such a night. The Pirates won, 3-2, in a game they had to win. They are 2½ games behind the Phillies now. They don't have that many chances left. (They have 17 games to go, the Phillies 18.)
They won this one for good reasons. They won because Jim Bibby (17-5) was better than Dick Ruthven (15-10). They won because Kent Tekulve finally pitched 'like Kent Tekulve. They won because Mike Easier and Bill Madlock can hit. They won because Dave, Parker made a great catch. They just won. That's all.
Maybe they won simply because it was Three Rivers Stadium, too. You can never count that angle out. The Phillies are 30-68 there since it opened. Since 1976, they are 8-26 there in games after July. This year they are 1-7.
"Yeah, this place has been a graveyard for us this year," said Dallas Green in a tone that wasn't very funereal. "But we've only got one more left here. And we've got Lefty going. And we'll play some offense. We'll be all right."
In a lot of ways, this loss will be easier to forget than many others in the same arena. No critical balks to agonize over. No explosion of Pirates stolen bases. No grand slams.
But then there is that ninth inning. One second the game was theirs to take. The next, Tekulve was watching a two-out pop-up come down, shaking a fist, jumping in the air. Bibby took a two-hitter into the ninth. He had Mike Schmidt 1-and-2. He had struck Schmidt out with a scorching slider earlier.
"I was trying to make the same pitch," he said. "I just left it out over the plate and up. I don't even think he had that good a swing at the ball. But strong as he is...."
Strong as he is, Schmidt crashed it to left-center for his third homer off Bibby this year (No. 39 overall). And the Phils were within a run.
Bibby started to press. Greg Luzinski walked. Jay Loviglio ran for him. Del Unser (batting for Manny Trillo) walked. Bob Dernier ran for him. On came Tekulve, whose last save was Aug. 22.
Garry Maddox bunted. Tekulve slipped, bounced his throw to first and Phil Garner made a tough scoop. One out. Second and third.
Larry Bowa was the hitter. The word "squeeze" popped into Green's head. He let it drift out again. Bowa swung away.
"All he's got. to do is pull the ball, and we're going to get the run in," Green said. "Or at least it's first and third. I figured, he beat Tekulve before with a base hit. He chopped a ball over the first baseman's head last week to win one. I figured that's what he had on his mind again."
On the mound, Tekulve knew that, too. He also remembered the Phillies squeezing in the winning run in the 14th inning last week.
"We talked about it," Tekulve said. "It's always something you keep in the back of your mind. But you can't make pitches solely against the squeeze. So my main concern was just making good pitches on him."
Tekulve could still see Bowa bouncing that baseball high over John Milner's head at first eight days earlier. Whatever he did this time, he would try to keep the ball away from him.
This time, Tekulve made his pitch. Bowa popped a fly ball to short center on the first pitch. That was the second out. the biggest out.
"I think," said Green, "a little bit more patience in that particular situation might have helped. He knows Tekulve is a sinkerball pitcher. He knows he's going to keep it away from him. But then, if he smacks one in the gap, nobody even asks the question, do they?"
An instant later, it was over. Bob Boone popped to second. Three out. Another Three Rivers visit, another L.
The second-guessers trooped toward Green's office. Why not squeeze for the tie on the road?
"We wanted two runs, not one," Green said. "We get greedy every now and then in that situation."
Why not pinch-hit for Boone? "If we pinch-hit for Booney, then they walk him, and then what do you do?" Green demanded. "You pinch-hit for the pitcher, right? Except I'm running out of pinch-hitters.
"Look," Green said, finally, "there comes a time where the personnel you put out there are supposed to win games for you. They didn't do it tonight. So we just have to wait until tomorrow."
The first eight innings were less juicy. Ruthven was attempting to become the first Phillies righthander to win in Pittsburgh since August, 1978. He wasn't great, but he kept them in it.
The Pirates got a run in the second on doubles by Easier and Madlock. But Ed Ott also left Madlock on third with one out. That never happened in August.
Four more singles in the third made it 3-0. Then Ruthven came around and held them, with an assist to Omar Moreno, who got thrown out stealing third in the seventh with Parker at the plate and Easier on deck. Sparky Lyle pitched a scoreless eighth.
But could the Phillies get to Bibby? They almost had a run in the third. But Parker made a tumbling catch on Pete Rose's two-out liner, with Bowa running from second.
The Phillies used a walk, a hit batter and Garry Maddox's broken-bat single to climb within 3-1 in the fourth. But Bibby ended that inning by getting Boone with the bases loaded. The Phillies never had another runner until the ninth.
A month ago, Bibby was 15-2, looking like a 20-game winner if not a Cy Young award winner. Then came a strange incident in which he blacked out on a plane, followed by one shaky win in five starts.
But last night, his tough slider was back, guys had to stop looking fast-, ball and he was mean again. He doesn't think about winning the Cy Young anymore. He hardly even thinks about winning 20.
"I'm thinking," he said, "about trying to get us back in the pennant race."
It will take more than a win tonight. It will take a lot more. It will take more, certainly, than handing the Phillies another case of Three Rivers Disease. And maybe that is the hardest fact the Pirates must face.
In desperate hours, Pirates find relief
By Frank Dolson, Inquirer Sports Editor
PITTSBURGH – This was the night Chuck Tanner stopped acting like the cockeyed optimist he is and laid it right on the line. No more of the “if-we-don’t-do-it-tonight-we’ll-get-‘em-tomorrow” promises. No more of the "anything-can-happen" lines.
"Our position now is very simple," the manager of the world champion Pittsburgh Pirates said before last night's 3-2 fingernail-biter over the Phillies. "We've got to win. We've just got to win."
And a couple of hours later there was Jim Bibby, the towering, flame-throwing righthander, doing what he had to do to keep Pirate hopes alive, rolling into the ninth inning with a two-hit, 3-1 victory in the making.
Out in deep left field, beyond the fence in foul territory, Kent Tekulve, the skin-and-bones relief specialist, was doing what he usually does at times like this. Under ordinary circumstances, one slip by Bibby in the ninth, one Phillie baserunner, and Tanner would wave for Tekulve. But these were not ordinary circumstances.
Even though Bibby had not gone nine innings since Aug. 10, even though he had not lasted more than six innings in any one of his last five starts, even though Mike Schmidt started the Phillies' ninth by booming a 1-2 pitch high over the left-center field fence to cut the Pirates' lead to one run, Tanner did not move out of the dugout.
And he stayed there when Bibby, after getting two quick strikes on Greg Luzinski, eventually walked him.
Kent Tekulve, after all, had been struggling, too. His last save came on Aug. 22. The last time he tried to salvage one against the Phillies, one week earlier at the Vet, Schmidt had greeted him with a triple and Luzinski had followed with a line-drive single.
But finally, after Bibby walked pinch-hitter Del Unser on four pitches, Tanner could wait no longer.
His bullpen had carried him to the world championship in '79, and if it didn't recover in the final weeks of the '80 season – well, there was always '81.
"I believe you build a pitching staff from the bullpen backwards," Tanner likes to say.
And now the erstwhile ace of his bullpen was getting yet another chance to slam the door on the Phillies, and to keep it ajar for the Pirates in their suddenly longshot bid to repeat.
Tekulve was standing out there, beyond the left-field fence, hands on hips, watching the final pitch to Unser. He was ready.
A man needs confidence to be a great relief pitcher, and surely some of Tekulve's confidence had to be shaken in these last few weeks.
But in this do-it-or-forget-it situation for the Pirates, he did it. OK, his feet slipped out from under on while fielding Garry Maddox' sacrifice bunt, and he almost threw the ball away, but Phil Garner fielded the throw on one bounce for the out. Maybe that was the tipoff that Tekulve's luck had changed.
He got Larry Bowa on a short fly to center – at a time when everybody in the ballpark was thinking squeeze, then turned around and took a deep breath. A very deep breath.
"I was sort of trying to relax myself," he said. "You don't want to get too pumped up."
After the third out, though – a soft pop fly off the bat of Bob Boone – Tekulve let his emotions go hog wild. He thrust his arms over his head, He wore the kind of triumphant smile reserved for special moments.
For Tekulve, and for the Pirates, this was a special moment.
"It's been a while," the relief pitcher said.
And so, the Phillies' big chance to pull out a last-inning victory in a stadium where they seldom pull out any kind of victory vanished.
Thank Bibby for that. And Tekulve. And Dave Parker, who forgot about his bad knee long enough to make a diving, backhanded, run-saving stab of a Pete Rose smash to right center.
"I didn't see the ball until the last second," Parker said. "I ducked down, under the (glare of) the Lights and I saw it and I made a desperation-dive…."
To understand how desperate, it was only necessary to look at Kent Tekulve in the minutes immediately following his long overdue 20th save.
He was ushered into a small room near the clubhouse, where he sat on a chair, put on a pair of earphones and waited to be interviewed on a postgame radio show.
This was the skinny guy with the iron constitution, one of the great clutch pitchers of recent years. He, sat there, waiting patiently, a paper cup filled with beer at his feet. Then, just before the interview began, he reached down and picked up the cup.
His hand was shaking.
Desperate situations take their tolls – even on the winners.
Status of Bystrom in playoffs unknown
By Jayson Stark, Inquirer Staff Writer
PITTSBURGH – Sparky Lyle has pitched in six playoff games and four World Series games in his day. But he won't be pitching in any for the Phillies this year.
Marty Bystrom has pitched in no playoff games, no World Series games and in only three big-league games of any kind. There is a chance he might find himself pitching before Joe and Tony and billions of other people coast-to-coast this October. But that is not exactly a sure thing.
There was a report yesterday that the National League already had approved Bystrom's eligibility for postseason play this year. But Dallas Green said last night that wasn't the case.
Green said that Bystrom had not been approved yet, and neither he nor team vice president Paul Owens had even asked the league to approve him. Also, it wasn't exactly as if the Phillies are a foregone bet to participate in the postseason in the first place.
"Hell, Marty Bystrom's liable to have a broken thumb or something by then," Green bellowed before last night's Phillies-Pirates game. "And we're not even there yet, are we? I'm gonna worry about getting us there first."
That is not to say that Bystrom will not be eligible, however. Teams with injury problems traditionally have been able to add players from their farm system for the playoffs and Series.
Just last fall, Cincinnati replaced the injured Bill Bonham with rookie pitcher Charlie Leibrandt on its playoff roster. If Larry Christenson is unable to pitch by then this year, which is a possibility, the Phillies might want to replace him on the roster with Bystrom.
Phillies vice president Bill Giles got curious about all this the other day. So he called league president Chub Feeney to ask about Bystrom and Lyle.
He was told Bystrom probably would be eligible. But nobody has ever been able to use a guy obtained in a September trade in the playoffs or Series before. And Feeney said there was no way Lyle was going to be the first.
The only other Phillie whose postseason eligibility is unsure is reliever Kevin Saucier. Saucier was on the disabled list when postseason rosters were frozen Aug. 31. But the rule is that he could replace any player, injured or healthy, pitcher or non-pitcher, on the roster.