Philadelphia Inquirer - September 18, 1980
Phils steal past Bucs in 11, 5-4
McGraw gets win, Lyle save
By Jayson Stark, Inquirer Staff Writer
PITTSBURGH – Normally, you'd have a better shot trying to mug Bruno Sammartino than take a three-run lead away from Steve Carlton.
So when the Phillies handed Carlton a 4-1 pad in the seventh inning last night, they went about their usual procedures for closing up shop.
They ran in their defensive replacements. They got Tug McGraw loose just in case. Then they sat back to watch Carlton close out win No. 23. In 33 previous starts, Carlton never had squandered any pad bigger than two runs. But he did this time.
It wasn't supposed to take 11 innings for the Phillies to squirm away with a big 5-4 win over the Pirates. It wasn't supposed to take Garry Maddox' finest Omar Moreno impression. It wasn't supposed to take Del Unser's biggest pinch-hit of the year or Sparky Lyle's 240th lifetime save, either.
But regardless of what it took, the Phils still managed to hang within a game and a half of the Expos. And maybe, just maybe, it was a win that enabled them to wave goodbye to the Pirates in the NL East race. (The Bucs are 3½ games behind them now.) And don't think they aren't too happy to do that.
"I'm sure they're hoping Montreal and us are going to trade shots at each other, and they're going to keep sneaking up," said Dallas Green. "But it's tough to climb over two clubs.
"They're a good baseball team, though. They can do it. I think they're over their trouble spots now. But it's still going to be tough."
The Pirates might not have Wilver Stargell's bat or a bunch of wives discoing on the dugout these days, But heart they've got. They showed that in their dramatic three-run, gold-star seventh.
It was 4-1, Phillies, as the inning began. Pirates starter Bert Blyleven, who has never beaten the Phillies, was gone by then. He had given up three in the fifth on a bases-loaded walk to Mike Schmidt and Greg Luzinski's two-run double. Then Maddox' superlative juking on a rundown play enabled Carlton to knock in the fourth run with a sacrifice fly in the sixth.
Carlton, meanwhile, had a four-hitter working. He had been touched only for a Lee Lacy homer and hadn't run a single 2-and-0, 3-and-0 or 3-and-1 count all night.
But crash. Bill Robinson thumped a leadoff homer, and it was 4-2. It was the first time this year Carlton had thrown two gopherballs in the same game.
Then he gave up two-out singles to Phil Garner and Steve Nicosia. First and third. And up marched one of the best-kept pinch-hitting secrets in the game, Kurt Bevacqua (11-for-55,.309, 11 RBIs this year).
He and Carlton yanked at each other over a nine-pitch tug o'war. Bevacqua hung in there and finally scorched a two-run double just over Greg Gross' glove in left-center.
So suddenly, the Phils had to win it all over again. They couldn't do that against the agonizing Enrique Romo, though they got Pete Rose to second against him in the ninth.
Thus Carlton left with another no-decision. And that meant somebody was going to have to become the first Phillies pitcher besides him to beat the Pirates in Pittsburgh since April, 1979. That somebody turned out to be Tug McGraw (2-4).
McGraw threw a 1-2-3 ninth. Then he survived a touchy 10th, after a pinch single by John Milner and pinch-runner Vance Law's first big-league stolen base. McGraw has been scored on in only three of his last 24 outings.
He kept it tied into the 11th. Then Maddox ripped a leadoff single through the middle against Kent Tekulve, and the Phils had their shot. They won it, in the end, the way the Pirates have killed them a million times in the past.
Green flashed Maddox the steal sign. He waited two pitches and swiped second. Gross, batting in the No. 7 spot occupied by Larry Bowa before he left with a strained hamstring, couldn't move him. So, on an 0-2 pitch to Bob Boone, Maddox gambled.
He has watched Tekulve throw his endless procession of dancing sinkers long enough to know when they are coming. He knew there was time to steal third if he got the right one at the right time. So he waited, then broke for third on his own and made it.
"Normally," Maddox said, "his sinker moves just as much as anyone else's breaking ball. And he's going to throw that most of the time. So you know what kind of pitch it will be. You just have to gel a good jump.... And he's got to just worry about making good pitches there. He can't adjust to me on the bases."
Tekulve rebounded to fan Boone. But he still had to get Unser, who was batting for McGraw.
"He's been tough for me, no doubt about it," Unser said. "I think I got a double off him in spring training once, but that's about it.
"You can't think about trying to hit the ball real hard off him, because his ball moves too much. The first pitch he threw me was in. The second one was an inch or two outside, maybe even more. He can throw that one to me 99 times out of a hundred, and I'm not going to hit it."
But Unser went out and got this one, slapping it professionally into left. Maddox loped in. And all that remained was for Lyle to hold it.
He did. He walked Robinson with one out. But Bill Madlock lined to right, Lee Lacy bounced to Mike Schmidt and Lyle had his first National League save.
"I'm still throwing pretty horse-crap right now," Lyle said. "So as soon as I got out there, from the first warmup, I just started throwing all sliders. That's all I could do. A few of them backed up and went the other way. But that's OK, as long as they do something."
Which is about the way the Phillies feel about a win in Pittsburgh. Skip the awful details, take the W and run.
NOTES: Larry Christenson threw before the.game, but throwing is not Christenson's problem. "He can throw fine," said Dallas Green. "He just can't walk off the mound."... The Pirates may be down, but they still have the best record of any NL East team within the division. After last night's games they were 44-30 (.595) against the other NL East teams. The Expos were 40-34 (.541), the Phillies 38-35 (.521)…. The Pirates also have a record of 104-51 in regular-season games at Three Rivers after Sept. 1. And 10 of their last 16 games are at home.... Matchups in Chicago: Bob Walk (10-5) vs. Rick Reuschel (11-11) tomorrow, Bystrom (2-0) vs. Lynn McGlothen (10-12) Saturday, Ruthven vs. Dennis Ump (10-11) Sunday.
This time, Phils ruin the Fam-a-lee picnic
By Frank Dolson, Inquirer Sports Editor
PITTSBURGH – The music was still playing in the Pittsburgh clubhouse late last night, but the volume was turned down. For the 1979 baseball champions, this was a time for reflection, not a time to fill the air with happy, raucous sounds.
The Fam-a-lee is going to break up a little early this year. No playoffs. No World Series. No happy wives dancing on the dugout on clinching day. What happened last night at Three Rivers Stadium virtually guaranteed that.
"If we don't win tonight we have to say, 'Please, help us. Everybody, please help us,' " Chuck Tanner said before sending his troops out against Steve Carlton.
Well, they didn't win – but they went down the way you'd expect to see a championship team go down. They rallied from three runs behind to tie Steve Carlton, the best pitcher in the league. They had the Phillies on the ropes, and they were dangerously close to putting them away.
In fact, for a moment or two, Tanner thought his team had pulled out the desperately needed victory. Steve Nicosia, of all people – a.198 hitter when the game began – hit Tug McGraw's second pitch of the 10th inning on a high arc to deep left.
"I thought when he hit it, it was going out," Tanner said. "But it didn't go. Maybe he got it up a little high on the bat."
A year ago, he would have gotten the sweet part of the bat on the ball. But that was the Pirates' year. This is the year of the Expos or the Phillies.
Last year, guys named Ed Ott and John Milner were slugging dramatic, game-winning home runs for the Pirates against the Phillies.
Last night, a guy named Del Unser lofted a Kent Tekulve sinker into short left-center field with two out and Garry Maddox on third in the 11th inning for the Phillies against the Pirates.
"Right where I wanted it," sighed Tekulve, who had put down a ninth-inning Phillies rally the night before. "The pitch was low and away. He hit it off the end of his bat. It was the pitch I was trying to make. Either he hit a good pitch or I threw the wrong pitch. I've got to think he hit a good pitch. That's the chance you take when you go out there. You've got to give guys credit when they hit good pitches."
It was a night with plenty of credit to go around – for the winners, who thrust themselves back into the thick of the title chase, and for the losers, who all but dropped out of it.
"When everybody tries hard... that's all you can ask of anybody," Tanner said softly and repeatedly in his office after Sparky Lyle had stamped out the last Pittsburgh ember. "I'm just as proud of my team today as I was yesterday when we won."
But his pride in Pittsburgh's ability to muster a late-game rally against Carlton was muted by his disappointment in the final outcome... and what that failure meant to his team's chances.
As Tanner sat there, behind his desk, patiently answering questions, Pirates super scout Howie Haak plopped down in a chair next to him, pulled a bottle of bourbon out of a brown paper bag and poured himself a stiff shot. "Dammit," the white-haired scout muttered under his breath.
Tanner nodded almost imperceptibly. "It's a tough one," he said. "Any time you have a loss now it's tough, because you're running out of ball games."
He had permitted the righthanded Tekulve to pitch to the lefthanded Unser in that crucial 11th-inning spot, rather than bring in lefty Grant Jackson, because the Phillies had a pair of dangerous, ,300-plus right-handed hitters waiting on the bench.
"I felt they'd use (Keith) Moreland or (Lonnie) Smith (if Jackson replaced Tekulve," Tanner said. "With Moreland and Smith on the bench, I'd rather stay with Tekulve against Unser."
But this is 1980, not 1979. Unser got the big hit. He didn't hit it terribly hard or terribly far, just hard enough and far enough to set up the Fam-a-lee for an early October vacation.
After what the Phillies have gone through in this stadium the last few years... and after what they went through in the seventh inning last night, Unser's game-winning hit was a thing of extraordinary beauty.
Greg Luzinski, whose two-out, bases-loaded smash rifled high off the left-field fence for a two-run double in the fifth, stood in front of his locker after taking his postgame shower and couldn't help but reflect on some of the crazy things that had happened here.
He thought about the nightmarish doubleheader the Phillies lost here two years ago – on a ninth-inning fly ball that landed between two outfielders, and a ninth-inning balk... about the crushing, five-game sweep the Pirates had pulled off last year with a succession of mind-boggling rallies... and the near-crushing, four-game sweep that left the Phillies reeling last month.
And then, to top it off, there was Tuesday night's agonizing ninth-inning failure, and last night's stunning Pirates comeback against Carlton.
"We've scuffled here so many times," Luzinski said. "In this park so many things have happened to us. I think it would've been easy for this team to really die when Carlton gives up the (tying) runs."
But this is 1980, not 1979, and the Phillies didn't die. They got the relief pitching they needed from McGraw and Lyle, the stolen bases they needed from Garry Maddox, the hit they needed from Del Unser... and they stayed very much alive.
On this memorable night at Three Rivers Stadium, it was the Pirates who died.