Philadelphia Inquirer - September 2, 1980

Boys of September:  Christenson, Walk, Ruthven, Carlton


By Jayson Stark, Inquirer Staff Writer


SAN FRANCISCO – For a long time, Dallas Green treated this season as it it were one big test tube. But yesterday, the coming of September round Green's Phillies in first place. So, there will be no more experimenting from here on. Green wants to win.


Green announced step No. 1 in his stretch-drive strategy yesterday. It's known as the four-man pitching rotation.


Nino Espinosa and his flutterballs are out of there. Randy Lerch and his quest to be a five-game winner are defunct. The see-whether-Marty-Bystrom-can-win-up-here operation is on hold.


It will be Larry Christenson, Dick Ruthven, Bob Walk and Steve Carlton every fourth day the rest of the way, assuming the God of Bicycle Caravans doesn't strike one of them down.


"We've talked it over with the four guys involved," Green said. "They're ready to do it. And they're the four guys we want out there.


"I think the four-day thing will help three of them. And Lefty feels it won't hurt him at all. He's always liked a four-man rotation anyway."


Carlton, in fact, is 7-0 in games in which he has worked on three days' rest this year.


Green thinks a four-man plan will help the control of the other three – "especially Bobby Walk. I think if we get him out there quicker, it won't give him so many days to think about what's going on."


Another reason Green feels he can go to the four-man rotation is Ruthven's full recovery from elbow surgery. Ruthven "felt he needed the extra day early," Green said. "But he feels he can handle it now."


Christenson kicks off the new system against Vida Blue tonight. He replaces Bystrom, who had been scheduled to make his first big-league start.


NOTES: Garry Maddox said he went to Green before the game and offered to apologize to the team for losing those two flies in the sun Sunday. But Green said that wouldn't be necessary.... National League leaders in runs produced going into yesterday: Keith Hernandez 159, Mike Schmidt 142, George Hendrick 138, Pete Rose 134.

Phillies defeat Giants, move into 1st


Carlton wins, 6-4, for 21st


By Jayson Stark, Inquirer Staff Writer


SAN FRANCISCO – It was clear by early yesterday afternoon that Bert Blyleven, Ron LeFlore, Nino Espinosa, the Pittsburgh Parrot, Prime Minister Trudeau and the population of Section 518 at the Vet weren't doing much to take control of the National League East pennant race.


Therefore, Paul Owens apparently decided it was up to him.


General managers can't put on sunglasses and catch fly balls to center. General managers can't add 20 m.p.h. to Espinosa's fastball. General managers can't throw out Gene Richards, Rodney Scott or Omar Moreno when they're trying to steal second.


What general managers can do is talk. So before the Phillies went out to play the Giants yesterday, Owens marched into the clubhouse, closed the door and started talking.


Transcripts were not available. But it can be assumed that Owens did not perform a medley of hit songs by the Carpenters.


What he did do was ream the team out for its shoddy play of late. Thus inspired, the Phils charged out and forced the Giants to commit three errors, make two wild pitches and leave eight men on base. All of which resulted in a 6-4 win that made Steve Carlton 21-7 and moved them into first place in the pulseless NL East by the enormous margin of .001.


"Out of bad things sometimes come good things," said a cryptic Dallas Green, who only a day earlier had been accusing his team of "turning off the faucet."


"And I think out of (Sunday's) game, we got some positive things done, teamwise. I think we're closer together as a ball club right now than we have been in a long time."


Green hinted that it was Owens' pregame address that had caused this newfound closeness. The reason Owens' words were so effective, Green seemed to think, was that they weren't coming from his own worn-out larynx.


"They've been hearing it from me all year," the manager said. "All Paul wanted to do was just say the people involved recognize what we're trying to do – and have said publicly that's what they want to do. And that's win. Hopefully, that will carry over for the next 30 days."


Owens isn't the kind of GM who storms into his clubhouse every two days. But he isn't the kind of GM players wouldn't know from Deng Xiaopeng, either. His players know he cares about them. And so they listen when he fires up his speechmaking engines.


"He said we played the last five months for somebody else," said Pete Rose. "And now he wants us to play the last month for him and Ruly (Carpenter). They're the ones who put this team together. They're the ones who stuck with this team over the winter.


“You know, not all general managers will scold a team," said Rose. "But Pope's more like a player's general manager. He's such a fan. And he loves so many guys on this team. He signed them up. He put them through the minors. He's more like a father to this team than a general manager.... I think he means more to this team than other general managers do to theirs.


"He just hates to see us play bad. He hates to see us play non-aggressive, lackadaisical. And when he speaks, all the ballplayers know he didn't go to Harvard or Yale. He speaks a ballplayer's language."


Rose described Owens' mood during the talk as "angry." But he also described it as "constructive." The underlying theme was that he believes in this club and its ability to take charge of a race which has come down to who can lose the least.


"Even if we got beat today," said Rose, "we were gonna play aggressively."


They almost took that message too literally. Bob Boone got thrown out trying to score from second on an infield single. Rose also got nailed at the plate after he'd been sent on a one-out grounder with the infield in.


Mike Schmidt got picked off first. Lonnie Smith charged into second so hard on a sixth-inning stolen-base try that he slid right past the bag after making it and got tagged out.


With stuff like that going on, it makes you wonder how the Phillies finally managed to win this thing. Well, the Giants helped.


After Carlton had allowed a first-inning run, Rennie Stennett threw away a sure double-play ball by Larry Bowa in the second to let the Phils tie it.


Then, with two on and two out in a 2-2 game in the fifth, Bowa swatted a line-drive single to center that scored Greg Luzinski from second with the go-ahead run. Manny Trillo distracted Giants centerfielder Bill North from throwing to the plate by taking a big turn around second. Whereupon North heaved the ball 25 feet over the head of third baseman Joe Pettini. And Trillo scored to make it 4-2.


But though Carlton fanned nine and pitched out of numerous jams, this wasn't his best day, either. Earlier, he had helped the Giants tie the game at 2-2 by not covering first on a tricky bouncer to Rose. And in the seventh, he got himself into a dilemma he couldn't get out of.


Joe Strain started it with a pinch single. North walked. Pettini made a daring two-strike bunt, moving the runners to second and third. Jim Wohlford made it 4-3 with a sacrifice fly. Mike Ivie singled, and it was 4-4.


But with one out in the eighth, Bowa chopped his second single of the day into the shortstop hole. The Giants' bullpen ace, Greg Minton, wild-pitched him to second. And Boone put the Phils on top again with an RBI single. Until then, Minton hadn't allowed an earned run in 12 games.


Boone was ultimately thrown out at the plate trying to score from second after Johnnie LeMaster made a tumbling stop on Carlton's single to deep short. But Minton wild-pitched Carlton to second. And when Stennett booted Greg Gross' routine grounder, Carlton loped in with the insurance run.


And so the Phillies grabbed the handle on the slippery NL East. Now, is what they need to hold it a Papal pep talk and a newfound closeness?


"When the Pope came down here, all it told me was what I already knew that we weren't playing very well the last couple days," Rose said. "If you've got something to say like that, it's better to get it to the top before you approach big week like we've got coming up.


"Somebody on these three teams is gonna have to make up their minds they're the ones that want it and just make the big move. And it might as well be us."