Camden Courier-Post - September 20, 1980
Phils let one get away to Cubs
By Rusty Pray of the Courier-Post
CHICAGO – Like the time-honored fisherman who let the big one get away, the Phillies yesterday allowed the Chicago Cubs to slip off the hook.
Officially, it was Jerry Martin's pinchhit single to right off reliever Tug McGraw with one out in the bottom of the ninth that left the Phillies standing in Wrigley Field with an empty pole.
Martin, a former Phillie, put the finishing touches on a two-run rally that gave the Cubs a 4-3 win by slicing a 1-2 fastball to send Cliff Johnson home ahead of rightfielder Bake McBride's throw.
But there was more, much more, to a loss that left the Phillies 1½ games behind Montreal in the National League East Division pennant race. This was one of those "what-if, might-have-been" games that could return to haunt the Phils.
"Every loss will feel like this from now on," said Man ager Dallas Green. "It's something we'll have to handle. You know you're not going to win 17 straight. You want to, but you know you're not going to."
The "what-ifs" of this game are legion. What if, for instance, reliever Warren Brusstar had not walked Johnson with one out in the ninth? What if Lonnie Smith had not taken a called third strike on a 3-2 fastball with the bases loaded? What if Greg Gross, not George Vukovich, had been the left fielder when Ivan DeJesus' ground single to left scored Steve Dillard with the tying run?
Said Green, "Brew had super stuff the one inning (a one-two-three eighth) and, after handling the bunt, I thought we'd be all right. But then he walked the guy... You can't put that damn tying run on second base, that's all there is to it."
What happened was this: Larry Biittner opened the ninth with a pinch double that McBride narrowly missed catching. Mick Kelleher, running for Biittner, slipped on his way to third as Dillard, who had homered in the second off starter Bob Walk, bunted. Brusstar fielded the ball and threw to shortstop Ramon Aviles, who had also homered, covering third for the first out.
"Schmitty (Mike Schmidt) yelled for me to throw to third," said Brusstar. "That (out) took a lot of pressure off. Then I was trying to make Johnson hit something."
But Johnson refused and DeJesus hit Brusstar's first pitch between third and short for a single. Vukovich, who entered the game because Green had Keith Moreland pinchhit for Gross in the top of the inning, got off a decent throw. But it was so late that Schmidt cut it off.
"I think Bake might have had a shot (at Johnson) if he hadn't juggled and George might had a shot if he hadn't juggled," said Green. "This is a hard place to charge the ball because it grabs in some places, skids in others. If we'd been playing on Astro-Turf, we might have had a shot at both guys."
DeJesus single brought McGraw into the game to face Scott Thompson. Green wanted to avoid using his top reliever, but was left with little choice when the left-handed Thompson's name was announced as a pinchhitter. Cub Manager Joe Amalfitano, meanwhile, pulled Thompson and had Martin, a righthander, hit.
Actually, the juggling by Vukovich and McBride, which was minimal, and the walk to Johnson might not have had a bearing on the game's outcome had the Phils been able to take advantage of one one-out, bases-loaded situation in their half of the ninth.
Garry Maddox began that inning with a walk off Dick Tidrow, who had relieved starter Rick Reuschel. Bob Boone followed with a single to center – his third hit – and, when center fielder Carlos Lezcano bobbled, Maddox went to third.
Boone stole second before Aviles took a called third strike, leaving first base open with Gross the scheduled hitter. Amalfitano brought in lefthander Willie Hernandez and Green, after sending first Ozzie Virgil, then Lonnie Smith to the on-deck circle, countered with Moreland.
"I didn't want to put Ozzie through that kind of pressure," said Green. "The other guys have been there before."
Pressure? All Moreland did was watch four pitches go by during the inevitable intentional walk. His job done, Hernandez acknowledged a standing ovation by 4,352 Cub fans with a tip of his cap.
Moreland perhaps would have been the better man with the bases loaded instead of wasting him to an intentional walk. But Green's reasons for using Lonnie Smith against righthander Lee Smith, whose contract was purchased by the Cubs from Wichita on Sept. 1, seemed understandable enough.
"I just felt Lonnie had a better chance at staying out of the double play than Keith," said Green. "We knew they'd walk Keith. Hell, Lonnie's only hitting .340 (.337) against righthanders and lefthanders. He has a good eye... You're not going to double him... There's a lot of reasons for letting Lonnie hit."
Except the results, Smith taking the 3-2 pitch for a called third strike from a pitcher who threw nothing but fastballs to the two batters he faced. McBride, who followed Smith, was at least able to put the ball in play somewhere, grounding out to second.
Had Smith done the same the, the Phils might have gotten a couple of runs.
There they are again, those "what ifs," those "might-have-beens," those words that always seem to surface in the tales about the ones that got away.
PHIL UPS – Larry Bowa, who aggravated a pulled hamstring muscle on Wednesday in Pittsburgh, did not play... His availability will be on a day-to-day bases... Aviles' homer was his second of the year... Phils had taken a 3-1 lead on an RBI triple by Schmidt in the first, Aviles' home run in the fifth and an RBI bloop single by-Pete Rose in the seventh... Rookie Marty Bystrom puts his 17 scoreless innings in the line this afternoon against Lynn McGlothen... Dick Ruthven is scheduled to start tomorrow against Dennis Lamp.