Philadelphia Inquirer - September 24, 1980
Cards knock Phils out of first
A rookie deals 6-3 setback
By Jayson Stark, Inquirer Staff Writer
ST. LOUIS – Into the life of every Phillies season, it seems, there must come an Al Olmsted.
He is new and mysterious, and nobody remembers inviting him to the party. But the rookie crashes in anyway, ruining all the fun.
The Phillies managed to hang onto first place for almost 24 hours before Olmsted showed up at Busch Stadium last night. Nine innings later, Olmsted had his first big-league win, with a save from Jeff Littlefield, and the Phils again trailed Montreal by a half-game.
The final was Cardinals 6, Phillies 3. It sounds bad, but at least the Phil-' lies scored, which is more than they did in 9½ innings against Olmsted at the Vet 12 days back.
"That guy," said Dallas Green, "is just a mystery man to us."
"I hope," said Olmsted later, "I'm not a mystery forever."
He is 23, he throws lefthanded and he throws junk. Three days earlier, he threw all that at the Expos, and they nailed him for 10 hits and four runs (three earned) in five innings.
He wasn't planning on seeing the Phillies again until 1981. But then scheduled starter Bob Forsch's mother died. So the Cards ran Olmsted out as an emergency starter on two days' rest.
That proved so difficult that he only managed to blitz through the first six innings with a one-hit shutout. The Phillies finally KO'd him and even got the tying run to the plate in the ninth. But a Del Unser near-grand-slam died at the track, and that was that.
Olmsted, of course, is not exactly the first Unknown Arm who has dealt the Phillies a setback. But that may not be the only reason he has been so good at paralyzing them.
"I don't think our problems are really with guys we haven't seen," said Pete Rose. "I think it's guys who pitch the way he pitches.
"There's a handful of lefthanders in our league who are hard-throwers – Carlton, Candelaria, Reuss. But most of the lefthanders are sinker-ball pitchers, guys who turn the ball over. And most of our guys don't go the other way with them."
Bob Walk (now 10-6) started for the Phillies. In the 1-2/3 innings he was around, he gave up six hits, was hit by a line drive, hit George Hendrick with an 0-2 pitch, wild-pitched in a run and was visited on the mound by Bob Boone twice. Somehow after all that, it was only 3-0.
Walk fanned Leon (Grand Slam) Durham with the bases loaded to keep it scoreless in the first. Then he was on the way to a relatively calm second (two outs, runner on second). Then the Cardinals suddenly mugged him.
Ken Oberkfell stroked a broken-bat RBI single into center. Garry Maddox overthrew the cutoff man. Oberkfell scampered into scoring position. And Garry Templeton (3-for-5) scored him with a single through the middle on, yes, an 0-2 pitch.
Keith Hernandez roped another single. Templeton motored to third. Walk jumped ahead of Ted Simmons, 1-2. Then he bounced a breaking ball past Boone for a wild pitch. Templeton scored the third run.
That ended the Whirleybirding for the evening. Walk now has won only once in his last eight starts. But maybe he should have known it was going to be one of those nights. He began his day by violating one of the all-time pitcher's superstitions. He got a haircut on the day he was supposed to start.
"Bobby just didn't have any feel at all," 'said Dallas Green. "He looked like he was struggling all night. He'd make-two pitches and then couldn't make the third one."
The Cardinals, however, are not your ordinary 14-games-out pushovers. They might not have much incentive to win, but they have all kinds of incentive to hit.
"They're a loose club right now," said. Green. "It seems like half the team is going for the batting title, so they're gonna play some offense. If they get some pitching, it makes them tough."
The Cardinals added a fifth-inning run off Kevin Saucier before the Phillies finally got one off Olmsted in the seventh. But Ron Reed allowed two runs in the eighth, and they proved fatal later. The killer was a two-out RBI single by Olmsted, who had no hits and three strikeouts in his previous seven big-league at-bats.
"Those runs in the eighth really hurt," sighed Rose. "Olmsted took'the exact same swing all night until he finally hit one. He must have hit off a tee when he was a kid because all those swings and misses were the same swing.
"He must not have known it was his first hit. I asked him if he wanted the ball. He looked at the board. Then he said, 'Uh, yeah, I'll take it.'"
He much preferred taking the runs, because Mike Schmidt led off the ninth with his 43d homer. Then Greg Luzinski's double, a Templeton error and a Garry Maddox single filled the bases.
So those two runs in the eighth loomed large as Littlefield came on to pitch to Unser. He cracked the second pitch to deep center. For a moment it looked as if all Olmsted's labor might have been for naught. But Tito Landrum gathered it in at the track. It was only a sacrifice fly.
"I saw the guy backing up," Unser said. "So I knew I hit it decently. I just didn't pull it enough to get it out."
Greg Gross then flied to center for the last out. And Olmsted had struck again. As mystery men go, the Phils would rather see Hitchock any day.
NOTES: National League records for September, going into yesterday: NL East 1, Phillies 14-7; 2, Montreal 13-7; 3, St. Louis 11-11; 4, Pittsburgh 9-10; 5, Chicago 7-14; 6, Mets 4-17. NL West 1, Atlanta 13-7; 2, (tie) Houston and San Diego (12-8); 4, Los Angeles 11-9; 5, Cincinnati 11-10; 6, San Francisco 5-15.... Pitching matchups at the Vet for the rest of the week: Larry Christenson vs. Ed Lynch (1-1 with the Mets, 13-6 at Tidewater) tonight, Marty Bystrom vs. Pat Zachry (6-10) tomorrow, Dick Ruthven vs. David Palmer (7-5) in the opener of the Expos series Friday, Steve Carlton vs. Scott Sanderson (15-10) on Saturday (2:15), Walk vs. Steve Rogers on Sunday (3:05).
Down from Big Apple
It's New York night in South Philly.
The usually woeful Mets have the opportunity to be spoilers when they encounter the Phillies' push for a pennant in a 7:35 game at Veterans Stadium.
And in exhibition ice hockey, the Islanders will be across the street skating with the Flyers.
PHILLIES v. New York Mets at Veterans Stadium (Radio-KYW-1060, 7:35 p.m.)