Wilmington Evening Journal - September 25, 1980

McGraw heeds own advice


By Hal Bodley, Sports Editor


PHILADELPHIA – Tug McGraw gives the impression of a happy-go-lucky waif in Phillies' pinstripes. But deep down, McGraw is dead serious about his profession, so when hard-luck teammate Randy Lerch came to him desperate for some help yesterday afternoon, McGraw dropped everything he was doing.


"Randy just asked me to help him with his mechanics," McGraw said after he and the Phillies stopped New York 1-0 in 10 innings at Veterans Stadium last night. "After all, the Blade is struggling. When you have a 4-14 record, something is going wrong."


Lerch will have to wait until the next time he pitches to find out if McGraw's counseling helped. But a weird thing happed to Tug during the seminar. He taught himself more than he taught Lerch.


"I was helping Randy with his motion and all that and although I have been pitching well the last few months, it dawned on me I have gotten sloppy with my mechanics," said McGraw.


Larry Christenson, who has sneaked back into the Phils' rotation, blanked the Mets for eight innings before turning the important game over to McGraw. The Phils, on the other hand, had been unable to do anything against Mets' rookie right-hander Ed Lynch. When he left after seven innings, he had allowed just two hits and no baserunner past first.


The game became a tense struggle for the Phils because long before they took the field, Montreal's 8-4 conquest of Chicago had been posted. A New York victory would have dropped them 1½ games off the pace in National League East.


The first batter McGraw faced in the ninth was pinch-hitter Frank Taveras, who fouled out to the catcher. Lee Mazzilli followed with a booming double to left field and most of the 24,258 customers could see the Mets zooming in front 1-0.


The count then went 3-2 to Claudell Washington, a left-handed hitter, and everybody knows McGraw has trouble with lefties. Tug, however, "sneaked" a fastball by Washington for a called third strike and was out of trouble. He put the Mets down in order in the 10th before Pete Rose delivered a game-winning single, bringing pinch-runner Jay Loviglio home from second.


"When I went to the mound, I remembered my session with Lerch," McGraw said, his hands still quivering. "I thought about my mechanics, but more important, I said to myself: 'How can Randy respect what you've told him if you don't do it yourself?' So, I really concentrated. Honestly, this is the best I have thrown in a long, long time. My mechanics were perfect and that fastball wasn't really a 'sneaker.' It had something on it."


Since coming off the disabled list on July 17, McGraw has pitched in 28 games, a total of 41 innings. He has allowed just 24 hits, only three runs and has recorded three victories and 11 saves. His earned run average is 1.67.


"Sure, we're supposed to beat the Mets," said Tug, "but every game is important now. No matter who I face when I go out there, I consider them a contender, a championship team."


Christenson, out since Sept. 6 with a severe groin pull and considered finished for the year, surprised everyone with his unexpected return.


"Christenson was the key tonight," said Manager Dallas Green. "He gave us a gutty performance, kept us close so we could win it. Without that, we would have been in trouble."


The Mets' Neil Allen has become one of the top relievers in the National League with 22 saves. He put out a Phils' threat in the ninth, but when pinch-hitter Del Unser led off the 10th with a single, he was in trouble.


Tim McCarver, making only his second appearance, sacrificed Loviglio to second and up came Rose, who had lined out with solid shots three of his first four times up. Rose took Allen's first strike, then hit a bouncer through the middle to bring home the run.


"I've told people all along that you're only as good as the hitters in front and back of you," said Rose, who was 0-for-15 at the time. "If they did not respect Bake McBride (next batter up), I am sure I would not have gotten a chance to hit. They would have walked me."


After Allen came in, Rose decided to select a heavier bat because he figured he could wait on the righthander's breaking pitches longer. In the eighth he hit a screamer to third base that Elliott Maddox stabbed.


"Hardest ball I have hit in over a month," said Pete. "When you can get a hit off a reliever like Allen and win a game like this, it says something about this team. We have to beat these noncontending teams, but it's not easy. They're nice and loose."


Christenson said he had a meeting with pitching coach Herm Starrette in Chicago on Sunday and asked for a chance to prove that his leg was fully recovered.


"These have been two tough years for me," said the injury-plagued Christenson. "I felt I could help the team and wanted to prove it. If the leg broke down, I would accept that."


EXTRA POINTS – Rose says his longest hitless streak was four years ago in Cincinnati an 0-for-22... The victory was the ninth in a row over the Mets, who hold a 5-3 advantage at the Vet... The Phils have won eight of 10 one-run games in September. They're 28-27 in that department for the season... Schmidt's eight-game hitting streak came to an end... Marty Bystrom (3-0) goes against Pat Zachry, weather permitting, tonight, then it's Showdown No. 1 with the Expos. Tomorrow night's 8:05 duel will have Dave Palmer going against Dick Ruthven. On Saturday afternoon, NBC will televise the Scott Sanderson-Steve Carlton match, with Steve Rogers and Bob Walk dueling Sunday afternoon on ABC.