Camden Courier-Post - September 26, 1980
Phillies win, regain lead
By Ray W. Kelly of the Courier-Post
PHILADELPHIA – The kid who pitched the game that sent the Phillies into first - place last night loves pressure.
"That's the way I like to pitch. I've always been a big-game pitcher. It brings out the best in me," said 22-year-old Marty Bystrom after hiking his record to 4-0 on the season.
And, the aging reliever who preserved that same 2-1 victory over the New York Mets at Veterans Stadium, couldn't believe that he was lucky enough to be once again in the tension-packed atmosphere of a pennant race.
"THIS KIND of competition," said 36-year-old Sparky Lyle. "It's what makes the world go round."
Such was the atmosphere in the Phils, lockerroom as the countdown to tonight's showdown with the Montreal Expos began.
It was as if the Phillies couldn't wait to send righthander Dick Ruthven to the mound to face righthander Dave Palmer in the opener of a three-game clash that will go a long way in determining who will wear the Eastern Division crown.
"We're ready for them," said Manager Dallas Green, who was convinced that yet another sterling performance by his pitching staff coupled with Montreal's loss to the Chicago Cubs earlier in the day may have combined to give the Phils an "edge" in the Veterans Stadium confrontation.
"WE'RE IN front now," he said. "They've got to beat us, not the other way around. The shoe is on the other foot. With so few games left, the mathematics are in our favor.
"If we win tonight (Friday), it counts double. That means we'll be a game and a half up on them. It also means they would have to sweep the next two games to get back on top... and, they ain't going to do it.
"If we get the pitching I expect, (Steve Carlton pitches tomorrow afternoon), we're going to win it."
Pitching, pitching and more pitching is the basis for Green's mounting optimism. Considering Bystrom's performance, it was hard to blame him.
BYSTROM SET the stage for the Phils' 10th consecutive victory over the Mets by dominating them with a one-hit shutout during the first six innings. By then, the Phils had a 2-0 lead.
Providing the offense was Manny Trillo, who opened the fifth inning with a triple off the right field wall and scored on Garry Maddox' line-drive single into left field.
Larry Bowa followed with a single. And, after Bystrom bunted into a force out at third base, Lonnie Smith celebrated his return to the starting lineup by lashing a single to center to score Bowa with what proved to be the winning run.
Considering the way Bystrom was pitching, it didn't look like the added run would be needed. But, the rookie got a little out of kilter in the seventh inning when the Mets loaded the bases on singles by Wally Back-man, Steve Henderson and Claudell Washington.
"THE KID got, a little high with his pitches, like he was aiming instead of throwing," said Green. "But, he looks like he's destined for something special."
When Alex Trevino's grounder to Mike Schmidt at third base didn't turn into a rally-killing double play, what with second baseman Trillo not being able to make a clean pivot and throw on the play, Backman crossed with the only Met run of the night.
That's when the Phils' manager asked reliever Dickie Noles to put the lid on the inning. It took a fine leaping grab of Hubie Brooks' line drive by shortstop Bowa to do it, but once out of the jam, Green turned the preservation of victory to Lyle.
"I'm not able to throw my slider real hard yet," said the veteran southpaw. "When I try, it's straight as a string. So, I only threw it about 78 mph. Still, it has been a while since I felt that kind of hype on the mound. I'm just glad for the opportunity to pitch in this kind of situation."
LYLE PITCHED out of an eighth-inning jam and breezed through the ninth, thus lifting the Phils to 16 games over the .500 mark for the first time this season and maintaining Bystrom's unblemished record.
When asked if he was starting to feel the pressure of the race, Bys-trom almost laughed.
"I've been pitching since I was seven years old," he said. "Pressure? I once pitched a perfect game in A-ball in the minors. Those eighth and ninth innings, that was the most pressure I ever felt.
"I'm glad these games mean so much. Pitching in important games just comes natural to me. I always knew I could do it. I like to do it because when it means a lot, it brings out that little extra in me.'"
Smith victimized by Luzinski’s power
By Ray W. Kelly of the Courier-Post
PHILADELPHIA – On the first New York pitch of the night, the ebony bat slipped out of the swinging batter's grasp and sailed in a frightening, yet majestic, arch into the stands beyond the Met dugout.
The sound of wood clattering off metal seats and the sight of scrambling fans sent a jolt of adrenalin through the Veterans Stadium witnesses, not the least of whom was a wide-eyed Dallas Green.
However, when it became apparent that life and limb had been spared and a little boy's evening had been 'made' by the presentation of the bat by the crestfallen hitter, the Phillies' manager shook his head and laughed.
"People are always telling me that things have a way of happening when Lonnie Smith is in the game," he said to coach Bobby Wine. "Damned if it ain't true!"
Things do happen when Lonnie Smith gets into a baseball game. Not all of them are good. Yet, like the guy who married a Playboy Bunny used to say, "She may burn dinner, but brother, can she cook!"
Lonnie can cook when he keeps a bat in his hands. Which hasn't been very often during September, a month that Green decided to put his sizzling rookie outfielder on the back burner in an effort to make slugger Greg Luzinski part of the big pennant push.
In theory, the decision to move Smith onto the bench and the Bull back into left field was sound. The Phils aren't exactly overburdened with home run power, an element of offense that can't be easily disregarded by a club hoping to ride in a World Series parade.
Green knows what Lonnie can do, thanks to his dazzling performance during Luzinski's knee surgery. What he has been trying to discover is whether Bull can move back into the cleanup spot in the batting order and force opposing pitchers to deal honestly with the booming bat of Mike Schmidt.
With both Luzinski and Schmidt hitting on all cylinders, Green knew his Phils would have it made. Unfortunately, the price for that bit of optimistic experimentation had to be paid by Lonnie.
Since Sept. 6, the Mighty Mite with the supersonic feet has cooled his sometimes-tangled heels on the bench, joining the starting lineup just four times, including last night.
Ah, yes, last night. Let it be noted that, in addition to juicing up the crowd with his flying-bat routine, Lonnie also singled home what proved to be the winning run in the Phils' crucial 2-1 victory over the New Yorkers.
He also did bis skateboarding impersonation in the outfield, but not before scooting into the gap in left-center to cut off a hit that just as easily could have rocketed off the slick AstroTurf, gone to the wall for a triple, scored the game-tying run for the Mets and put the potential winning run at third base.
"A big play," said Green. "The Mets end up with runners at second and third instead, and we eventually get out of the inning."
The manager admitted, however, that a major reason for Lonnie's resurfacing was the treacherous footing in the rain-slicked outfield, a virtual minefield for Luzinski's questionable knees. Plus, he just wanted Bull to spend a full day in the batting tunnel. In other words, Smith may still be in limbo.
"I'd been hoping he (Green) was going to use me more this month," said Lonnie. "But, it just didn't work out that way.
"I understand that if we make it into the playoffs we'll need Greg's bat. Still, it's pretty tough to just get back in there. When I came in today, the guys were kidding me, asking me if I remembered where home plate was located.
"I feel I can play anytime. I just wait for the moment. But, I'll admit it has been hard at times... times when I thought that maybe tomorrow I'll play, but it doesn't come.
"There were times when I asked myself, 'Hey, did I do all that (hit .353) for nothing? What did I do wrong?"
"But, I didn't say anything. I didn't go in and ask the man why, like some said I should.
"That's not the type of person I am. Why blow the whole thing out of proportion with scandal? I've always wanted to be in a World Series. I just hope they realize I can play. That's all I want to do."