Philadelphia Inquirer - September 27, 1980

‘Felt good before that pitch’:  Palmer

 

By Bill Livingston, Inquirer Staff Writer

 

The center-field scoreboard blazed with the plea "Let's get psyched" as the home half of the ninth inning began last night at Veterans Stadium.

 

The seats left unoccupied by more than 50,000 screaming, standing fans banged up and down like cymbals clashed in an orchestra gone mad.

 

That this was followed by Bake McBride's bat sending down the crash of delirium with a homer on David Palmer's first pitch does not necessarily mean that the Montreal Expos have heeded the Scoreboard's exhortation, however.

 

Not yet, anyway.

 

"Even if we lost tomorrow (today, against Steve Carlton), it wouldn't wipe us out," said Expos manager Dick Williams, who went on to cite the five remaining games the Expos have with the Phillies. "It was a hell of a pitched ball game by both sides."

 

Palmer threw 91 pitches in his most prolonged display of brilliance since he was stricken with tendinitis in his right elbow in midsummer. Williams had given his pitcher a ration of no more than 100 pitches.

 

"He had retired eight straight men, nine if you count the double play in the sixth," Williams said.

 

By Palmer's count, he used no more than 15 pitches in the seventh and eighth.

 

"He had just done a super job," Williams said.

 

Only two of his pitches were less than super.

 

"I felt strong," Palmer said. "I wanted to throw a breaking ball to McBride, because I didn't want to walk him leading off, not with Schmidt and Luzinski coming up. But I laid it in there, without real good location."

 

It was the second of Palmer's first-pitch errors. Garry Maddox pummeled another curve over the left-field wall in the second inning.

 

"Maddox is a good first-ball hitter," Palmer said. "I just didn't get the ball down then."

 

"To me, he threw a good pitch to McBride," catcher Gary Carter said. "Bake's hot, swinging the bat good. He's been a thorn in our side all year. Dave got the ball over the plate and, he sat on it, that's all."

 

That's not quite all. The aftermath counts, too. After McBride homered on what the jubilant scoreboard decided was a "Baked Tater," the Phillies thronged the plate, pumping McBride's hand, wringing every last pulse from the adrenaline of the moment. Palmer stared stonily ahead, flinging down the rosin bag in a small, angry explosion of dust, thinking, he admitted, unprintable scatological thoughts.

 

"Sure, they got a big lift," Carter said. "You always get a lift when you win on a ninth-inning home run ball. They were psyched up, running out to get to Bake."

 

"I really felt good before that pitch," said Palmer, who was allowed to hit for himself in the eighth inning. "If a pitcher can relax in a situation like that, it's to his advantage. The hitters tend to squeeze the bat too much and that makes their bats a little slow. But the pitcher can squeeze the ball too hard and overthrow, too"

 

Actually, the Expos didn't think their offense would be so slow in materializing. "We knew coming in that Philadelphia hadn't been scoring many runs," centerfielder Andre Dawson said. "We felt we could get to (Dick) Ruthven, since they weren't scoring, but he pitched a hell of a game.

 

"We've got to get on our horses now. But we're still in this. All I'll say is that it looks like Pittsburgh is about through."

 

The Expos kept talking about getting back to Montreal after concluding this series. They kept talking about their record at home (47-27) and about the maturity they gained in last year's race.

 

But Palmer shrugged off compliments on his return to form. "We : lost," he said. "Nothing positive came out of tonight. Not when you lose in a pennant race."

 

And then Carter, whose own eight-game hitting streak was broken, exposed the real depth of the Expos' plight. "We knew this road trip was a make-or-break situation," he said. "To finish up in Philadelphia after playing our hearts out is a tough road."

 

 

Losses today and tomorrow, amid the bedlam of the Vet, against the theatrical backdrop of that scoreboard, and the Expos will have, for all their protestations, probably gone around the final bend of the road. Also of the mind.

McBride homer conquers Expos

 

By Jayson Stark, Inquirer Staff Writer

 

Bake McBride stood in the on-deck circle awaiting the start of the bottom of the ninth last night. All around him, 50,887 people at the Vet screamed the hopeful screams of a city that has lost the big ones for far too long.

 

All that had only barely begun to die down as McBride stepped in against Montreal righthander David Palmer. Palmer threw him one pitch. McBride gave it that patented downward swipe.

 

Baseballs have a way of rising off McBride's bat and carrying for miles and miles when he nails them right. But this one didn't have to make it to Pennsauken. It only had to make it 372 feet. And it was going to be close.

 

As the ball took off for deep right, Montreal rightfielder Rowland Office chased it to the wall. For a brief moment, there was a sudden stop to the din as 50,000 people paused to inhale nervously.

 

But then Office slowed as he reached the wall and stopped. The baseball dropped into Home Run Land for McBride's ninth homer. And the Phillies had taken game one of their biggest series of the year, 2-1.

 

They lead the second-place Expos by a game and a half, their biggest pad of the year. They have Steve Carlton going today, the magic number is eight and the pressure is starting to drop firmly into the guts of Les Expos.

 

"I don't think we can worry about whether they're feeling the pressure," said Garry Maddox, whose second-inning homer provided the only other Phillies run. "They've got a good ball club. They've played well all year. We've just got to go out and play good, consistent baseball and let them worry about themselves."

 

Those were the measured, unemotional words that always seem to pour out of the Phillies clubhouse after big wins. But the tumult that erupted around McBride as he crossed the plate – the high-fives, the jumping around, the raised index fingers – told you the way this team really feels.

 

They have sat in a lot of losers' locker rooms in October. They have lived through their share of unhappy endings. Now, ironically, in the year their town almost gave up on them, they have a chance to rewrite the script. And their 17-8 record this month, including 10 one-run wins, seems to tell you they want it badly.

 

"I think the nucleus of this team is starting to get afraid that time is passing it by," said Tug McGraw, who threw two more brilliant innings to get his fourth win this month. "And with the transfusion of the new blood and the desire of the nucleus to win, it's making these guys get more, intense. We realize we better do what we were predicted to do before it gets too late.

 

"There have been some individual successes, but that nucleus of guys has never realized what was expected of us. So some of that enthusiasm is just that we want to win this thing before they break us up or time passes us by."

 

It has taken more than emotion, though. These guys have scored 11 runs in five games this week and still won four of them. So it has taken a mess of pitching, too.

 

Last night, Dick Ruthven was as good as he has been since May 1979. He had a one-hitter through 5-2/3 innings (the hit was an Office looper in the fourth) and was totally in control. But suddenly, Jerry White sliced a two-out double to left-center in the sixth, and Ruthven was in trouble.

 

Rodney Scott bounced a 2-2 pitch into the shortstop hole. Larry Bowa got to it, but Scott can really burn and Bowa would have had a tough play throwing him out. But the Bowa of past years always kept this one in the infield, at least.

 

This time the ball skipped between his glove and his shoe, rolled into left and White scored to tie it.

 

"Personally, I thought it should have been scored an error," said Dallas Green. "The run wouldn't have scored if he keeps the ball in the infield. But the ball might have taken a little quicker hop than he thought it was going to take."

 

Ruthven had more problems in the seventh after Andre Dawson's one-out double. But he got Gary Carter (94 RBIs) on a fly to center, Larry Parrish looked at a fastball for strike three and that was that. But his four-hitter turned into just a big no-decision, because out came McGraw to pitch the eighth.

 

"Rufus had just started to tire a little," said Green. "Booney and I both felt lie was just losing it, just by a hair. And I didn't want him out there struggling, because he'd pitched so well."

 

McGraw ripped through a 1-2-3 eighth. And his only anxious moment in the ninth came when Office lined a ball into the left-field corner with one out.

 

Greg Luzinski figured that if he played it safe, it would be a double anyway. So the Bull risked the possible triple, went for the catch and stabbed it.

 

Then McGraw battled Dawson to a full count, fanned him and charged off to an explosion of noise that built and built until McBride reached the plate. McGraw hasn't allowed a run in his last 11 outings (16-2/3 innings).

 

The noise became so overpowering between innings, said McGraw, that "you could almost reach out and touch the energy coming from the stands. It's a vibration. That.amount of noise creates almost a density in the air. It's like when you turn the stereo up too loud and the lamp vibrates.

 

"You can just feel it. The feeling charges up your body, charges up; your mind. It gets you pumped up. It's. a very positive effect."

 

They needed one, because Palmer, making only his fourth start since July 15, had a four-hitter going. And he had allowed just one hit since Ruthven's leadoff single in the third.

 

But McBride seized the energy and thumped one off into the night. The Phillies, friends, had won The Big One.

 

 

NOTES: If Steve Carlton wins today, he would become the first Phillies pitcher since Grover Cleveland Alexander to win more than 23 games twice.... The Expos may know Monday whether Ellis Valentine is out for the remainder of the year. He was sent back to Montreal after spraining his left wrist attempting a diving catch Sunday in St. Louis and hasn't played since. Expos general manager John McHale called Valentine yesterday, and Valentine said his wrist still hurt.... Through last night, the Expos were six games under .500 on the road (37-43) with two away games left. The last team to win a division without playing at least .500 on the road was the '78 Phillies (36-44).... Guillermo Montanez as an Expo is 3-for-17, no extra-base hits, one RBI.... Carlton vs. Scott Sanderson (15-10, 3.14) today (2:15).

Montreal et Montreal, eh?

 

A great day in Philadelphia, if your thing is Montreal.

 

First, it's the Expos at the Vet against the Phils (Radio-KYW-1060, 2:15 p.m.) in the second game of that crucial series. Then Les Canadiens take on the Flyers in a preseason contest across the street in the Spectrum (Radio-WIP-610, 6 p.m.).

 

Which leaves the Alouettes – who, probably aware of the Eagles, showed the good judgment to stay home.

 

BASEBALL

Ninth annual Philadelphia Baseball Card and Sports Memorabilia Show, George Washington Motor Lodge, Route 611 Willow Grove, 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. .

PHILLIES vs. Montreal at Veterans Stadium (Radio-KYW-1060, 2:15 p.m.)

 

Cincinnati at Houston (TV-Ch. 3, 2:15 p.m.)e road. Also of the mind.

Rose of the decade?

 

 

Pete Rose of the Phillies is baseball's entry in an Athlete of the Decade (1970-80) poll being conducted by the American Cancer Society. Rose's competition is basketball's Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, tennis' Bjorn Borg and Chris Evert Lloyd, hockey's Guy Lafleur, boxing's Roberto Duran, golf's Nancy Lopez Melton and Tom Watson, football's O.J. Simpson and soccer's Pele.