Philadelphia Daily News - September 3, 1980

Phillies Cling to 1st


By Bill Conlin


SAN FRANCISCO – Bases loaded, nobody out. Infield up, outfield up. On the road. Extra innings.


It's the baseball equivalent of a great NFL field goal kicker getting three chances to kick a chip shot with time running out.


If you've been hanging around major league baseball 25 years or so, maybe you've seen five escapes from the situation. Maybe fewer. It is truly a job for Houdini, or a pitcher who can fire three strikeouts.


Warren Brusstar had some preparation for the great escape he made in the 11th inning last night, a game the Phillies wrestled away from the Giants in the 13th, winning it, 2-1, on Keith Moreland's sacrifice fly to semi-medium center.


Larry Christenson, pitching brilliantly despite a groin injury he suffered fielding a fifth-inning bunt, pitched a one-hit shutout for eight innings. He left for a pinch-hitter in the top of the ninth and Ramon Aviles did the job, moving rookie pinch-runner Jay Loviglio into scoring position after Bob Boone reached first on a throwing error by third baseman Darrell Evans.


IT COULD HAVE been a Lonnie Smith story. Smith scored the swift Loviglio with a single to left off Vida Blue, only the second hit off the the Giants' ace.


But catcher Milt May tied it with a one-out single in the bottom of the ninth off Tug McGraw. The Giants had runners on first and third. Suddenly, the Phillies were hanging onto the precipice by their fingernails. Dallas Green waved everybody up to disaster depth and brought Brusstar in to face Rennie Stennett, the $590,000-a-year second baseman.


There was some yelling back and forth between Larry Bowa and Manny Trillo. Both moved more to halfway depth than infield up.


"Bowa yelled to me that we got to cut the run off at the plate," said Trillo, who ignited the winning rally in the 13th by legging a single into a double. "I told him sinkerball pitcher, Rennie hits a lot of balls to the right side. I was gonna shade him up the middle a little and maybe we get 'two."


Stennett swung at Brusstar's first pitch, a sinking fastball. He bounced the ball to Trillo's backhand side and he and Bowa turned an inning-ending double play.


That jam was nothing, though. Jim Wohlford started the bottom of the 11th with a single to right and shortstop Johnnie LeMaster came up to bunt. Brusstar walked him on four pitches.


"I got myself into that jam," The Gunfighter said after the Phillies clung to a lead of less than a percentage point over the Expos and moved a half-game in front of the idle Pirates. "I tried to make four perfect pitches."


EVANS WAS ALSO bunting and he dropped a beauty into no-man's land to the third base side of the mound. Mike Schmidt retreated to cover third. Brusstar turned toward third after he fielded the ball and that was a mistake. "If he turns to his left at least he still might have had a play at first." Paul Owens groaned in the press box, where guys were ready to head for the clubhouse elevator and the grim post-mortems of a tough loss.


God, a diving sinker and Rennie Stennett were on Brusstar's side. He ran a quick 0-2 count on catcher Mike Sadek, who bounced the next pitch to Bowa. Wohlford was forced at the plate.


Once more the cooperative Stennett attacked the first pitch. This time he dribbled it back to the mound. Brusstar tossed to Moreland for a force on LeMaster. Everybody retreated to normal depth.


The hitter was Joe Strain, a sore-armed infielder who chokes up and makes contact. "The kind who scares hell out of me in this kind of situation." The Pope said, "because you know he's going to put his bat on the ball."


Brusstar ran a 3-1 count on Strain and it was double match point. Strain looked at called strike two. Then, in a delicious war of nerves that had everybody in damp, almost deserted Candlestick Park fidgeting, Strain fouled off four 3-2 pitches. Brusstar's fifth 3-2 serve was maybe two inches outside. Strain bounced it to Trillo and the crisis was over.


"ALL I CAN DO in a situation like that is just relax and come right after them," Brusstar said after a close approximation of his brilliant 1978 pitching. "I can't start thinking and out-guessing myself. I've got to try to throw ground balls and have confidence that the outstanding infield out there will do the job. With this defense there's nothing to worry about. I aimed the ball on the guy I walked and I was aiming it when I fell behind to Strain. Keith came out and settled me down. He said, 'Come on. just throw right to me." The pitch he hit to Manny might have been a little outside. My ball was tailing, running the other way instead of coming in on the hitters and I got quite a few ground balls out of it."


In case you wonder what runs through the head of a quality relief pitcher when the sacks are drunk, the count 3-2 in sudden death overtime, the answer is not very much. The closer he can get to achieving a mental vacuum, the better his chances of throwing the ball where the catcher wants it.


"There's no room for nervousness at all," Brusstar said. "It's concentrate, see the glove and throw it right to the glove. You can't believe how good I feel right now. This has got to be the biggest win of the year for us. I'm feeling stronger every time. In San Diego the other night I had the best fastball I've had since I came back. I was able to throw it by people."


THE PHILLIES still needed two scoreless innings from Ron Reed before running their record on the trip to 4-2. Reed scrambled out of two-out trouble in the 12th, stranding two runners. And when Stennett, hitting .245 and playing the kind of second base you'd expect from a $25,000 waiver-price player, looked at a called third strike to end the game, the stands were awash with mutinous howls for the scalp of the free-agent millionaire.


Trillo was 0-for-4 when he came up to face hard-throwing lefthander Al Holland leading off the 13th. He stroked what appeared to be a routine single to right-center. But Larry Herndon made a slow retrieve and slower throw. Manny never broke stride.


"The ball was in front of me," he aid. "I thought I had the play all the way. The grass was so wet I knew it would slow the ball down and be hard to throw."


Larry Bowa dropped a perfect bunt toward third and Trillo moved to scoring position. Moreland came up with discipline, got a pitch out over the plate and skied it to center. Bill North, whose arm would rank 12th among starting National League centerfielders, drifted back, got a running start and gave it his best bolt. Which rainbowed to a spot about 30 feet up the third-base line. If you were a general manager trying to spot obvious weaknesses in the Giants' defense, the first two games of this series have been a grisly clinic.


"ITS A DAMN shame Christenson didn't get the win," Green said. "That old groin thing came up on him again. I spotted it right after he made that bunt play. Don Seger wrapped it between innings and it felt a lot better after that. I thought he had great stuff. I can't ask a pitcher to pitch any better than that, but the rest of the guys were great, too.


"I can probably count the number of times I've seen a pitcher get out of the jam Bru did on one hand. And coming in to throw a one-pitch double play in the ninth wasn't too shabby either, It was one helluva ballgame played under very difficult conditions for our fielders. It was wet as hell out there from the mist and fog and that infield is the worst in the league. Our guys went out and made the plays we had to have on it."


PHILUPS: Some batting averages took a beating. Pete Rose went a soft 0-for-6. Bake McBride was 0-for-5. Bill North, Larry Herndon and Rennie Stennett all went 0-for-6 for the Giants... The Phils now have gone nine straight games without a homer, which is to say Mike Schmidt and Greg Luzinski haven't hit one since they went back-to-back against the Giants' Bob Knepper Aug. 24 at home... The Reading farm team was eliminated from the Eastern League playoffs, so Ossie Virgil, Bob Dernier, Mark Davis and Dan Larson will join the club in time for tonight.... Dick Ruthven vs. Allen Ripley in the season series finale tonight. A win. would salvage a 6-6 split for the Phils.

3 Winners In Contest


There were three winners in the Daily News Home Run Payoff contest. In the eighth inning of last night's Phillies-Giants game, Barney Shestack of Yeadon, Carmen D'Angelo and Stephen Krynski, both of Philadelphia, each won four tickets to a Phillies game.


To date, the Daily News has paid out $16.685.


Today's entry coupon appears on Page 53.