Philadelphia Inquirer - September 4, 1980
Ground Balls Inc.: Brusstar shows he’s back
By Jayson Stark, Inquirer Staff Writer
SAN FRANCISCO – For so long, he floated on the outskirts. He was there, but he was not there. He was back, but he was not back.
He would pitch, throw his ground balls, get his double plays. But when the Phillies needed the ground ball, when they needed the double play in the eighth or ninth, it was always somebody else who was in there.
You wondered about Warren Brusstar. And Warren Brusstar wondered about himself.
The 15 months he had spent battling a mysterious shoulder problem had taken a toll on his arm. And it had taken a toll on his head. He wanted to get back to his role as Ground Balls Inc. But there were times he wasn't sure he was ready.
"It was hard to say," said Warren Brusstarr "I'd have good days. I'd have bad days. Some days it was a real struggle to get loose.
"But lately, the last couple weeks, I've really had confidence I could get up and go, and there'd be no strain on my arm. Mentally, I felt like I was getting it back."
Tuesday night in San Francisco, Brusstar walked the final mile back. He faced two nearly impossible crises. He escaped them both. And only because he did were the Phillies able to beat the Giants, 2-1, in the 13th inning of a ball game as exciting as any you will ever see.
First, Brusstar stalked on in relief of Tug McGraw in the ninth. The winning run was on third. Another man was on first. There was one out. Brusstar had been back from the world of X-rays and arm specialists for nearly two months. But he had not been shoved into a situation like this in nearly two years.
Was he really back? It took one pitch to find out. Rennie Stennett bounced it into a game-saving double play. But there was even more dramatic game-saving to come.
In the 11th he let the Giants load the bases with nobody out. And in seven professional seasons of pitching. Brusstar couldn't remember ever getting out of a bases-full, no-out jam before.
"I do remember messing a few up, though." he laughed later. He remembered, particularly, his game-losing bases-loaded balk in Pittsburgh during the final weekend in 1978.
"What I learned from that was just to relax," he said. "Just go right at 'em. Whatever happens happens."
He remembered that Tuesday, so he stepped off the mound and took a long, slow breath. The thing he told himself was that "I didn't want to start thinking. I just wanted to see the (catcher's) glove and just throw to it
Mike Sadek bounced to Larry Bowa. He got the force at the plate. One out. Stennett, now just a ghost of the hitter he was in Pittsburgh, topped a one-hopper back to Brusstar. He went to the plate. Two out.
"When he got the first out," said catcher Keith Moreland, "I was thinking that was a big out. When he got the second, I started getting excited. I threw the ball back to him, and I said, 'Damn, he's going to get out of it.'"
But the toughest part of this escape act was yet to come. Brusstar fell behind Joe Strain, 3-and-1. And there was nothing left for him to do but throw strike after strike.
In the end, he had to throw five of them. Strain took one to go 3-and-2. He fouled three back. Finally, he rolled the fifth to Manny Trillo, and that was it. Brusstar and Moreland nearly jumped into the Bay.
"When you're down, 3-and-1, it takes some kind of guts to come back in that situation," gushed Moreland, who called the win his most exciting moment in sports.
"Heck, it's 3-and-1. The organ player's playing in the damn stands. The fans are screaming. It takes steel in-sides to get through something like that."
When Brusstar's arm failed, six doctors told him they couldnt help him, and he just kept going. So what was bases loaded, nobody out?
"This is really going to help my confidence," said Brusstar, who will be needed more than ever if Dallas Green sticks with his four-man rotation plans. "Getting out of that is just the greatest feeling in the world. It's one of my biggest thrills in baseball.
"It really doesn't matter to me how he pitches me from here on. All I want to do is help out."
Phillies and coffee
It looks like another late night for Phillies fans as the National League East pennant race (and the NL West race, in this case) again goes on into the wee hours of the morning.
The last few nights the location has been San Francisco, where the Phillies taxed everyone's supply of coffee by going into the 13th inning Tuesday night (at least it was Tuesday night when they started). Now the scene has changed to Los Angeles, and the opponent is the Dodgers, who are in a pennant fight of their own against the Astros and Reds.
Tonight's action, which will be telecast on Channel 17 and broadcast on KYW-1060, begins at 10:30. When it will end is anybody's guess.
PHILLIES at Los Angeles (TV-Ch. 17; Radio-KYW-1060, 10:30 p.m.)
Ruthven, Phils sweep Giants, 4-3
By Jayson Stark, Inquirer Staff Writer
SAN FRANCISCO – The Phillies were three outs away from a humdrum, run-of-the-mill sweep of the Giants in Candlestick Park last night. Then they got struck with their daily compulsion to make things exciting.
Run of the mill? Sure. Why, the Phillies swept the Giants in Candlestick as recently as 3½ seasons ago (May 1, 1977, to be exact). But that couldn't have been as easy as last night looked as if it was going to be.
It wound up with the Phillies winning, 4-3, with the tying run on second. But it started out with Dick Ruthven taking a 4-1 lead and a six-hitter into the ninth.
Then Joe Pettini – who already had a hit, a walk and a stolen base – led off with a single. And up stepped the mysterious Chris Bourjos, making his fourth lifetime trip to the plate in the big leagues. He'd walked in two of the first three, so the Phillies knew as much about him as they do about the new Iranian parliament.
"Those are the guys who hurt you in these situations," said Dallas Green. "Your pitcher doesn't know him. Your catcher doesn't know him. You just try and stay with your good stuff."
Ruthven got to 1-and-2 with his good stuff. But the next thing Bourjos saw heading his way was a hanging breaking ball. He mashed it over the fence in left, and the Giants were within a run.
Ruthven then struggled to get Billy North for the first out. And with two lefthanders on the horizon, Dallas Green sent for Tug McGraw to finish up.
McGraw got pinch-hitter Larry Herndon. But Terry Whitfield ripped a twoout double to left-center, and it was time for some squirming.
The hitter was cleanup man Mike Ivie. He battled McGraw for 10 pitches, fouling off four with two strikes. But finally, McGraw snapped off his third straight full-count screwball. Ivie missed it. And McGraw had his 16th save and the Phillies their sweep.
Sweeps in Candlestick are not things you see every day. Green sure hadn't seen one, anyhow.
"This is a tough ball park to play in," he conceded. Then he thought back to his own career and chuckled. "Hell, when I played, we didn't sweep a lot of anything."
While all this was going on up north, the Expos were falling to the Padres down near the Baja. So the Phils' lead is now a half-game over the Pirates and a game over Montreal. You don't even have to compute the pecentage points.
And as long as we're combing through the past for big dates in Phillies history, the last time the Phils were in first place for three days in a row was May 26-27-28, 1979. They haven’t been 11 games over .500 since the aftermath of their 24-10 start in 1979.
Ruthven (14-8) failed to make it three straight complete games. But the victory still made him 6-1 since July 25. And his 14 wins are topped in the National League only by Steve Carlton (21), Jerry Reuss (16) and Jim Bibby (15).
Before last night, Giants starter Allen Ripley was another member of the prestigious Eddie Solomon Memorial Phillie-Killers of America. Since arriving in the National League last May, Ripley was 3-0, 0.41, against the Phillies – and 4-7, 4.61, against everybody else.
So last night Green stacked the lineup as best he could. Down sat Greg Luzinski and Lonnie Smith, who were a combined 0-for-10 against Ripley this year. In there went the lefthanded-swinging Greg Gross and Del Unser, who presumably were accomplished righthanded-junkballer hitters.
And what did you know – the Phillies promptly jumped on Ripley for three runs in the second.
Actually, Ripley had himself to blame for this one more than he had Gross and Unser to blame. He got off on the right track by failing to scoop up Manny Trillo's leadoff dribbler near the mound, so it went for a single.
Gross moved Trillo to second with a hit-and-run ground ball. Then Larry Bowa dumped a bunt down the third-base line. Darrell Evans charged it, heaved it about 10 feet over Mike Ivie's head at first, and it was 1-0.
Ripley could have escaped with only that one tainted run. He had two outs, Bowa at third and Ruthven the hitter. But then he performed a creative series of self-destructive feats, which went, in order:
• Grooving an 0-2 curve to Ruthven, who merrily whacked it into the corner in left for an RBI double.
• Going 0-and-2 to Pete Rose and then hitting him in the back. (Rose slammed his bat down angrily, then courteously picked up the ball and flipped it back to Ripley. Why couldn't Bert Blyleven have been that polite?)
• Covering first on Bake McBride's chopper to Ivie but then missing the bag when he went to step on it.
All that managed to load the bases for Michael Schmidt, last seen striking out in six of his previous 10 at-bats. But Schmidt drilled a 1-0 pitch to left for a base hit, and Ruthven trotted home with the third run.
Rose tried to make it home with the fourth, as well. But Terry Whitfield gunned him out at the plate, so that saved Ripley the trouble of figuring out any more ways to beat himself.
After that, Ripley was fine. He allowed Unser's bad-hop single leading off the third. But he got him rubbed out via a Trillo double play and then set down seven in a row before the Giants pinch-hit for him in the fifth.
Ruthven was handling himself nicely, though. He allowed a one-out double to Max Venable in the first but pitched out of it. He gave up another one-out double to Billy North in the third. But he worked out of that, too, with the help of a stylish running catch by Unser on Whitfield's liner to right-center.
He survived a two-on, two-out jam in the fifth, too. And by the time he got out there for the sixth, he had a 4-0 lead. Trillo led off the sixth against Tom Griffin with a single, stole second, went to third on a Gross single and scored on Bowa's second big bunt of the night, a one-out squeeze.
"Bowa's squeeze was a very important run for us," sighed Green later. "He's just more confident that when he bunts out here, the grass will help him."
At the time, of course, it looked only like one more run. But no way this pennant drive was going to be that easy.
NOTES: Larry Christenson hurt his groin, not his back, early in his eight-inning one-hitter. But it was just "a twinge," said Green. Christenson was OK yesterday, so the four-man rotation lives.... Matchup in Los Angeles tonight: Bob Walk (9-4) vs. Jerry Reuss (16-4).