Philadelphia Daily News - September 6, 1980
Sutton Death for Phils
By Bill Conlin
LOS ANGELES – There was no need for an angry clubhouse meeting this time. It's tough to play grind-it-out baseball when you can't put the bat on the ball, tough to score runners when only one of them makes it to second base.
Steve Carlton went head-to-head, pitch-to-pitch, eyeball-to-eyeball with Don Sutton last night in one of the brilliant pitching matchups of the 1980 season.
Somebody had to blink. And if you blinked in the Dodgers' half of the second, you missed it. Ron Cey led off the inning with a homer into the pavilion in left-center and that was that, Sutton 1, Carlton 0.
There was no bellyaching in the Phillies' clubhouse about blown opportunities or safety-first baseball because Sutton was magnificent. Before the 35-year-old righthander gave way to Don Stanhouse in the ninth, he allowed just three singles – none after the fourth inning – and struck out 10, a season high for the Dodger staff.
"HE THREW A little harder than usual," said Greg Luzinski, "but his breaking pitch was what beat us. He was right on or just off the corners all night."
That is Sutton's philosophy. It's been a half-dozen seasons since he could knock the bat out of your hand. And even when he was a 19-year-old rookie, brash and wise beyond his years, Don knew he was a pitcher and not a thrower.
"When I throw the ball over the plate I get beat," Sutton said after lowering his ERA to a league-leading 2.15. "To win I have to throw the ball around the plate."
He knows the key to beating the Phillies is to keep Mike Schmidt and Greg Luzinski from taking him out of the park. Schmidt gave Don his only anxious moment when he led off the fourth with a single between third and short. Bake McBride, batting cleanup, worked a 3-2 count and Schmidt was running. Bake looked at a called third strike and Schmidt stole the base. Sutton struck out Luzinski and Davey Lopes made a fine play on Manny Trillo's bad-hopping grounder into the hole. The Phillies had only one baserunner after that, a harmless ' walk to Schmidt with two outs in the sixth.
"On Schmidt I used to just stay in, in, in, in," Sutton said. "I used to just pound him in here. But he backed off the plate. He's always been a good breaking-ball hitter and I know that I'm a breaking-ball pitcher. He's always been able to handle my breaking ball. What I try to do is show him the ball inside and go right back away with it. I want to make him hit the ball out in right field if he's gonna hit it out."
SUTTON USES BASICALLY the same sequence with Luzinski. "I don’t think I have enough juice to get in on those guys," he said. "When it comes to challenging people inside I'm pretty careful when I do that. Schmidt moving off the plate poses a few more problems because when you come in on him now it's a ball. But a good hitter makes adjustments. It's the dumb hitter who helps me make a living."
Carlton wasn't exactly chopped liver. He got a few breaking balls up in the early innings and Cey jumped on one of them. Lefty allowed just six hits and struck out six Dodgers in seven innings. After Carlton struck out Sutton in the third with a wickedly plunging slider, the pitcher tipped his batting helmet as he walked away.
"Out of respect," Don said. "The man is the class pitcher in baseball. He never ceases to amaze me."
The loss dropped the division-leading Phillies into an almost flat-footed tie for first with the Expos, who beat the Giants. As tough as it was to see Carlton's effort go to waste, they went down to a pitcher who has allowed a run or less in half his 26 starts and has been involved in 12 no-decisions.
"He could easily be in the running for the Cy Young," Tommy Lasorda said. "He's got 10 wins but he's pitched well enough to have at least 18. The man has started 26 games now and the only time he didn't have good enough stuff to win was the national TV opener in Houston, the game where Nolan Ryan hit a homer off him. "He hasn't given up more than four runs in any other start. He only gave up five that game and I've seen a lot of pitchers give up five runs and walk away with a W."
SUTTON. SAYS HIS breaking ball was close to the best it has been at any time in a distinguished career. "It was good enough for me to try to remember what I was doing to make it so good," he said. "I'm going to be around five more years and that's the kind of breaking ball I want to have."
He's still unsigned and he will make one of the better free-agent catches for somebody if he fails to come to terms with Dodger President Al Campanis.
There is a lot of Pete Rose in Sutton. You know he’ll be out there taking his turn every fifth day. He thrives in pressure situations and he keeps you in every game he pitches.
"We've got to score a run," Mike Schmidt said. Then he shrugged. "But the guy only gave us one chance to score a run with a base hit. He put us in a position where we had to hit a home run to get on the board and that's tough to do the way he was spotting the ball."
PHILUPS: For some odd reason, the crowd of 41,019 was several hundred less than turned out to see Thursday night's game. Considering it was Friday night and the well-advertised pitching matchup, the game should have drawn closer to 50,000. Dodgers aren't crying, though. They've averaged just under 40,000 for 65 dates... Phils cut down a run by pitching out with Mickey Hatcher on third and Don Sutton batting in the fifth. As suspected, the Dodgers had the suicide squeeze on and Hatcher was called out for deflecting Bob Boone's throw to third with his right arm... Larry Christenson takes on Bob Welch tonight and the long trip will end tomorrow afternoon with a Dave Goltz-Dick Ruthven matchup.
There were three winners yesterday in the Daily News Home Run Payoff contest.
In the eighth inning of the Phillies-Dodgers game, Philadelphians Jorge Galarza, Marge McCarty and Jacob J. Jacobs each won four tickets to a Phillies game.
To date, the Daily News has paid out $16,695.
Today's entry coupon appears on this page.