In their hours of adversity, the Cincinnati Reds and Philadelphia Phillies are reacting in opposite fashions.
Today's 4-2 Cincinnati victory before 37,907 in Riverfront Stadium was a perfect example of how the Reds are banding together in their time of trouble while the Phils - who have lost nine of 10 - are floundering.
To the naked eye, these two glamorous but injury-riddled contenders should be as nearly identical as their respective won-lost records: 28-22 (Reds), 27-22 (Phils). Yet those with baseball vision know that the moods of these two clubs are utterly different.
The Reds walk tall these days. The Phils are looking for places to hide.
Bereft of Pete Rose and Sparky Anderson, and with Joe Morgan and George Foster in and out of the lineup with nagging injuries, the Reds have reasons to wail. In addition, Tom Seaver's aching back (2-4, 5.48 ERA) could have turned the Red's pitching staff to tafters.
Instead, a half-dozen unsung heroes have kept the Reds on the brink of first place in the National League's West Division.
First in line for a Cincinnati halo is 23-year old righty Mike LaCoss, 6-0 after today's victory, who has started 11 times this season. Cincinnati has won all 11.
Nezt, the mighty Foster, playing with a grotesquely swollen sprained ankle, got a bouquet. Barely able to trot, Foster smashed a 500-foot two-run homer to the second-deck seats in center field today. Several Reds said it was the longest blow in that direction in the park's history.
The Phils were so miffed at Foster flicking a low-away fast ball over the deepest fence that Manager Danny Ozark accused him of using a corked bat.
Folks in Philadelphia may accuse Ozark of using a corked head. Friday night, in another 4-2 loss to the Reds, Ozark batted pithcer Steve Carlton eighth, while switching Rose from third to first and batting Tim McCarver second.
"The first two guys in our order are 75 years old," McGraver said with a grin.
That was nothing. Today Ozark started a catcher (Bob Boone) at third, a third baseman (Mike Schmidt) at shortstop and a shortstop (Bud Harrelson) at second base.
"I think it takes guts to shake up the lineup when we're going bad," said the generous Rose, who broke an 0-for-12 streak with two singles. He scored the Phils' first run and knocked in the second.
Those who saw Boone fall on his duff twice at third, those who watched Schmidt throw past first and those who watched Harrelson play a ball off his chest at second will wonder whether Ozark's moves will not be interpreted as pure panic in judgmental Philadelphia.
It did not help the Phils that McCarver - the extra "bat" in the lineup that caused all these weird position shifts - killed the Phils' only bases-loaded rally of the day by grounding into a first-pitch double play.
Philadelphia, loser of six in a row, has scored only seven runs in its last nine defeats.
"We seem to do this slow-start number on ourselves every year," said Greg Luzinski. "Then we wake up and pull away."
The Philadelphia cure is as simple, perhaps, as the return within the next two weeks of keystone combo Larry Bowa (broken thumb) and Manny Trillo (broken arm).
"This just proves that Bowa is the most irreplaceable man in our whole oineup," saud Rose. "Look at all the stuff we have to go through to make up for him."
The Reds, by contrast, are compensating for their considerable deficiencies with an abundance of pluck.
Catcher John Bench has raised his average 76 points in three weeks by slap-hitting, since his bad back makes it impossible for him to swing with authority. "When all these other guys are hurt, I gotta be well," he said. "Until they're back, I'll play no matter how bad it hurts."
Leadoff man Ken Griffey, Rose's batting order replacement, has managed to hit 284, despite "a terrible slump . . . my swing is lost and I can't find it." Today his solo homer around the right field fould pole will go on the books as the game-winning RBI.
The man in Rose's defensive shoes (easy ones to fill) is sure-handed third baseman Ray Knight.He got two more hits today to push his average over .340. "Write in Ray Knight for All-Star Team" and an appropriate sign in the bleachers.
With the sinker-slider LaCoss and Paul Moskau (4-2, 2.60) taking up starting slack for the ineffective Seaver, the Reds' bullpen has flourished - led by Doug Bair.
After LaCoss battled through 7 2/3 rocky innings today, Bair got the last fives outs - four on whiffs.
"We've had several young pitchers come along more quickly than we could expected," said Manager John McNamara, who could hardly be prouder of his band.
The emblem of the Reds' gumption this afternoon was Foster, limping around the bases with a twice-normal size right ankle. "I've never hit a ball that far to center field," said Foster, who teased the Phils in batting practice by refusing to let them examine his black bat.
"They say I corked it. I say I conked it."
For the Phils, no more dispiriting symbol was necessary than their make-shift lineup, complete with aged and long-ago washed-up Harrelson, whom they fetched from a weekend softball league.
"Well, the Washington Bullets tried about 15 lineups, didn't they?" demanded Rose, who was cheered after his hits today. "That's all we're doing."
Maybe so. But look what happened to the Bullets.