As Montreal's Woody Fryman, at 40 the oldest relief ace in baseball, marched to the Veteran's Stadium mound in the bottom of the ninth with two outs this afternoon, Larry Bowa of the Phillies -- the tying run standing on third -- caught Fryman's eye and said, "What are you doing in here, you old goat?"
"Well, old goat," said Fryman to himself, "it looks like you better win one for all the kids on this team. Show 'em how its done."
He did, and the Expos won, 4-3.
Actually, Fryman doesn't know how it's done. He's never pitched for a team that's won anything in his 16 seasons. But an old goat is willing to butt into new walls, especially if he's really just a kid at heart.
With that tying run on third and the winning run on first in a 4-3 game, plus a crowd of 53,058 screaming for the second miraculous sudden-death Philadelphia win in two days, Fryman faced the Phillies' top average hitter -- rookie Lonnie Smith, hitting a clean, swift .337.
Fryman didn't learn until last season that what he does best is pitch short relief. But now, as poor Smith knows, few do it better. A jamming fastball as a calling card, followed by three nasty sliders of varying speedways enough to freeze the rookie lamb for a called third strike to end this game and pull the Expos back to a half-game behind the Phils with eight days left in the regular season.
Montreal had its triumph, but, far more than that, the mood of a pennant race had taken another of its sudden shifts, like a race car suddenly catching a wheel on a soft shoulder. All the tea leaf readers here now have to put a different interpretation on this Eastern race.
"Man, it sure changes fast, doesn't it?" said Mike Schmidt, who, along with Manny Trillo, hit solo homers off Expo winner Scott Sanderson. "Last night we were talking about how we'd have Lefty (Steve Carlton) going today and if we won, the Expos would be three down in the loss column. And now . . ."
And now Carlton (23-9) has lost, tagged hard for eight hits and four runs in seven innings today. It's the Phils who must send a flighty rookie, Whirlybird Walk (Walk on the Wild Side), against a classy veteran Steve Rogers (2.95) here Sunday. "If we win tomorrow, then its the Phillies who have the problems all of a sudden," said Fryman, "cause we'll be back in first, and they still have to look at coming to Montreal for the last three games of the season."
"This time of year, you can't lie to yourself that there's still plenty of time," said Larry Parrish, who broke an 0-for-10 slump with a cold-blooded grounder up the spine of the diamond in the eighth that chilled the Phils as it chugged into center field, driving in what proved to be the winning run off reliever Warren Brusstar.
"The players feel that roller coast effect, just like the fans. Each game seems like it dramatically changes all the odds. We knew it. Late last night, a bunch of us got together in here and talked about it. If we'd lost today, we'd have been in real trouble, no doubt it. We were like a guy trapped in a corner. You just gotta come out fighting," said Parrish.
"We knew against Carlton that there'd be no dead meat to hit off. But we just had to go get him anyway."
And get him they did. Gary Carter, the Popeye catcher with 27 homers, 95 RBI and a smooth post game rap as slick as Steve Garvey, conked his third homer off Carlton in 10 at bats this year, his solo blast to left in the second tying the game, 1-1, after Schmidt had hit his 44th round-tripper in the first.
Just to insure the proper note of seriousness, Trillo cracked the first pitch of the next Phillie at bat over the left-field fence for a 2-1 hometown lead. But that was the end of Phil power as the hosts have scored only 14 runs in six games this week. And mere one-run leads were not enough for Carlton on a day when he couldn't spot either his fast ball or slider, constantly falling behind in counts.
Three times the Expos greeted Carlton with leadoff doubles crashed off the left-field wall -- in the fourth, seventh, and eighth by Andre Dawson, Chris Speier and then Dawson again. All three eventually scored.
First, the humble-hitting Speier, who was three-for-three off Carlton, drove home the tying run in the fourth (2-2) with a two-out, two-strike liner lashed over Pete Rose's head at first.
Then, with two out in the seventh, Carlton once again couldn't finish the job of wriggling out of trouble as Jerry White smoked an RBI double to the wall in left center for a 3-2 Expo lead.
Finally, in the eighth, Dawson's double outsed Cartlon, who stood on the mound in a silent supressed rage, disgusted with himself for being knocked out in mid-inning for only the fifth time in his marvelous season. Parrish delivered Dawson for the final, and, it proved, winning run.
On Friday night, Bake McBride's bottom-of-the-ninth homer gave the Phils' 2-1 win a special dimension of carryover drama. But today the Phils had a piece of ninth-inning strategy blow up in their faces that may prove to have just as much impact. After crisp leadoff singles by Greg Luzinski and Trillo off so-so reliever Elias Sosa, Phils' Manager Dallas Green decided to go strictly by the book, ordering a sacrifice bunt, despite the fact that his hitter, Garry Maddox, doesn't like to bunt, doesn't practice it much and isn't the master of the art that a speedster sould be. Also, the Vet is a rugball park.
"Astroturf has practically taken the sacrifice bunt out of the game, because it's so hard," said Rose before the game. "Now you gotta use all kinds of trick plays in bunt situations -- swing away, run-and-bunt, chop the ball past the charging infielder. It's exciting, but it's really baseball."
But Green chose not to be exciting. The book is safer, especially if 53,058 people are ready to throw it at you if you get fancy and fail.
So, Maddox bunted -- atrociously. His bunt was not only far too hard, but also in the wrong direction -- toward the charging first baseman, rather than the third baseman, who has to stay back for a force.
"I have no idea why he would bunt toward first rather than third," said Expo Manager Dick Williams, "But I'm very glad he did."
Warren Cromartie, a first-year first baseman gobbled the bunt and did an amazing thing. He made the brave throw.The night before, Cromartie passed up on easy none-out force at second on a routine gronder because he was afraid of hitting the runner with a throw.
"Crow picked a helluva time to get gutsy," grinned one Expo. Actually, the force was made by 10 feet.
"Yes, you bunt it to third in that situation," said Schmidt. "But I wish we hadn't gone by the book to start with. That's second-guessing, but I'd like to have seen some animation. There are a lot of things you can do there besides doing exactly what they expect."
After Bowa (a long-time friend of Fryman) grounded into a force, tough rookie Keith Moreland hit a blistering RBI single in the hole to right field, cutting the Expo lead to 4-3, putting men at the corners and forcing Williams to wave for his favorite Old Goat.