Reading Eagle - May 1, 1980
Bad Pitch Costly To Pete Falcone
NEW YORK (AP) – Pete Falcone matched a major league record for strikeouts Thursday night, but it was a pitch that was not a strike that cost him the decisive runs in the Philadelphia Phillies’ 2-1 victory over the New York Mets.
“The disciplined hitter would have let it go and made me come to him,” said Falcone, 1-2, of the pitch which rookie Luis Aguayo drilled for a two-run homer in the fifth.
For Aguayo, it was his first major league home run, but his reaction to that aspect of the situation was subdued. “I just take it like another hit,” he said.
Steve Carlton gave up eight hits and four walks, but pitched out of trouble enough to get the victory. Carlton, 4-1, became the third National League four-game winner this season with relief help from Tug McGraw, who picked up his second save.
Aguayo agreed that the pitch he his was not a strike. “I think it was a ball, but I was ahead of him 2-0 and I was looking for a fastball.” He got it.
“It was a bad pitch, down and in,” said Falcone. “A veteran hitter would have taken that pitch. That’s what makes this such a great game, you never know.”
Oddly, Aguayo and Falcone were teammates in the Puerto Rican Winter League in 1977. “He didn’t play much,” Falcone said of Aguayo, “but maybe I should have paid more attention. Now I know he’s a low-ball hitter.”
Despite Aguayo’s game-winning hit, the Phils got only three hits off Falcone in seven innings and the Met left-hander was the big story. Falcone began the game with six successive strikeouts, becoming only the second pitcher in modern National League history to perform that feat.
He struck out Lonnie Smith, Pete Rose and Garry Maddox in the first innings, and then got Mike Schmidt, Greg Luzinski and Bob Boone swinging in the second.
Falcone didn’t know that he had matched a modern record at the time. When informed that only one other NL pitcher had started a game with six strikeouts since 1900, he smiled. “That makes you feel good,” he said.
“He had it all working for him tonight,” said New York Manager Joe Torre, “and a left-hander with that kind of control can be kind of nasty to hit.” Falcone issued only one walk.
Larry Bowa, who singled in the fifth ahead of Aguayo’s homer, hit the first pitch from Falcone for a roller back to the pitcher to start the third inning and end the strikeout string.
Three American Leaguers – John Hiller, Ray Culp and Bert Blyleven – started games with six strikeouts, but only Andy Messersmith with the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1973 had ever done it before in the NL.