Though it would be difficult to overestimate the importance of Rose's role in Philadelphia's drive for a pennant, it is nonetheless possible that Rose isn't the team's most valuable newcomer. What the Phils lacked most in recent seasons were depth in their starting rotation and a good second baseman who could hit a bit. The addition this spring of righthander Nino Espinosa from the Mets and Second Baseman Manny Trillo from the Cubs has repaired these deficiencies. "Rose is a terrific player," says Expo Manager Dick Williams, "but getting Trillo was the key acquisition the Phillies made. He's a tremendous second baseman."
If anything, Trillo has been better than anyone expected—he was batting .303 and working smoothly with Bowa around second when he became the first casualty on a 16-day road trip the Phillies completed last week. It was a puzzling journey, but it may have been a revealing one, too, because it was during those 16 days that the new Phillies showed what Ozark hopes is their true mettle.
On the first day of the trip, Trillo broke his left forearm when he was hit by a delivery from Dodger Pitcher Rick Sutcliffe, and he will probably remain out of action for another two weeks. The next night, the lefthanded McGraw fractured his right forearm while diving for a ball in the outfield during batting practice and has been pitching with a cast on that arm. A few days later, Luzinski went down with a muscle pull somewhere deep within that ponderous shank that is his left thigh, and his booming bat has been missing ever since. All these injuries came on top of the broken right collarbone that Pitcher Larry Christenson suffered when he fell off a bicycle in February. Christenson didn't make his first start of the season until last Saturday, when the Expos roughed him up for four quick runs en route to a 10-5 victory.
Despite such adversity, the Phillies won 10 of 14 games on the trip, widened their margin over the second-place Expos from one game to four, and emerged from what could have been a disastrous excursion with the best record (24-10) in the majors. Things are not supposed to happen that way, and no one knows it better than the Phils. "We've had our backs to the wall several times already this season," says Schmidt, "and each time we've been able to adjust."
The Phillies responded to their chain of misfortunes by coming up with one sensational replacement after another. When Ramon Aviles, an untried utility infielder, was asked to help fill in for Trillo, all he did through last Friday was hit .480 and get seven hits in eight at bats with men in scoring position. Del Unser, a bargain-priced free agent who was signed in spring training, has replaced Luzinski in left and hit .368, and when Centerfielder Garry Maddox pulled a muscle in his right side in Chicago, Greg Gross batted .313 in his place.
Most important, however, has been the performance of the starting pitchers, particularly Espinosa and righthander Dick Ruthven, who was acquired last season from Atlanta. When Espinosa came over from the Mets, the first thing he was asked was how he thought he would respond to pitching under pressure. "What do you mean, pressure?" asked Espinosa. "In New York I pitched once when we were trying to keep from losing 100 games. That's pressure."
After foundering against the Expos last Sunday, Espinosa, who was a wretched 2-7 in the late stages of '78, had a '79 record of 5-3 and had a 2.80 ERA, which ranked him among the league's 10 best starting pitchers. Ruthven, who jumped off with a 6-0 rush before being defeated by Montreal on Friday, has the second-best ERA among starters at 2.32. Ruthven's impressive record is really not much of a surprise. After joining the Phils in midseason last year, he was 13-5. So why was he 23-36 during his 2� seasons with the Braves? "That was just a case of terminal boredom," says Ruthven. "Pitching in front of 800 people didn't get it. All you could do in Atlanta was play for yourself. And you had to hope nobody hit the ball. At least here I can try to get the hitters to beat the ball on the ground and let one of these awesome athletes run it down."
The Phillies, especially the pitchers, were considerably less than awesome at home against the Expos last weekend, losing 5-3, 10-5 and 10-6 in generally soggy conditions. "As mudders, we ain't much," admitted Rose as the Phils' lead was cut to one game. Still, the Montreal starting pitchers were impressed, especially ace lefty Bill Lee, who didn't survive the third inning on Sunday. In fairness to Lee, he didn't know what he was getting into. " Ross Grimsley lost our scouting report on them," Lee said. "We're still looking for it. All I know about them is they look extremely well fed."
Whatever it is the Phillies have been eating this season, they don't seem to be choking on it.