Los Angeles Times - May 3, 1980
Dodger Rally Falls Short in Game of Inches, 9-5
Baker Just Misses Go-Ahead Homer in Eighth and 10-Game Win Streak Ends in Philadelphia
By Richard Hoffer, Times Staff Writer
PHILADELPHIA – As far as the 30,294 Veterans Stadium fans were concerned (or at least those who weathered two rain delays), the Phillies' 9-5 victory over the Dodgers Friday night was accomplished on a couple of mighty blows, the kind that leave the orange seats rattling well after the last runner has touched home.
Certainly the homers by the Phillies' Mike Schmidt and Greg Luzinski – both two-run jobs – were important elements in a game that halted the Dodgers' win streak at 10. And certainly prodigious homers by the Dodgers' Reggie Smith and Steve Garvey were important.
But ultimately it was a game of inches. Or, as Garvey later observed, "a game of millimeters."
Except for those inches (or millimeters), the Dodgers may well have come back to extend their streak. Although the Phillies led most of the way, except for a brief 5-5 tie in the eighth, the Dodgers seemed absolutely assured of victory. After all, Garvey said, "We came back to win five of those last 10 games and probably won another two in the seventh or eighth innings. We've been battling."
But not this game. "It was just too weird," explained Dodger Dusty Baker, another who failed his team by inches (millimeters).
It all started Cor ended) in the eighth inning when the Dodgers were trailing, 5-3, Smith, who had crunched his fifth homer earlier in the evening, got a walk off Phillie reliever and eventual winner Ron Reed. Then Garvey slammed his over the center-field wall – quite a shot, more than 408 feet. That made it 5-5 with Baker at the plate. He ripped one into the stands – foul by inches.
Baker estimated its distance at "one mile." "I never hit one harder," Baker said. "It's the same as the other day, though, foul. Every day I hit the same one; I just can't understand it. But I know I'm strong. I never hit one that hard before."
But those missed inches just to the left of the left field foul pole won't be registered in any box score. Look instead for the strikeout. Reed got out of the inning. By inches.
Dodger reliever Charlie Hough, taking over for Robert Castillo, who had taken over for starter Rick Sutcliffe, was not so lucky in his half.
Hough, who had made six outings in relief previously, giving up just one earned run in 10 innings, got into quick trouble due to three walks. But even with the bases loaded, he had a chance to salvage the inning. With two out, Greg Gross was sent to the plate in place of Reed.
Dodger manager Tom Lasorda, who had smartly juggled personnel in previous come-from-behind wins during the streak, defended the one move he didn't make.
"No, I don't take Charlie out," he said. "The guy's pitching super, extremely well. The bases were loaded, sure, but there's two out. You've got to give him a chance to get the guy out."
Lasorda doesn't regret giving Hough the opportunity. "He made a super pitch to Gross," Lasorda said, "but the guy hits it just over the shortstop's head."
Inches over Bill Russell's head, really. But it will look like a two-run single in the box score. Just as bad, it allowed Hough to get into deeper trouble instead of into the dugout. He walked the next batter and before Joe Beckwith could get the final out, Bake McBride had pushed across an other two runs with a bases-loaded single.
The whole thing kind of mystified Lasorda. “The bullpen has been so outstanding,” he lamented. “It s given up, what, one run in the last 10 games?" Amazingly, Lasorda underestimated his bullpen. His relievers had not given up any during the last 11. Until Friday night.
For all that, the Dodgers still could have tied it up back in the ninth. Phillie reliever Dickie Noles managed to get pinch hitter Jay Johnstone out but walked another pinch hitter, Gary Thomasson. Then Davey Lopes reached first on a hard chance to third that had Schmidt stumbling all over the infield after it. After Rudy Law lined out, Smith worked another walk to load the bases. Bringing up Garvey.
Garvey lifted it well beyond the bases-loaded infield, dangerously close to the wall. But Gross settled under it for the final out.
"How close was it?" Garvey asked. "I got under it by millimeters. I guess mat makes it a game of millimeters now, doesn’t it?”