Doylestown Daily Intelligencer - October 10, 1980

Astros Hoping 'Dome' Will Neutralize Phils Power


By the United Press International


HOUSTON (UPI) - The National League championship series resumes today in the Lone Star state and Houston Astros manager Bill Virdon believes the spaciousness of his squad's home park will strip the Philadelphia Phillies of a primary offensive weapon.


"The Dome will neutralize their power." Virdon said. "It will allow our pitchers to get away with more mistakes. It is suited to what we try to accomplish."


Following the teams' 1-1 split of the league series in Philadelphia's Veterans Stadium, games scheduled in the Astrodome for this afternoon, Saturday afternoon and Sunday night — if the last is needed - will decide the World Series representative from the senior circuit.


Virdon said he did not think the victory on the road gave the Astros an edge, but his players disagreed.


"I think we're in the driver's seat." said pitcher Nolan Ryan, who started the second game in Philly. "We're confident we can win two of three at home."


Knucklcbailer Joe Niekro, a 20-game winner and the hero of Houston's one-game division playoff in Los Angeles Monday, was to pitch today against Philadelphia right-harder Larry Christenson. 5-1.


Christenson was 1-0 with a 3.60 earned run average against Houston this year but Phillies manager Dallas green expressed confidence in his starter. "He's pitched well in the Dome before and I'm confident of his abilities to get us going on the right track again," Green said.


The Phillies won four of six games in the Astrodome this season despite getting only one home run there from an unusual source. Christenson, who hit a two-run shot off Niekro.


Phillies outfielder Greg Gross, a former Astro, intimated that the Astrodome does present peculiar problems. The 340-foot foul lines and 390-foot power alleys affect some of the league's power hitters as they stand at the plate, he said.


"Home run hitters try to do things differently with their swing in here," he said. "These guys (the Phillies) not so much."


Gross added that hard-hit fly balls get no assistance in the windless indoor atmosphere, but for some unexplained reason large crowds seem to give ihe balls more carry.


"A lot of people warm it up in here, and then I've seen the bail jump out of here." he said. A capacity crowd of about 55,000 was expected for today's game.


Phillies first baseman Pete Rose surveyed the playing field Thursday for the first time since July 17,. the last date the Phillies played there. As his teammates took batting practice. Rose said he understood why the Astros were 55-26 on their home turf this year.


"This ballpark is sort of tailored for them." he said. "They've got a lot of non-home run hitlers and opposite field hitters. I can see why they set a record for triples. They should have set a record for doubles."


Niekro was one of oniy three Asiros to come to the ballpark Thursday, the team's second day off in a month. Third baseman Enos Cabei; and first baseman Art Howe took batting practice while Niekro arrived to meet with reporters.


Virdon said he asked his players whether they wanted to work out Thursday and "not one hand went up."


The day off gave second baseman Joe Morgan time to rest a sore knee and catcher Alan Ashby a chance to see a doctor about soreness in his chest.


Virdon disclosed Ashby's chest pains, believed to be the result of a bruised rib, were reported to him just before the first game in Philadelphia Tuesday. After sitting out that game, Ashby played Wednesday.