Allentown Morning Call - October 11, 1980

Astros one win away from N.L. title


By Ted Meixell, Call Sports Writer


HOUSTON – Early this week, as the Houston Astros were taking batting practice for Game One of the National League's best-of-five championship series at Veterans Stadium, he said of new teammates, "We've got a very good team here, a very much underrated team. By the end of this week a lot of people are going to find out." 


Okay, Joe. We believe you. But what you forgot to tell us all is just how much you contribute to making the Astros a good team. We found out about that, too, yesterday – and so did a crowd of 44,443 here in The Eighth Wonder of the World and millions of Howard Cosell disciples. 


As anyone who hasn't been vacationing in Baghdad must know by now, the Astros finally managed to manufacture a run in the 11th inning of yesterday's third LCS game. The resulting 1-0 win over the Phils gives Houston a 2-1 lead in the series and puts The Boys Who Hate October in a fish or cut bait situation. 


Joe Morgan is largely responsible, although a guy named Denny Walling – who found out he was playing only when he arrived at the Dome tardily – launched the official game-winner. 


Morgan, who three innings earlier slammed a Tug McGraw offering hard to right center with Terry Puhl at second only to watch Garry Maddox make-a great running catch, got another shot at The Tugger to lead off the 11th. And he made the best of it. 


On 1-2, McGraw threw what Morgan said was "a fastball tailing in or a slider, I'm not sure," and deposited it off the San Francisco logo, just out of reach of a streaking, lunging Bake McBride. When the ball bounded away from McBride, an expectant roar went up from the crowd which had visions of an inside-the park home run. 


But Maddox retrieved the ball in time to hold Morgan to a triple – but that turned out to be quite enough for Walling. 


Bill Virdon ran Rafael Landestoy for Morgan. Dallas Green ordered both Jose Cruz and pinch hitter Art Howe walked to load the bases and brought his outfield and infield in to Little League depth. One thing he forgot – or at least thought better of – was inserting Greg Gross, an outfielder with a far quicker release and more accurate arm than Greg Luzinski – in left field. 


McGraw slipped two strikes past Walling and fed him a fastball, high and away. Walling skied it to medium left. Luzinski backtracked about three steps, caught the ball with his momentum carrying him away from the plate and heaved. His throw was way off line, Mike Schmidt cut it off in desperation, but had no chance to nip the speedy Landestoy. And about three million Philadelphians slipped into comas, screaming, "It's happening again."


Was the pitch where you wanted it, McGraw was asked? "It was away... but now that I think about it, I might have been better off wasting it high and inside to set him up for another breaking ball. I needed the strikeout." How about the one to Morgan? "Hell, no. Bleep, I wanted it away." 


If any doubt remained about the Astros' – class or resourcefulness – after the amazing way they rallied their forces, coming back to take the Western crown in the nail-biting finish in Los Angeles following the tragic loss of star pitcher J R. Richard, it had to be removed once and for all yesterday.


Houston suffered another crippling blow – one that would cause lesser clubs to crumble – in the sixth inning. Leading hitter and star centerfielder Cesar Cedeno, while unsuccessfully running out a double play, leaped on the corner of first base and suffered compound dislocations of the right ankle. 


He was taken to Methodist Hospital here and will be operated on (to repair ligament damage) by team doctor Harold Brelsford. He is obviously out for the remainder of postseason play. Yet Houston persevered – and they have the Phils between a rock and a hard place.


The Astros can play. And they'll continue to play, even without Cedeno. 


In the Astros' 7-4, 10-inning win in Wednesday's second game, the Phils stranded 14 runners, 10 in the last four innings. That number was 11 yesterday and if the Phils had been able to break the habit of not producing key hits with men on base especially in the early innings the game would never have gone into overtime. 


Let's enumerate.


●  First inning, Schmidt on second with two out after a single off Astro starter Phil Niekro. Luzinski grounder to short. 


●  Second inning, Manny Trillo leadoff double. Maddox pop to first, Larry Bowa pop to third, Bob Boone line drive to left. 


●  Third inning, Pete Rose (single) at third, McBride (single) at first, one out. Rose thrown out at plate by Enos Cabell on Schmidt's grounder, Luzinski blast to 390 sign caught by Cruz. Would Bull's blast have been out of the Vet? "The ball would have at least hit the fence," Green said. "Our (power) alley's only 371, it's 390 here." 


●  Ninth inning (Niekro knuckled down, no pun intended, in the middle innings), Maddox (hit by pitch, steal) on second, Bowa (intentional walk) on third, two out. Boone crushes a curving liner to deep left center, Cruz makes a fine running catch. 


●  Eleventh inning, Maddox (double) on second, two out. Pinch hitter Del Unser, up for Boone, who'd hit the ball hard all day, fans. 


"We hit the ball hard all day," was a debatable remark by Green. "But we didn't get them in."

There’s an amazing sense the Phillies are still confident


By Ted Meixell, Call Sports Writer


HOUSTON – The Phillies' clubhouse often resembles either a morgue or a war zone – even after a win – when reporters invade it following a game. 


It was with no little trepidation, therefore, that writers gingerly approached after the Phils' debilitating, 11-inning, 1-0 loss to the Astros yesterday in Game Three of the National League Championship Series. 


But, what was this? Reporters were being received with downright cordiality. There were no angry screams of, "Here come the bleep bleep vultures to pick the bones." Nobody was sulking. Nobody was hiding. And no one was drawing a gun. In fact, there was an amazing sense that these guys were still confident. 


The speaker, Pete Rose, a smile on his face, a plate of cold cuts in his hand: "They've (the Astros) gotta' come out tomorrow (today) and beat the best pitcher in the world (Steve Carlton). Then Sunday they've gotta' beat a kid (Marty Bystrom) who went 5-0 in September. 


"If they do that, they deserve it. Lefty pitched his worst game of the year Tuesday and only gave up one run – with six days rest. He'll be going with three days rest and I expect him to be awesome. 


"Yeah, I expect tomorrow's game to be low-scoring. But I think maybe Sunday somebody's gonna' blow somebody out." Rose left no doubt who he had in mind when he concluded, "We're too good an offensive club to not do it at least once." 


The speaker, Bob Boone, his tone of voice quiet and confident: "I don't care what they (the fans back in Philly) think. We have an important game to play tomorrow and we think we can win. We'll have to play again Sunday and we think we can win again. 


"In a short series, the breaks can go either way. So far they've gotten them, but I think both clubs have played very well. But one game doesn't affect the next one at all – especially in the playoffs." 


The speaker, Tug McGraw, the loser in yesterday's death struggle, grabbing a microphone just as he does after a big win: "I hope I don't have to pitch tomorrow – but I could. I hope we score a lot of runs.


"Two weeks ago we won the first game of three from Montreal in Philly, but they came back to win the last two. We're going to use that as an inspiration, it shows us it can be done. Hey, we have to feel that way. If we don't, we oughta' just pack our bags and forfeit.”


Earlier, in a mass interview, the speaker was Dallas Green: "We're in trouble," he admitted. But his manner was still controlled, he waved no white flags. 


"I'll tell you this, that was a helluva game. Their guys (Joe Niekro and Dave Smith) pitched well, but so did ours (Larry Christenson, Dickie Noles and McGraw). 


"Naturally, we feel a little let down right now, but I'm gonna' go back in the clubhouse, talk to the guys and get ready for tomorrow." 


If Lefty doesn't win today – although it's silly to bet against him – I wonder what the clubhouse will be like. 


I dunno. But I think I'll wear my bulletproof vest anyhow.