Chicago Daily Herald - October 11, 1980

Astros Win 'Dome Duel'


By United Press International


HOUSTON (UPI) — Joe Morgan played a familiar hero's role in a dramatic confrontation Friday and moved the Houston Astros within one victory of their first National League pennant.


Morgan, a hero of many past NL Championship Series as a member of the Cincinnati Reds, tripled off reliever Tug McGraw to lead off the llth inning and pinch runner Rafael Landestoy scored on Denny Walling's bases-loaded sacrifice fly to give the Astros a 1-0 victory over the Philadelphia Phillies in the third game of the series.


"While I was on deck, Pete Rose (a former teammate at Cincinnati) said, 'Hey, how about a popup?' I said, 'No, I'm going to hit a line drive.' When I hit the ball I knew I hit it real good."


THE VICTORY gave the Astros a 2-1 edge in the best-of-five series with the fourth game scheduled for the Astrodome today. Vern Ruhle will try to win the pennant for the Astros and Steve Carlton, who won the first game of the series for Philadelphia, will try to keep the Phillies alive.


"In Philadelphia, it would have been a home run but here it's 390 to the fence and there's no carry," said Morgan. "When I saw the ball bounce away, I was ready to run for home plate and it was up to the third base coach to stop me. You have to run that way in a big ballpark like this. Just because you have a man on third base with nobody out, there's no sign you're going to score. If you have a shot at it, you better take it. I was going to keep running until someone stopped me."


After Morgan's hit, the Phillies elected to load the bases to set up a force at home and intentionally walked Jose Cruz and pinch hitter Art Howe. Walling, a left-handed iitter, then hit the left-handed McGraw's pitch to medium left field but (Landestoy) had no problem scoring ahead of left fielder Greg Luzinski's off-line peg to the plate.


"I really didn't hit it real well," said Walling. "It was up to Landestoy to score. I didn't hit it far enough so that there wouldn't be a play In that situation, there were 15 guys telling me to get a ball I can drive."


Despite the victory, however, the Astros lost their star center fielder, Cesar Cedeno, for the remainer of theplayoffs with a dislocated ankle Cedeno suffered the injury while bouncing into an inning-ending double play in the sixth and was taken to the hospital where surgery was performed to repair torn ligaments.


"IT WILL HURT us a lot, but this team has overcome so much adversity already," said Morgan about the loss of Cedeno. "I think we're strong enough to go the rest of the way without him but it will hurt us not to have him. We had a saying when we were a run down this year — Cesar go score a run.


"It seemed like 90 percent of the time he'd do it. Personally, I feel very bad about it. Cesar and I were very close this season and I know he wanted to play in the World Series so badly."


The first playoff game ever played indoors was one of the most tension-filled in the history of the championship series and was highlighted by a series of missed scoring opportunities on both sides.


Joe Niekro pitched the first 10 innings for the Astros, allowing only six hits, but four times the Phillies left runners in scoring position and even had a man cut down at the plate in the third.


The Phillies left runners in scoring position three times in the first four innings. Their best shot came in the third when Pete Rose and McBride put together back-to-back singles to place runners on first and third with one out. Rose, however, was thrown out at the plate when he attempted to score on Mike Schmidt's grounder to third baseman Enos Cabell.


The Phillies also wasted a leadoff double by Manny Trillo in the second 'inning as Niekro retired the next three 'batters on fly balls. On the last out of the inning, Cruz badly misjudged Bob Boone's line drive to left and had to jump in the air to make the catch as the Astros' fans breathed a collective sigh of relief.


THINGS WERE just as frustrating for the Astros in the early going as they were for the Phillies. The Astros also wasted a leadoff double, by Terry Puhl in the first, and couldn't deliver a run in the fourth either after a one-out triple by Cruz.


Actually, the Astros would have had a run in the fourth if it hadn't been for a fine defensive play by Rose at first base. With two out, Luis Pujols hit a slow bouncer to third which Schmidt took on the short hop. Schmidt appeared to have trouble getting the ball out of his glove and his throw to first was in to the dirt, but Rose dug it out to nail Pujols by a half-step.


The Astros blew another chance to score in the sixth and, in the process, lost Cedeno. Cabell led off the sixth with a single and moved to second on Morgan's groundout. After Cruz was intentionally walked to load the bases, Cedeno hit into a double-play and broke his right ankle when he caught the inside of the base.


The game's greatest moments of drama came in the eighth and ninth innings and each time the crowd of 44,443 was brought to its feet.


Puhl led off the Astros' eighth with a single and was sacrificed to second, bringing up Morgan. Philadelphia manager Dallas Green then replaced Dickie Moles, who had relieved starter Larry Christenson in the seventh, with his ace, McGraw, Morgan, however, almost foiled the strategy by lining what appeared to be an extra-base hit into right center. But Maddox made a sparkling, running catch in the webbing of his glove and the Phillies got out of the inning when Dave Bergman flew out to right following an intentional walk to Cruz.


Niekro's most anxious moment came in the ninth. After he retired the first two batters, the knuckleballer hit Maddox with a pitch and the speedy outfielder stole second. Niekro elected to walk Larry Bowa intentionally to pitch to Boone and, on a 3-2 pitch, Boone hit a long fly to left-center which Cruz ran down and caught for the final out.


The Phillies' final threat came against winning reliever Dave Smith in the llth when Maddox doubled with two out. Smith, however, walked Bowa intentionally and then struck out pinchhitter Del Unser to end the inning.