Frederick Post - October 11, 1980
Astros Win, 1-0
By the Associated Press
HOUSTON (AP) - Denny Walling, who had appear in only three of Houston's last 18 games, and gimpy-kneed Joe Morgan made a winning combination Friday that brought the Astros a 1-0 victory over Philadelphia in the 11th inning and put them within a game of the National League title.
Morgan, playing despite a strained knee, boomed a triple off the right field wall in the bottom of the 11th and then gave way to pinch runner Rafael Landestoy, who scored the winning run in Game 3 of the NL Championship Series.
After Phils pitcher Tug McGraw intentionally loaded the bases by walking Jose Cruz and pinch hitter Art Howe, Walling, a lefty, stepped in against the left-handed McGraw and delivered the game-winning sacrifice fly to Greg Luzinski in left field.
"I didn't think I hit the ball very well," Walling said after his rare start. "It was up to Landestoy to score the run. Bill (Manager Bill Virdon) had let me hit against lefties four or five times in crucial situations and I expected to hit the baseball.
"It was a good feeling to come in like this and produce. Last year, I had a better average, but this year has to be more satisfying."
That made Walling the second-most satisfied player, after Morgan.
"Tug had thrown me every pitch there was and I wasn't hurting at all when I saw the ball hit the wall," explained Morgan. "I was going for home but they told me to hold at third."
Philadelphia Manager Dallas Green recognized his team's predicament.
"I know we're in trouble," Green said. "I feel a little bit down right now. But we're going to get together in the locker room and try to regroup.
"We had some opportunities to score early and we didn't."
The Astros must try to win their first league championship in the team's 19-year history Saturday against Steve Carlton.
"I'll stick all the right-handed hitters I can find into the lineup against Carlton," the percentage-conscious Virdon said. "He's as tough as there is. If I had Carlton and had to win one game to stay in it, I'd pitch him, too."
The run completed the second straight extra-inning playoff game and set a National League record for the most scoreless innings in playoff competition.
Following Morgan's triple, Philadelphia Manager Dallas Green elected to intentionally walk Jose Cruz and pinch hitter Art Howe in order to face the left-handed hitting Walling.
Joe Niekro, the hero of Houston's division-clinching playoff victory over Los Angeles on Monday, kept the Phils at bay through most of the game except for the third inning.
Pete Rose and Bake McBride hit consecutive singles after starting pitcher Larry Christenson had lef off the third with a strikeout.
With Rose at third base and McBride at second, major league runs batted in leader Mike Schmidt bounced a hopper to Enos Cabell at third base and Cabell's throw caught Rose at the plate.
Phils left fielder Luzinski then flied out to deep left field, ending the threat.
While Niekro was holding Philadelphia in check, the Astros were wasting scoring opportunities in the first, fourth, sixth and eighth innings.
Terry Puhl led off Houston's first inning with a double down the right field line. Cabell grounded out and Morgan walked before Jose Cruz hit into a double play, killing the threat.
The Astros stranded Cruz in the fourth inning following a one-out triple to right field.
Phul gave Houston another scoring chance in the eighth inning when he singled and was sacrificed to second by Cabell. But a run-saving catch by Garry Maddox in center field and first baseman Dave Bergman's fly ball ended the inning.
Houston center fielder Cesar Cedeno hit into a double play, ending the sixth inning with runners on first and second, and suffering a broken right ankle while crossing first base. Cedeno was scheduled for surgery later Friday to repair ligament damage.
Niekro, 20-12 during the regular season, allowed six hits during his 10 innings of work but suffered from the futile run production that has plagued the Astros all season. He was replaced in the 11th by Dave Smith.
Smith, one of Houston's top relief aces all season, responded to the challenge in the 11th inning when he struck out Luzinski to open the inning. Then, after Manny Trillo flied out, Maddox doubled and Larry Bowa was walked intentionally, Smith, the winning pitcher, ended the inning by fanning pinch hitter Del Unser.
Both teams missed early scoring opportunities with the Phils nullifying the best chance in the third inning when they got runners on second and third with one out against Niekro.
After Christenson struck out to start the inning, Rose got his 36th playoff hit to extend his NL record, a single to shallow left field. Rose went to third base on a perfectly executed hit-and-run play when McBride singled to right field.
McBride went to second on a passed ball by Luis Pujols to set the stage for Schmidt.
But Schmidt, also the major league home run champion, hit a tapper back to Cabell at third base and Cabell's throw to the plate caught Rose sliding.
The Astros survived another scare in the inning when Greg Luzinski hit a fly ball to the 380-foot marker in left field for the third out with two runners still aboard.
Trillo doubled to lead off Philadelphia's second inning on a ground ball down the third base line that fell just out of the grasp of the diving Cabell. Maddox and Bowa followed with popouts and Bob Boone flew out to Cruz to end the inning.
Houston continued to throw away scoring chances in the fourth inning when Cruz boomed a one-out triple to deep right field. But after Cedeno grounded out and Walling was walked intentionally, Pujols grounded out to Schmidt.
Schmidt and first baseman Rose combined for an outstanding defensive play to prevent a run from scoring on Pujols' grounded. Schmidt shorthopped Pujols' high bouncer and Rose dug Schmidt's throw out of the dirt for the final out.
Luzinski went 0-for-5, ending a string of 13 consecutive playoff games in which he had collected at least one hit.
In Saturday's fourth game of the series, Houston's Vern Ruhle was scheduled to face Philadelphia's ace, Steve Carlton, who beat the Astros 3-1 in the opening game of the series Tuesday night.