Montreal Gazette - October 11, 1980
Phils’ fate with Carlton as Astros win
By Michael Farber of The Gazette
HOUSTON – You'd better believing the Houston Astros, ever they are.
Sure, it's hard to take a start who- team seriously when the heroes are a guy with strained knee ligaments (Joe Morgan), a name pitcher... who has his brother's name (Joe Niekro), a former Oakland A (Denny Walling), but the Philadelphia Phillies – to paraphrase reliever/philosopher Tug McGraw – better believe.
The Astros beat Philadelphia and Mr. McGraw 1-0 in 11 excruciating innings yesterday, taking a two-games-to-one lead in the National League playoff and forcing the Phillies to play their ace, Steve Carlton, in Game Four today to prevent their seemingly annual October massacre.
Fourteen of Carlton's 24 regular season wins came after Phillie losses, and Lefty – who is 7-0 against the Astros since '78 – was an incredible 11-1 with three days rest. So anything is possible... except the Phillies. They just seem impossible.
One of these years, they are going to replace Greg Luzinski in left field.
They call it "Black Friday" in Philly, that October afternoon in 1977, with the playoff series tied, 1-1 against the Dodgers, when manager Danny Ozark allowed Bull to mess up a two-out, ninth inning fly ball, costing a sure win. Carlton was scheduled the next day. The Phillies lost the series.
Maybe they'll call this "Black Friday II."
Luzinski again was out in left field – this time at the request of manager Dallas Green – when he shouldn't have been. Not with the winning run at third base in the 11th, not with none out, and not with the stronger-armed Greg Gross on the bench.
Walling lofted a two-strike Tug McGraw pitch 210 feet to where Luzinski waited. He caught the ball cleanly as pinch-runner Rafael Landestoy tagged, but threw a slider to the plate which didn't get past Mike Schmidt, who was standing 15 feet past third base. Luzinski missed home plate by 75 feet.
Maybe, just maybe, Gross doesn't get the speedy Landestoy, but at least the Phillies go down winging.
"Hell, if Bowa can't throw him out from 60 feet (Landestoy scored in the 10th inning in Game Three when the Phillie shortstop, playing in, was late with a throw after fieldng a chopper), then Bull's not going to throw him out," Philadelphia manager Dallas Green said. (The situations aren't analogous, of course. Landestoy was running on contact in Game Three, and Bowa had to wait until the ball came down). "I considered using Gross, but if the ball is hit anywhere short, then Bull has a chance at him, too."
But that is Landestoy coming over the plate, as far as the Phillies were concerned. They lost because they were 0-for-eight with runners in scoring position, because they stranded 11 runners, because Pete Rose was thrown out at the plate on an impossible mad dash, because Luzinski hit the ball 390 feet in the wrong direction in the third.
Smith gets win
Dave Smith got the win in relief of the brilliant Niekro, the Astrodome got the save.
Rose started that fateful third with a one-out single, extending his playoff hitting streak to 12 games. Bake McBride chased him to third with a hit-and-run single.
Schmidt then hit a sharp grounder to third baseman Enos Cabell, Rose darting for the plate. He almost never made it, catcher Luis Pujols blocking it nicely and applying the tag out.
"Pete has to try and stay out of the double play," Niekro said. "The ball was hit well, and maybe Enos could have had two. But if you try for two and don't make it, they win 1-0, in nine innings and go two-one up instead of us."
Luzinski followed with his 390-foot drive which landed in leftfielder Jose Cruz's glove at the wall instead of in somebody's lap. That ball is gone in every other National League park. And you wonder why they call it Astrodoom.
Niekro straightened himself out, and he and Phillie starter Larry Christenson toyed with hitters through six when Christenson (three hits) stiffened and Green pinch-hit for him. Dickie Noles got the Phillies past the seventh, but Terry Puhl had his second hit (he's five-for-10, the leading hitter in the series) and Cabell sacrificed.
Asked for pop up
McGraw walked in, and Rose asked Morgan, an old Cincinnati sidekick, for a nice little pop up. Morgan promised a line drive.
Sure enough, Morgan hit one in the gap – a ball only Garry Maddox could have caught. Sure enough, Garry Maddox did catch it, extended, on the run.
"Off the bat I was sure the ball was in," said Morgan, playing despite a knee which reduces him from thoroughbred to Clydesdale speed. "But then I saw Maddox taking those 80 foot strides and I knew he'd get me.”
But Morgan would get him in the 11th when he lined a McGraw slider to right. McBride chased it down, but the ball beat him to the wall on his hand side, and caromed for a triple. Green said a left-handed player might have had a chance, but not McBride.
McGraw then duly intentionally walked Cruz and pinch-hitter Art Howe to load the bases and set-up a force at the plate. Tug, who has worked all three games and faced 13 hitters yesterday (20 is his season high), got ahead of Walling, but Walling defended the plate by going the other way with the fly ball.
So now the Phillies must beat Vern Ruhle, who is 7-2 since the Astros lost J.R. Richard.
Astros lose speedy Cedeno
HOUSTON (Gazette) – While Cesar Cedeno underwent surgery to repair ligament damage in his right ankle test night, the Houston Astros were trying to repair a broken lineup.
Cedeno, the Astros' speedy centrefielder, tripped on first base while running out a double play in the sixth inning of the Astros' 11-inning, 1-0 National League playoff victory over Philadelphia, sustaining a compound fracture of the ankle. His next game comes in April.
Rules prohibit the Astros from filling his place on the 25-man roster for the playoffs, but the team is planning to appeal to commissioner Bowie Kuhn to permit a substitution if it reaches the World Series.
There is a precedent. In 1972 after Reggie Jackson, then with Oakland, broke his ankle in the playoffs, Kuhn allowed the A's to add pinch-runner for the World Series.
Of course, a year later, Finley wouldn't permit A's owner Charlie Finley to fire Mike Andrews – who Finley claimed was injured – and replace him with Manny Trillo when Andrews made two errors in one inning.
"We will plead and pray and hope we get someone to replace Cesar," Astro manager Bill Virdon said.
Terry Puhl – the Saskatchewan slugger (five-for-10 in the playoffs) – will move from right to centre field and the right-handed hitting Gary Woods will start today against Steve Carlton.
"It will hurt us," said Joe Morgan, whose 11th inning triple led to the winning run. "Cesar's been playing as great as the Cesar people have been expecting for a long time. One run down, he's the guy who's going to get us back in the game most of the time.
"But we've struggled through a lot. We lost J.R. (Richard), and we kept pushing on. We'll do it again."
• • •
If you're looking for a reason the Astros are one game from winning the National League pennant, consider the first time both Houston and Philadelphia had runners in scoring position with fewer than two out yesterday.
For Houston, Puhl led off the first with a double, and Cabell immediately hit a grounder to the right side to advance the runner.
For the Phillies, Trillo opened the second with a double, and Garry Maddox popped to first and Larry Bowa fouled out.
• • •
Houston, in its own Texan way, went moderately bananas before its first post-season baseball game yesterday. Local schools closed at 1:30 p.m. to allow students to go home and watch the game. Those kids whose parents were not at home watched the game in school cafeterias under teacher supervision.
Even most local businesses gave an employee a paid day-off if he could produce a ticket to the game.
The governor of Texas proclaimed yesterday "Astro Day"... but what do you expect from a politician?
The most bizarre bit of fandom occurred at a localized Abscam-style trial where the judge ordered the court recessed at noon and the jurors sequestered so they could watch the game on the tube.