Philadelphia Daily News - October 11, 1980
Phillies Are Down
By Bill Conlin
"The Lord is my shepherd. I shall not want..."
HOUSTON – Two outs in the first inning, and I was scrawling myself notes. Mike Schmidt singled and stole second.
"Phils taking it to them like Dallas said they'd try to do... But The Bull has about as much chance against Joe Niekro in his first at bat as Ronald Reagan has to win the Hispanic vote in November."
The Bull bounced to short and that was five runners the Phillies have left in scoring position in their last three innings of playoff baseball.
Terry Puhl led off the Astros' first with a double and Enos Cabell moved him to third with a nice little bouncer to the right side. I scrawled in my note pad, "That's the kind of unlovely but necessary baseball that wins pennants. Christenson is laboring, wild high in the strike zone, but he scuffles out of it when Jose Cruz raps into a double play. This game will be won by the team that executes best or catches a big break..."
SECOND INNING... Manny Trillo scuffed a double over third with the Astros playing him to hit to right. From my notes: "Garry Maddox the hitter. He's swinging well and might rip a hit, but I'll buy Steve Carlton dinner if he moves Manny to third with a ball to the right side. Bunt in order, but Dallas won't bunt this early with Bowa and Boone coming up. He's looking for Garry to drive the ball."
Maddox popped up to first baseman Denny Walling and the Phils failed to score. That's six runners in scoring position in the last five innings.
"He maketh me to lay down in green pastures. He leadeth me beside the still waters..."
It was the bottom of the 11th. Game 3 of the playoffs was still scoreless. The Phillies had now left seven runners stranded in scoring position, including runners at first and second with two outs in the 11th. The Astros had left five out there on second or third.
Larry Christenson was brilliant for six innings, but Dallas Green hit for him with two outs in the seventh with nobody on and was into his Tug McGraw-and-Others bullpen a lot earlier than you'd like to see in the Astrodome.
WHICH IS WHY McGraw was still out there in his fourth inning of work in the top of the 11th, weary but still combative. The Astros got 10 splendid innings from J. Niekro and had the whole length and breadth of Bill Virdon's bullpen in reserve behind forkballing Dave Smith.
Joe Morgan, robbed in the eighth by Maddox' brilliant catch in the right-center gap, lashed a drive to right-center. Bake McBride made a valiant effort, but the ball eluded aim a step from the fence. Little Joe limped out a Ieadoff triple.
"He restoreth my soul. He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for His name's sake..."
It was down to baseball's suddenest storm of sudden death. Green walked Cruz and pinch-hitter Art Howe to load the bases for Walling.
Wailing ended the game with a sacrifice fly to the shallowest part of medium left, the Phillies' defense arrayed at disaster depth. Pinch-runner Rafael Landestoy scored against a shambles of a throw by Luzinski. It looked like one of those third and 15 throws King Hill used to unfurl amid the litter of an Eagles' defeat. The Astros went whooping to the clubhouse with a 1-0 victory and a 2-1 lead in this best of 5 tournament.
THE BAD NEWS BORES had struck again.
“Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I shall fear no evil..."
For the second time in their last three National League playoffs, the Phillies were caught with their defensive replacement on the bench. Why was Luzinski still in left? And never mind that The Bull was scheduled to be the fifth hitter in the 12th. Never mind that Greg Gross, the club's best medium-range gun was set to pinch-hit for McGraw.
When Landestoy jogged to third. Gross had to pick up a glove and replace Luzinski in left. That's as basic as McBride being waved home all the way Wednesday night when he had come too far to scramble back to second if Puhl caught Lonnie Smith's slice to right. I
n the past two games, the Phillies have squandered a winning run and received 10 innings of shutout pitching. They are 0-2 in that stretch and a team that can't parlay that kind of opportunity into at least one victory would be better off watching the World Series on TV.
"Thou art with me, my rod and my staff. Thou comfort me..."
"We were considering putting Gross out there," Green said, long after the boat had sailed. "But Larry Bowa couldn't throw Landestoy out at the plate the other night from 45-60 feet with the infield up. I don't think we could have gotten him with any kind of throw."
NEVER MIND THAT Gross has thrown out four runners at the plate this year. Never mind that he threw out shortstop Craig Reynolds, an above average runner, on a medium fly to left here in May.
There is no parallel between Landestoy steaming home on a lazy one-bouncer to Bowa and the circumstances surrounding a sacrifice fly with the outfield up on the road in extra innings. When Landestoy scored Wednesday night he was off with the crack of ill-fated Cesar Cedeno's bat. Bob Boone didn't have a play.
With the game and the pennant on the line, Green had to at least give his team every possible edge, every decimal point available in percentage baseball. He would have had some things going for him, including Gross' quick release and Boone's great plate-blocking ability. With Bull still out there it was an abject concession from" the moment the ball left Waiting's bat.
"Greg had to go back about three steps on the ball," Gross said charitably. "I would have had to do the same. With the outfield in normal depth, you'd get a running start, be able to get something on the throw. Under the circumstances it would have been almost impossible to get anything on the ball throwing flat-footed."
IT WAS A BASIC 220-foot throw and Luzinski's effort was so off line that Schmidt cut it off in foul territory and tried a desperate, late relay.
"Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies. Thou anointed my head with oil. My cup runneth over..."
Afterwards, Green said, "Little things mean a lot. That's a message we've been trying to get across to this team all year. Failure to move runners, score runners from third, execute, that's what kept us off the scoreboard today."
It would have been nice if the manager in his criticism included his own gaffe. He had to have a better arm than Luzinski's out there with the outfield up, just as Danny Ozark had to have Jerry Martin in left in the ninth inning of Black Friday in 1977.
If this team is supposed to win as a team and lose as a team, then Dallas Green has got to bite a bullet once in a while, the way Lee Elia did the other night.
"I was looking for Tug to throw a ground ball there," Dallas said, a manager lucky that his relief ace was still able to lift his arm at that point. "And when he got to 0-2 I thought he had a shot to strike Walling out."
IT IS DOWN TO Steve Carlton vs. righthander Vern Ruhle, a pitcher the Phillies have faced in just two innings of mopup relief. And if Carlton squares the playoffs, the Phillies' pennant chances will rest on the possibly rusty right arm of Marty Bystrom, although it would not surprise anybody if Green comes back with Dick Ruthven. "I'll talk to Dick, see how he feels," Green said. "I'm leaning toward Marty, but Ruthven is in the back of my mind. If Leity gets us to Sunday, it'll be whole-staff anyway."
"My cup runneth over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life..."
"They have to beat the best pitcher in the world tomorrow to win the pennant," said Pete Rose. "I just think he's going to be awesome tomorrow."
And if Carlton is awesome, it will be the first time in post-season play that adjective will be applied to his performance.
"And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever."
Astros Use Rabbit Punch
By Tom Cushman
HOUSTON – Back when it was the Redlegs and Dodgers performing these October rites over the team from Philadelphia, there was at least some dignity in the journey to the graveyard. The Phillies may have tripped over their own shoelaces a few times in those years, but beyond the pratfalls, there usually was a knockout punch delivered by a quality heavyweight.
It sounds better to have been floored by a Garvey, Cey, Baker, Smith, Foster, Bench or Morgan than by a bunch of guys named Puhl, Cruz, Walling and Landestoy. And, oh yes, Morgan.
"One of the nice things about playing in the World Series this time," little Joe was saying yesterday, after the Astros had rabbit punched the Phillies, 1-0, "is that the country will be able to watch our players and see how good they are."
IT DIDN’T COMPUTE when the match began, but after three games in the company of the Houston team, the Phillies are beginning to look, like Chuck Wepner. Playing the Astros is like shaving with a dull Boy Scout knife. They are a school of piranha, darting, slashing, nicking, and if Steve Carlton can’t find a way to check the bleeding this afternoon, all that will be left of the Phillies in this post-season of promise are bones bleaching in the autumn sun.
You get punched out in the spotlight of October, you'd don't feel quite as bad if the guy doing the throwing was a Carlton, a Koufax, a Gibson. At least you have some burn marks to show the neighbors.
But the Phillies apparently will be spared no indignity. While being shut out yesterday, they spent the first 10 innings swinging at a pitch that can't make up its mind which way to go, thrown by a pitcher who often is confused with his brother.
"A lot of people call me Phil," said Joe Niekro, who also had this to say about the knuckleball that had Phillies swinging like they were beating at rugs for most of the afternoon. "It really wasn't breaking that well today. I had a much better one in Los Angeles last Monday." For a group of .men, most of whom see themselves and their deeds as worthy of a Rembrandt canvas, this was like having the team portrait painted by Charles Schulz.
THE ASTROS, TO A man, would have you believe that what is happening is the result of unadvertised . talent, leadership, and opportunity blending against a team which may look better on paper, but has a habit of turning like the leaves in the sharp winds of October.
"There are a lot of good players here," said Terry Puhl, who is 5-for-9 in the series. "There are a lot of no-names among us, but this is a club that is solid throughout. We are deep. Every day you'll see new people you've never heard of before."
Leading 2-1 in a series they were expected to lose in probably four games, the Astros are overflowing with patriotic comments of that nature. But the fact is, when they came down to the seventh inning yesterday, tied 0-0, and catcher Luis Pujols walked with one out. Manager Bill Virdon asked shortstop Craig Reynolds to sacrifice and then sent Joe Niekro up to hit.
"There's no way I was gonna take Joe out," Virdon said later. "I don't know if I can find words to tell you what he's done for us as a pitcher these last six weeks."
But as a hitter? "He told me he 's sending Craig up to bunt, and that I should knock him in," Niekro recalled. "I'm a good hitter, so it's not as strange as it seems. We do things like that on this team."
STRANGE IS ONE WAY of describing it. Another would be that Bill Virdon does not have a great deal of confidence in either his bullpen or his bench. Niekro skied to center, but went back to the mound and retired the Phillies for three more innings. And as the game, a marvelous blend of risk and frustration, bent toward the end of regulation you could sense that this one was playing toward the real strength of the Astros.
"We never blow anybody out," Joe Niekro said, "so as a pitcher I go out knowing I have to hold the other team down and give us a chance to win a close game. That's what we're after, to be alive in the late innings. We usually are.
"The manager asked me in the ninth if I go could go another inning and I told him yes. I probably could have gone a couple more, but he decided to go to Smith and it was the right move. He usually makes the right move."
Terry Puhl says experience has taught the Astros not to become overanxious when the late innings arrive and the score is tied. "A lot of teams may play one close game out of five," he said. "We'll be in one of five that opens up. The other four will be close, but we'll win three. It's a tough way to have to live – believe me I'd change it if I could – but we're good at it.
"THE LAST SEVEN DAYS have been very emotional. There have been so many games so tight that you find yourself saying, 'Oh, no, not again today'. We've handled it, though. We're also good at not relaxing."
As for the other reason the Astros are winning this series when the scorecard tells you they shouldn't be... well, he tripled to lead off the bottom of the 11th, and the rest soon was history.
"I'd say that having Joe Morgan here has made the difference," Terry Puhl pointed out. "Even more than what he's contributed by playing is what he's done in helping change attitudes. He's a winner, he makes the people around him feel the same way. We may not dazzle anyone, but Joe has helped us understand that we can win with what wc have. And when the game is on the line like it was in the 11th today, and he's up there, you have an almost overwhelming feeling that he'll deliver.''
Joe did, of course. "I'm not even sure what kind of pitch it was," he said in the clubhouse. "Maybe a moving fastball, maybe a slider, but it was in over the plate.
"PETE ROSE AND I have been rid ing each other, friendly-like, during the series. Before that inning, Pete said, 'Hit a popup' and I told him. No way, I'm gonna hit a line drive somewhere.'"
Not having been with the Phillies during their previous adventures in October, Pete perhaps did not realize that this was almost certain to happen. If not Joe, someone else. And that against the Astros the only difference would be that the ending is more subtle... the winning run scores on a sacrifice fly instead of a ball crashing off the fence.
And that going into this afternoon's game, which could end the series, the ghost of playoffs-past would be with us. That it would be the Astros who are reaching for the cigar, while the Phillies once again reach for a blindfold and cigarette.
A Tale of Two Pities
By Ray Didinger
HOUSTON – When we left the Phillies yesterday afternoon, they were in their customary October pose. down on their hands and knees, trying to shake the cobwebs from their fuzzy heads.
They could hear people cheering and they could vaguely make out the sound of someone counting. "Eight... nine..."
They had stuck their glass jaw into the National League playoffs again and, like Duane Bobick fighting for the heavyweight title, they were paying the price for their audacity.
They didn't figure to get knocked out this time, not by the Houston Astros. The Astros are the bantamweights of major league baseball, a ream that throws nothing but jabs Snd wins mostly by split decision. The Phillies had always handled the Astros well, until now...
BUT NOW IT IS October, the National League pennant is at stake and. traditionally, this is the time when even a glancing blow seems to turn the Phillies' knees to jelly.
The Astros haven't landed a solid punch yet and they've already put the Phillies on the floor twice.
In the National League Championship Series, the three knockdown rule is in effect. That means if the Phillies go down one more time this weekend, this playoff will be over and the Astros will swagger off to the World Series, flexing their Woody Allen biceps.
The Phillies lost, 1-0. in the 11th round yesterday and, when it was over, Manager Dallas Green looked in his club's glassy eyes and announced grimly, "We're in trouble." That's as close as Green has ever come to throwing in the towel on this team.
The players, like most punchy fighters, were reeling around the locker room, talking about "bad breaks." They were talking about how they were better than the Astros, how they should have wrapped this series up by now.
NO ONE HAD the heart to ask them why, if this was the case, they were the ones with the resin dust on the seat of their pants, why they were the ones with the smelling salts under their swollen noses.
"We should be drunk on champagne right now," said Pete Rose. “We should have swept this thing and been looking forward to the World Series. All we had to do was execute a little bit these last two games.
"All we had to do was hit a sacrifice fly the last two games and we win them. I'm not blaming any one guy, we've all been at fault. It's just a fact... you get a man to third with less han two outs, you've gotta get him in.
"We didn’t do it Thursday night, we didn't do it today. They (the Astros) did and that's why they won. But this thing ain't over yet. I mean, they ain't exactly tearing the cover ff the ball neither."
"I don't think there's anyone in his room, or anyone period, who doesn't believe we are the better team," Mike Schmidt said.
Obviously. Mike had not bothered to poll the Houston players or the 44,443 fans who jammed the Astrodome yesterday. Chances are they would have disagreed with him.
"I FELT WE WERE the better club before the series began and I still feel that way. What's happened to us these last two games... I don't know, it seems like we're hitting the ball hard, we just keep hitting it AT somebody.
"The Astros are juiced up right now but, hey, (today) they jump right into the frying pan. They have to face the best pitcher in baseball (Steve Carlton) and they have to shut us out for nine more innings and I don't think they can do it.
"This (bleep) has gotta turn around sooner or later," Schmidt said. "We've gotta bust loose and score three, four, five or 50 (runs) in an inning. We can't keep hitting into bad luck indefinitely."
The story of yesterday's loss was the same as the story of Thursday's loss, a Tale of Two Pities. The Phillies squandered scoring chances the way Sinatra squanders five dollar chips in Las Vegas.
The Phillies left 14 men on base in Thursday's 10-inning defeat. Yesterday, they left 11 men on base. I haven't seen this many people stranded since the last SEPTA strike.
THINGS ARE GETTING so bad. the next time Pete Rose gets to second base, he's going to put a rescue note in a bottle and roll it toward the Phillies' dugout, hoping somebody gets the message.
In the third inning, the Phillies had Rose on third and Bake McBride on second with one out and Schmidt at the plate. Schmidt slashed a Joe Niekro knuckleball on two hops to third baseman Enos Cabell.
Cabell threw to the plate and Rose was out by five feet. The next batter, Greg Luzinski, sent leftfielder Jose Cruz to the wall to pull down his 390-foot fly ball for the inning-ending out.
"That ball's a home run in any other park," Luzinski said later. "Oh, it might hit high off the wall in San Diego. (But) the only place it gets caught is here.
"That's the kinda luck we've been having. I hit it good, I just got under it a little bit. If I hit it more on a line, it probably would've gone out."
IN THE NINTH INNING, with Garry Maddox on second and Larry Bowa on first with two out, Bob Boone hit a line drive into the left-center field gap.
For a moment, it appeared to be between the outfielders but Cruz ran it down and made a one-handed catch. Cruz earlier misjudged a Boone drive and just barely leaped to catch it.
"We're smoking the ball," Schmidt said. "We're just not getting lucky."
Luck? The Phillies have scored two runs – only one earned – in the last 17 innings and they are blaming luck for their present predicament.
That's what I like about the Phillies: The adult way they confront their problems.
The Phillies are losing this series because they have been unable to execute the offensive fundamentals but, then, they have always been weak in this area. And, without exception, it has come back to haunt them in their post-season losses.
THE PHILLIES CAN'T hit sacrifice flies when they need them. Boone and Manny Trillo both struck out with the bases loaded and one out on Thursday. A fly ball by either man would have won the game.
Is that bad luck? No, it's lousy execution.
Schmidt failed in a sacrifice fly situation yesterday. Bowa popped up . instead of moving a runner to second in the fourth inning. Even Rose failed to bunt the runner up a base in the 10th.
Bad luck? Hardly.
When a team fails to make those plays and loses 1-0, it shouldn't go around complaining about 390-foot outs and talking wistfully about line drives that were almost misjudged.
The Phillies would now be celebrating their first National League pennant in 30 years if they had swung the bats at all these past two days.
They haven't and, as a result, they deserve to be right where they are, teetering on the edge of an all-too-familiar autumn cliff.
"WE SHOULD HAVE won all three games, hands down," said Larry Christenson, who pitched six shutout innings yesterday before retiring with a weary elbow.
The Phillies have received superb efforts from all three starting pitchers in this series. Carlton, Christenson and Dick Ruthven have worked a' combined total of 20 innings and allowed just three runs.
"We should have never lost these last two games," Christenson said. "We missed on so many scoring chances, it was disgusting."
Cedeno Undergoes Surgery for Broken Ankle
HOUSTON (UPI) – Astros' centerfielder Cesar Cedeno underwent surgery for an extreme ligament tear last night after suffering a compound dislocation of his right ankle against the Phillies.
Astros' team physician Dr. Harold Brelsford, who performed the surgery, anticipates that Cedeno's ankle will be immobilized for six weeks. Cedeno then will undergo rehabilitation.
He sustained the injury in the sixth inning yesterday when he caught his foot on the inside part of the first-base bag while bouncing into an inning-ending double play.
The Astros are prohibited from adding a replacement to the roster for the playoffs. In the event Houston represents the National League in the World Series, a determination will be made whether or not the Astros may substitute for Cedeno.
3 Winners In Payoff
There were three winners yesterday in the Daily News Home Run Payoff Playoff contest. In the eighth inning of the Phillies-Astros game, Mary Popoff of Haddonfield, N.J., Joe Meta of Lindenwold and Karin Pahlke of Philadelphia, each won four tickets to a Phillies game next season.
To date, the Daily News has paid out $19,295.