Philadelphia Inquirer - October 11, 1980

000 000 000 00h, no!

 

HOUSTON – The Houston Astros backed the Phillies to the wall yesterday by taking a 2-1 lead in their best-of-five National League Championship Series with a 1-0 victory in 11 innings.

 

The Astros are only one win away from reaching the World Series for the first time in their 19-year history, while the Phillies must win two games to avoid losing their fourth National League playoff in five years.

 

Second baseman Joe Morgan provided the offense for the Astros, leading off the bottom of the 11th with a triple off the right-field wall.

 

Phillies manager Dallas Green then elected to have relief pitcher Tug McGraw intentionally walk Jose Cruz and pinch-hitter Art Howe to face lefthanded-hitting Denny Walling.

 

With the count at 0-2. Walling hit a sacrifice fly to left field, scoring Rafael Landestoy, who had been sent in to pinch-run for Morgan, who has been slowed by a knee injury.

 

It was the second straight extra-inning loss for the Phillies, and the 10 scoreless innings set a National League playoff record.

 

The Astros lost centerfielder Cesar Cedeno, who suffered a compound dislocation of his right ankle when he caught his foot on first base after hitting into an inning-ending double play in the sixth.

 

 

The fourth game in the series will be at 4:15 p.m. today in Houston, with Steve Carlton starting for the Phillies and Vera Ruhle on the mound for the Astros. If the Phillies win today, the final game would be 8 p.m. Sunday in Houston.

Brett powers Royals into World Series

 

By the Associated Press

 

NEW YORK The frustrations,, constructed on three playoff failures, ended in a splash of champagne for the Kansas City Royals last night.

 

A monstrous home run by George Brett carried them to their first American League pennant as they beat New York, 4-2, to complete a playoff sweep of the Yankees.

 

Three times the Royals, born out of expansion 11 years ago, had challenged the tradition-laden Yankees for the AL flag. Each time New York had beaten back the challenge. But Brett put an end to those disappointments, winning a fastball showdown with Yankees reliever Rich Gossage for the decisive home run.

 

"I'll hit a fastball off anybody," Brett said. "The harder they throw, the better I like it."

 

Gossage throws as hard as anybody, so it was strength against strength when Brett came up with two out and two Royals on base in the eighth inning. He hit a drive into the third deck at Yankee Stadium and, two innings later, the Royals were winners as bullpen ace Dan Quisenberry shut down the Yankees.

 

"When he hit the home run," freshman manager Jim Frey said, "my feeling was we were going to the World Series."

 

That's exactly where the Royals will be Tuesday night when the 1980 battle for baseball's world title begins in either Houston or Philadelphia. And Brett is the man who put the Royals there at last.

 

"I went up there thinking 'pull,' " he said, "I wanted to hit the ball hard and pull it. Getting it up in the air – that was a bonus."

 

Frey sits in awe of his third baseman. "I guess he's one of the greatest to play this game," the manager said. "He's the type of player… one of those players who is able to do the right thing at the right time. If there's a better ballplayer than Brett, I certainly haven't seen him."

 

As the celebration began in the Royals' dressing room, Brett thought of his team's home city.

 

"The town of Kansas City is going to go berserk," he said. "The whole city is going to cherish this a long time."

 

That's the way it is when you've waited a long time for something, and Kansas City and the Royals have waited since 1976 for this pennant.

 

The homer was another chapter in this fairy tale season for Brett. Offensively, he was a one-man wrecking crew for the Royals, batting.390, hitting 24 homers and knocking in 118 runs. He led his team to another division title, but winning the West was old hat to the Royals.

 

The pennant was what they have been after all along and they finally nailed it down last night.

 

Brett had been a member of the Royals teams that lost to New York in 1976, 1977 and 1978. Twice those playoffs went down to the ninth inning of the fifth game before the Yankees won and left Kansas City with the bitter defeats.

 

This time, the Royals got the jump on New York with a sweep of the first two games, leaving the Yankees at the edge of elimination as they returned home. Owner George Steinbrenner angrily pledged that his team would reverse the trend and win three straight at home – a feat that has not been accomplished in Championship Series history.

 

But Brett and the Royals put a stop to that.

 

After a rain delay of 32 minutes in the fourth inning, Kansas City took a 1-0 lead in the fifth on a homer by series MVP Frank White.

 

New York stirred for the first time and erased Kansas City's lead with a two-run, sixth-inning rally, triggered by a Reggie Jackson double.

 

Most of the damage came against Kansas City bullpen ace Quisenberry, who had relieved starter Paul Splittorff after Jackson's two-base hit.

 

But in the next inning, the Royals seized the lead for good.

 

Tommy John retired the first two batters in the Royals seventh. But Willie Wilson, who led the majors with 230 hits this season, rifled a double into the right-field corner. Yankees manager Dick Howser moved to the mound and called in Gossage, whose 33 saves tied Quisenberry for the major league lead.

 

Gossage had not appeared in the first two games of the series, and he came in last night with a fastball clocked at 96 m.p.h. Still, U. L. Washington hung in against the big righthander and nudged an infield single behind second base. Wilson advanced him to third on the hit. that brought up Brett.

 

The Royals' slugger, who carried on a late-year flirtation with a .400 batting average, had been retired seven straight times by Yankees pitchers after homering in the first game of the series.

 

He wasted no time with Gossage, jumping on the first pitch and sending it in a huge arc high and deep into the upper stands in right field. The three-run shot propelled Kansas City in front and the Royals poured out of the dugout to greet Brett as he finished his home run trot.

 

The Yankees didn't go down quietly, however. They mounted a major threat against Quisenberry in the eighth.

 

Bob Watson, who had three hits in the game, opened with a triple up the gap in left-center field. Then Jackson and Oscar Gamble drew walks from the submarining righthander.

 

With the bases loaded and none out, the Yankee Stadium crowd of 56,588 roared on every pitch as Quisenberry faced Rick Cerone. The Yankees catcher drilled a 1-1 pitch that seemed to be a sure base hit. But Washington, the shortstop, grabbed the liner and turned it into a rally-killing double play, trapping Jackson off second base.

 

Pinch-hitter Jim Spencer then rolled out, ending the inning.

 

 

That was the last gasp for New York as Quisenberry finished the Yankees off in the bottom of the ninth and ended their bid for a 33d AL pennant.

It’s Phillies and  football

 

Settle in for a television marathon, sports fans.

 

First, at 12:45 p.m. on Channel 6, it's one of college football's most intense rivalries – the Oklahoma Sooners vs. the Texas Longhorns. Oklahoma, which scored 82 points last week against Colorado, is ranked 12th, and Texas is ranked third.

 

After the game, leave the set tuned to Channel 6, grab a sandwich and a beer, and get ready for Game 4 of the National League Championship Series as the Phillies fight for their lives in a 4: IS battle with the Houston Astros in the Astrodome.

 

Don't go away there's more.

 

At 8 0S, on Channel 48, the 76ers go for their first victory in a game at Washington, and station switchers will be in heaven at 9:05, when the Flyers' game at St. Louis starts on Channel 29.

 

The eye drop companies should love it.

 

BASEBALL

PHILLIES at Houston (TV-Ch. 6; Radio-KYW-1060, 4:15 p.m.)

 

PRO BASKETBALL

76ERS at Washington (TV-Ch. 48; Radio-WCAU-1210, 8:09 p.m.)

 

PRO HOCKEY

 

FLYERS at St. Louis (TV-Ch. 29; Radio -WIP-610, 9:05 p.m.)

Kansas City is sky-high as Yankees, records fall

 

By the Associated Press

 

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – It was a night to be remembered for Kansas City – and for George Brett.

 

From 2,000 to 3,000 Kansas City Royals fans celebrated loudly in Crown Center Square, a downtown hotel complex, here late last night, just minutes after their team captured the American League pennant in a 4-2 win over the New York Yankees.

 

City streets were blocked off for the victory party, and there were celebrations throughout the metropolitan area.

 

The atmosphere was considerably different than it had been during the game, when it seemed much of the city was glued to television sets in homes, restaurants and motel lobbies.

 

Brett's seventh-inning three-run homer, which clinched the Royals' victory, rocketed the Royals' superstar third baseman into the playoff record book.

 

Brett's clout off Yankees relief ace Rich Gossage was his sixth homer in playoff competition, tying Los Angeles' Steve Garvey for the major league high. Brett had been tied with Sal Bando and Reggie Jackson for the AL high with five playoff homers.

 

Yesterday's National League playoff game also produced a handful of record-setting performances.

 

Houston starter Joe Niekro set an NL playoff record by going 10 innings, besting the 9-inning span of Pittsburgh's Dock Ellis in 1970.

 

 

The Phillies, who set a playoff record by leaving 14 runners stranded in Wednesday's game, were once again an example of basepath futility. In yesterday's game, they set another playoff record by leaving 11 runners on base during the course of a shutout loss.

Left field in the 11th inning is no place for Luzinski

 

By Frank Dolson, Inquirer Sports Editor

 

One of these years, the Phillies will take Greg Luzinski out of left field for defensive purposes in the final inning of the third game of a National League Championship Series.

 

Then, maybe one of these years, they will win a pennant.

 

The only difference between 1977 and yesterday is that three years ago the Phillies had a two-run lead going into the ninth inning of the third game against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Veterans Stadium. Yesterday, the score was tied when the Houston Astros came to bat in the last of the 11th inning. The result was the same.

 

Joe Morgan started that final half inning with a triple off reliever Tug McGraw, and, two intentional walks later, his pinch-runner scored on Denny Walling's sacrifice fly to left field. Walling's fly ball was within "throwing-out" range, but the play at home wasn't even close as the Astros earned a 1-0 victory and a 2-1 lead in the series.

 

It is no knock at Luzinski to say that he should not have been in the game after Morgan tripled, just as it wasn't three years ago to say that Jerry Martin should have been in left field when that final inning began. Hitting, not defense, is Luzinski's forte.

 

As soon as Morgan reached third yesterday, Greg Gross should have been in the bullpen, warming up while two intentional passes were being issued. And he should have been in left when Walling came up.

 

Gross, one of the soundest Phillies on fundamentals, is a better outfielder and has a much stronger and more accurate throwing arm than Luzinski. In that situation, defense is paramount.

 

"We thought about it, but we felt if the fly ball was shallow enough, Bull (Luzinski) would handle it," Phillies manager Dallas Green said. Later, he said, "We also thought Tug would get a ground ball."

 

Had Luzinski done a better job of playing the Walling fly, even he might have made the play, but he caught the ball moving back and could get little body into his throw, which was short and off line.

 

Had Gross been there, he would have backed off a few steps, then come in to make the catch while moving forward.

 

In the clubhouse, Gross declined to say if he was surprised at not being used. "I would have led off the next inning," he said, noting that McGraw was scheduled as the first batter if there had been a 12th inning.

 

Three years ago, had Luzinski been replaced in the ninth, pinch-hitter Manny Mota's drive to deep left with two out surely would have been caught by Martin for the third out, ending the game with the Phillies in front, 5-3, and ahead in the series, 2-1.

 

Luzinski, asked yesterday if he shouldn't have backed off a few steps to catch the ball, said, "My main concern was getting it in. I just rushed it."

 

While Green may deserve some blame for failing to make that final substitution, it certainly wasn't his fault that the Phillies didn't win the game before that. They had their chances, but, just as in their 10-inning second-game defeat, couldn't get the vital fly ball.

 

"When you get a man on third," Pete Rose said, "get him in. That's all. We're all guilty."

 

Yesterday, one guilty one was Mike Schmidt, the Phillies' leading run-producer. With Rose on third, Bake McBride on second, one out in the third inning, and the second baseman and shortstop conceding a run by playing back, Schmidt hit a ground ball to the third baseman and Rose was out at the plate. When Luzinski's long drive was caught at the wall, the inning was over.

 

That wasn't the Phillies' only failure to play sound, fundamental baseball, something Green pounded into his players throughout spring training with minimal effect.

 

In the second inning, Manny Trillo led off with a double, and Garry Maddox, whose only job was to move the runner, popped up. So did Larry Bowa, and another scoring chance was gone.

 

"We gave him (Maddox) the sign to get the runner over any way he wants," Green said, adding that Maddox could have bunted had he wished.

 

 

"Fundamentals, time and again, that's what beat us," the angry Green said as he threw a shoe to the floor in his office. "You play 162 games to get into this situation, to prepare yourself for this. But if you don't master the fundamentals, you're going to get beat. I've been preaching that to these guys, and they still think they can win just on talent, and they can't."

Overdue date  with destiny

 

By Bill Lyon

 

Is it the Phillies' destiny to once more get a jab from the fickle finger of fate?

 

Or will they, at long last, get that postseason monkey off their backs?

 

"I don't believe in destiny. I think you make whatever you get, you carve out your own future," said Tim McCarver, "but I really feel they'll win it all. I didn't feel that way last summer.

 

"But I saw them, up close, overcome a lot of adversity that last month. There were a lot of backs-to-the-wall situations, and they came through, and you could sense confidence replace apprehension.

 

"It's only poetic, justice for them to finally come together under adverse conditions. I've just got this gut feeling this is their year."

 

There has been that gut feeling about the Phillies in the past, but it always turned out to be indigestion. But the ballplayer in James Timothy McCarver, the instincts from hunkering down in the dust behind home plate for 20 years, tell him this time the Phils will not spit out the bit.

 

View from the dugout

 

You may remember that McCarver observed these Phillies, from April through August, from the cozy vantage point of retirement, up in the broadcast booth, where he made a far smoother, more competent transition than most jocks-turned-announcers. And then in September, adding one more line in the record book, he was activated so he could become an answer to a trivia question: What ex-Phillie played in the majors in four different decades?

 

Like the rest of us, when he was behind the mike, McCarver says he figured the Phillies would never win their division. But when he went down there, he says he saw the right chemistry. It is elusive and intangible, but when the mixture is right, it is as though a certain team is meant to win. McCarver has been in three playoffs, three World Series; he can sense when a club shrugs, conceding that fortune will contrive a way to job it again, or when a team snarls back defiance.

 

"In the 1976 through 78 playoffs, we didn't feel like we really belonged," he said. "But there's a hungrier look now, a confidence, and I think they believe they can overcome whatever happens."

 

Probing the Phils' psyche

 

Spending five weeks with them did not, however, enable McCarver to unlock the strange psyche of this team.

 

"It's a tough club to gauge from an emotional standpoint," he agreed. "The nature of this team is private persons playing a public game. They're hardly what you'd call animated. It's a fragile club with fragile feelings.

 

"But there is no set formula for winning."

 

No, there isn't. In the last decade, the Oakland A's won with a clubhouse that looked like something out of primal scream therapy. And the Yankees were part zoo, part asylum. The Reds were methodical, professional. The Pirates were blaring tape decks and "Fam-A-Leeeeee" in stereo.

 

But boxscores are not kept by psychiatrists.

 

"I think teams tend to take on the personality of their managers," McCarver suggested. "Billy Martin's teams are always feisty. No knock at Danny Ozark, but the Phillies used to be, well, sedate. Then Dallas Green came in, and whether the players like to admit it or not, it's healthy to be shocked occasionally."

 

McCarver's brief return did reinforce one of his opinions; that the game has changed, and not for the better.

 

Contractual complacency

 

"I've come full circle on this," he said, frankly. "Five years ago, I was all for big-buck, long-term contracts because I figured players would go out of their way to show their gratitude, prove their worth. But I see too many guys, once they've got it made, sit back.

 

"If they've got a six-year contract and the manager is on year-to-year, they just say, 'The hell with him. I'll just wait him out.' What leverage does the manager have? None."

 

Tim McCarver is a sensitive, reasonable man, and he didn't want his return to active status to be disruptive. He wanted to be an addition, not a distraction. As it turned out, he was. He helped the Phils win a crucial late-September game with a perfect sacrifice bunt that set up the only run in a 1-0 victory.

 

"I called it," he said, grinning, "the biggest sacrifice since Joan of Arc."

 

And his final at-bat, his goodbye-forever, he hit into a double play, argued with the umpire, and was ejected. He proudly carries the letter he got from the league office.

 

 

"It warns me they'll be watching me in the future," he said. "Hey, the next time I get thrown out, it will be by my wife."

Phils a loss from oblivion

 

Morgan’s hit boosts Astros, 1-0

 

By Jayson Stark, Inquirer Staff Writer

 

HOUSTON – The Phillies descended yesterday to a place they have been before.

 

They lost a game they seemed to have won six times. They did a million things right and a few things wrong and still got beat. They are down, two games to one, in a series that takes three victories to decide.

 

They must win today with Steve Carlton. And they must win tomorrow with Marty Bystrom. And if they don't, they will go home, spend another awful winter thinking about chances wasted and wonder if this is just some tragic fate that was meant to be.

 

It took them 11 innings to lose to the Astros, 1-0, yesterday. They lost because they left 11 men on and had another thrown out at the plate. They lost because Greg Luzinski hit the wrong 385-foot shot to left-center in the wrong humongous ballpark.

 

They lost because Tug McGraw is all they have in the bullpen now, and he bad to pitch in the eighth, ninth, 10th and 11th. They lost because McGraw finally made the mistake he has been due to make for a month, and Joe Morgan bombed it for a lead-off triple in the 11th.

 

They might have lost because Dallas Green didn't substitute Greg Gross in left for Luzinski after the triple, and Denny Walling then won it with a sacrifice fly to left.

 

But all that remained after three hours and 22 minutes of baseball was that they had lost. There was only that feeling, of that wall pressing against their backs. And we all know they have felt that before, too.

 

At least today they have Carlton trying to shove them back in the right direction one more time. Carlton has won 14 games after Phillies losses. He is 11-1 with three days' rest this year. And he also will not have to face Cesar Cedeno, who dislocated his ankle yesterday.

 

That is the optimistic way to look at it. It was the only way the Phillies had left yesterday.

 

"These have been two tough losses," said Luzinski. "But we've got Steve Carlton going, and he's done it all year for us. We're down now. But we've won two in a row before, and we've got our ace going. I don't even want to worry about Sunday. Tomorrow's a big day."

 

It didn't have to be. But the Phillies got into the wrong kind of game with the Astros yesterday, the ultimate Astrodome game. The Astros would not be here if they hadn't specialized in winning these games the low-scoring grind-it-out types.

 

"Little things mean a lot in games like this," said Green. "I told these guys that in spring training. Now we're in a playoff situation. It's a key game. The fundamentals come back to haunt you if you don't do them.

 

"The ability to move runners, getting runners in from third, playing the kind of defense you're capable of playing... all those things add up, especially on days like today."

 

The Astros do those things with precision. But they didn't do them any better than the Phillies yesterday. Still, as every inning rolled by, it became their type of game more and more.

 

It did, in part, because Larry Christenson had to leave after six innings. Whereas Joe Niekro went 10 for the Astros. Christenson felt some stiffness "in the elbow area," said Green. "And I will not sacrifice a pitcher's career. If we don't have enough pitching to handle it, we're not much of a baseball team."

 

Dickie Noles stayed out of trouble for an inning and a third. Then McGraw, the last line of reliable bullpen defense, found himself in there in the eighth inning.

 

He got out of an eighth-inning mess because Garry Maddox made a catch only he makes on Morgan's rocket to right-center. Green even let McGraw bat in the 10th, a decision that might have had some impact. He reached first on an error, but third baseman Enos Cabell barely threw him out at second after Rose's bunt.

 

"Maybe if you had a quicker guy on or a more experienced runner, he might have made it," McGraw said. "But pitchers are afraid to get a big lead. I tried to get out there to the edge of the AstroTurf, and I said, 'Boy, this seems like a long way.'"

 

McGraw said he didn't feel tired as he prepared to pitch to Morgan leading off the 11th. But that doesn't mean he wasn't.

 

He threw one fastball for a strike on Morgan "right where I wanted it," he said. "Right at the knees on the outside corner. That's where I wanted the next one, too.

 

"That might have been a slight indication I was maybe getting a little tired, not being able to throw the ball where you want to. Or it could be an indication I was trying to overthrow it. But I know I didn't feel tired."

 

Morgan lined the pitch to deep right-center, barely beyond Bake McBride's grasp. "I think if Bake had been lefthanded, he would have caught it," said Green.

 

McBride crashed into the wall, spraining his left wrist and hurting his knee in the process. Meanwhile, Morgan easily pumped around to third. The speedy Rafael Landestoy then ran for him.

 

Green responded with two intentional walks, loading the bases. It all depended on McGraw's being able to strike out Walling, a tough lefthanded contact hitter who fanned only 26 times all year.

 

But McGraw got him to 0-and-2 with a pair of breaking balls. Then he wanted to waste a fastball outside.

 

"I threw the pitch six inches off the plate," McGraw said. "We were just hoping he'd take it and we could come back with another breaking ball."

 

But Walling chased it and lofted a fly to medium-deep left. Luzinski backpedaled three steps and caught, it. "I guess," said the Bull, "if I make a perfect throw it's going to be close."

 

But Luzinski's throw was short and up the third-base line. And that was that.

 

The big question that lingered was whether, if Green had substituted Gross for Luzinski, he might have, had a chance at the plate. Gross has the most accurate arm on the team and threw out four runners at the plate this year, including Craig Reynolds in the Dome in May from a similar spot.

 

 Green said he considered that move, but with Landestoy's speed he didn't think anybody had a shot.

 

"Hell," said the manager, "if Bowa can't throw him out from 45 or 50 or 60 feet, or whatever it was (on a ground ball) the other night, then Bull's not gonna throw him out."

 

There were many things to chew over besides that, however. There was the Phillies' not moving Manny Trillo over after a leadoff double in the second. There was Mike Schmidt, drilling one right at Cabell, who then threw Rose out at the plate in the third.

 

There were two Bob Boone liners to left with runners on second that Jose Cruz caught. There was Luzinski's long shot to left-center with two on in the third.

 

"It might have been high off the wall in San Diego. Other than that I don't think it would have stayed in any park in the league," Luzinski said.

 

But it stayed in this one. Cruz caught it leaning against the wall. And the Phillies were left to hash over those moments, instead of Maddox's great catch, the two critical double plays they turned behind Christenson and the two great plays Schmidt and Rose made on one chopper off the plate by Luis Pujols.

 

"You lose, 1-0, you've got to look at all the little things you don't do," said Luzinski. "You do them, and you come out a winner."

 

 

You don't, and you feel the way the Phillies felt as though they had seen this act somewhere before.

The Payoff is on runs, not talent

 

By Frank Dolson, Inquirer Sports Editor

 

HOUSTON – The fly ball floated out toward left field. Not very deep left field... but with Rafael Landestoy running and Greg Luzinski throwing, deep enough.

 

Luzinski drifted back one step... two... three before making the catch and throwing the ball with all his might in the general direction of home plate. It was a desperate throw... and from the instant it left his hand, an obviously futile throw.

 

Mike Schmidt cut it off and made a hopeless, off-balance relay. By that time Landestoy had crossed the plate standing up and 44,000 Astronuts were going bonkers, hollering themselves hoarse, waving Texas flags and Astros pennants and orange-colored hats.

 

The Phillies? They turned and trooped slowly, silently down the runway to the clubhouse after yet another excruciating playoff defeat. All except Mike Schmidt. As the noise level reached new highs, as the celebration picked up momentum, the most valuable player in the National League stayed where he was, bent over from the waist, hands on his knees, as if frozen there.

 

At that instant, the disappointment, the frustration that he felt must have been overpowering. Probably, he was thinking about all the lost opportunities, all the hard-hit balls with runners in scoring position that didn't fall safely, although later he forced a weak smile and said he was merely waiting to make sure that Landestoy hadn't left third base too soon.

 

"He might've left too soon; who knows?" Schmidt said. "But the umpires were off the field. Everybody ran out of there. I guess he didn't."

 

You could hardly blame Mike Schmidt for staying there, for hoping for a miraculous reprieve, for refusing – for those few seconds – to accept the fact that the Phillies had lost a second straight game they had come so close to winning.

 

"If we hit two sacrifice flies – the other night (in the bottom of the ninth) and today (in the top of the third) – we're drinking champagne right now," Larry Bowa said.

 

But the only sacrifice fly was the one Denny Walling hit on a two-strike pitch from Tug McGraw in the 11th inning yesterday... and now the champagne was being chilled in the other clubhouse.

 

"Sometimes," sighed Bowa, "you wonder if you're even supposed to get into a World Series. You wonder if maybe it just isn't in the cards."

 

Two nights before, the Phillies had blundered their way to defeat in a game that was theirs for the taking. This time it was different.

 

Don't let anybody say they "choked" in yesterday's stirring struggle under the Dome. Teams that "choke" don't make the defensive plays that Schmidt and Pete Rose and Garry Maddox made to keep the Astros from scoring in regulation time. Teams that "choke" don't hit the ball as hard with men in scoring position as Bob Boone, Greg Luzinski and Schmidt did.

 

But for all those hard-hit balls, and for all those fine defensive plays, and for all that super pitching they had lost a 1-0 game in this monstrous indoor playpen where 389-foot fly balls to left-center come to earth a foot too soon.

 

The simple, painful truth is, it isn't how hard you hit the ball in this game, but where you hit it.

 

"It's no consolation (to hit the ball hard)," Luzinski said, "when you figure you've got a chance to blow 'em out three in a row."

 

And they did have that chance. They very easily could have been spewing geysers of champagne through the visiting clubhouse at the Astrodome yesterday afternoon... if they had managed to get a run out of three successive outfield hits in the ninth inning Wednesday night, and if they had been able to parlay those hard-hit balls into a run against Joe Niekro yesterday.

 

"We hit the ball better (than the Astros)," Schmidt said. "We hit the ball harder. We played better defense, and we lost...."

 

Even now, as he got into his street clothes, the big situations that kept cropping up in this extraordinary baseball game, the scoring opportunities that kept eluding the Phillies raced through Schmidt's mind.

 

"I can replay that game for you any time you want," he said, and without waiting for an answer he began.

 

"With men on second and third (in the third), I'm up," Schmidt said in a monotone, as if reciting a passage he had committed to memory. "I smoke the ball right to the third baseman. Two, three yards either way, two runs.

 

"Men on first and third (after Schmidt's grounder resulted in Pete Rose being thrown out at the plate). Luzinski hits one 385 to left center. It's a home run anywhere in baseball except here. Three runs.

 

"Boonie, first time up (with Manny Trillo on second and two out). Line drive to left field. He hits it right on the button. Can't hit a ball any harder.

 

"Let's see... Boonie again, men on first and second, line drive in the gap – as good as you can hit a ball under pressure with men on base. (Jose) Cruz runs it down in the web.

 

"You can't do nothin' about it. You can't guide the ball as a hitter. It's just that simple. All you can do is hit it hard. The only time they hit a ball hard with men in scoring position, Maddox ran it down."

 

But the Astros had scored the day's only run. They were one victory away from gaining the World Series berth that Schmidt, and the others in this quiet clubhouse felt in their hearts belonged to them.

 

"I'd like to be in their shoes over-there right now," Schmidt said in a voice that was little more than a whisper. "But right now I still feel we're the best team. No question in my mind. I don't think there's any question in anybody's mind...."

 

 

They are the better team, and now – with Houston's Cesar Cedeno in the hospital – the talent gap is even wider. But the payoff is on runs, not talent. The payoff is on where you hit them, not how hard you hit them... and the team that could have been drinking champagne yesterday is one defeat away from crying in its beer.

Unwanted Morgan has become most-wanted Astro

 

By Larry Eichel, Inquirer Staff Writer

 

HOUSTON – It seemed, at times, that this was a game that would never end, that the Phils and the Astros would play for weeks without ever scoring a run. It was a game that cried out for someone to grab it by the throat and shake some sense into it, to take charge of the improbable proceedings and bring them to an end.

 

"It was just a question of who was going to get the big hit," said Astros outfielder Terry Puhl, who has had his share of hits in this series, a series in which every hit is a major event. "And Joe Morgan got it. He's been our key man, the big No. 1 man down the stretch."

 

A year ago, Joe Morgan was the man nobody wanted. He was a free agent without any takers, a product without a market.

 

He had played out his option with the Cincinnati Reds, for whom he had twice been the league's most valuable player, only to find that just three teams cared enough to take him in the draft. And when those' teams refused to pay his price, he was forced to peddle his services door-lo-door and settle for far less money than he had been making in Cincinnati.

 

Now the 37-year-old second baseman with the battered left knee stands on top of the baseball world, getting all the big hits, saying all the right things and making all the big plays. He is the leader of this year's "family," the Willie Stargell of 1980.

 

In Game 2, he doubled to right to lead off the eighth inning, scoring moments later to give his team a one-run lead. And yesterday, he provided the crusher, a screaming triple off the 390-foot sign in right-center leading off the 11th, the hit that, combined with a sacrifice fly by Dennis Walling, put the Astros a game away from the World Series and the Phillies a game away from yet another winter of brooding disappointment.

 

"I'm not sure what the pitch was," the most valuable player of this October said of that 1-1 offering from Tug McGraw. He had a huge icepack on his wounded left knee. "He'd thrown me every pitch in his bag" of tricks the curveball, the screwball, the change-up, the fastball. It was a little up, over the plate toward the inside. I thought it was gone. In any other park, all I have to do is trot."

 

But in the Astrodome, no ball is an obvious home run, no matter how it is crushed. So Morgan, bad knee and all, tore around the bases. As he neared third, he seemed to pull up lame. It hurt, he would recall later, but he didn't mind. He had made it. And soon pinch-runner Rafael Landestoy would come home with the winning run, the run Joe Morgan had made.

 

"It was a big hit " Morgan said. "It won a game. But I thought I had won the game in the eighth inning."

 

In the eighth, against McGraw, with Enos Cabell on second, Little Joe had smashed a 3-2 pitch up the alley in right center, a ball that looked like it could not possibly be caught.

 

"And I said 'great,' and I looked up, and there was Garry Maddox going after it. It looked like he was taking 80-foot strides, and he was closing so fast that I knew he was going to catch it. I don't think anybody else in the league even gets close to it."

 

All Maddox' racing catch did was make it a little harder for the Astros, force Joe Morgan to deliver once more. And the leader responded to the challenge. He made this game his.

 

He will try to make the series his, and Houston's, this afternoon. He knows it will not be easy. This team, which has struggled so hard for runs all season, will have to struggle even harder tomorrow. Lefthander Steve Carlton will be on the mound for the Phillies, and the Astros will be without their best righthanded hitter, Cesar Cedeno, who stumbled over first base trying to beat out the tail end of a double play, dislocating his ankle in the process.

 

"Even with all that, I know I'll take my situation," said Morgan, who in the final weeks of this baseball season has been Houston's chief salesman. "They said this team didn't have playoff experience, that they didn't have this and they didn't have that, that Cincinnati was going to win it or certainly Los Angeles, that we were going to finish third. But this team shows no signs of choking.

 

"It's not going to be easy without Cesar. We've got a job to do, and one ' guy less to do it with. We've had to overcome a lot of adversity this year, losing J. R. Richard, who's as good a pitcher as there is in the world. Now there's this. I think we can handle it.

 

"I believe we'll do it tomorrow (today). We'll approach it as a fifth game rather than a fourth game. I think one thing we learned in Los Angeles (where they lost three before winning the one game they had to win) was that you've got to do it as soon as you can. You can't wait."

 

Joe Morgan will come to the ballpark this morning, lift some weights with his left leg to strengthen his bad knee, and then prepare himself to lead his young teammates to the Promised Land.

 

 

"All I know," said Walling, "is that we're one game away from the World Series."