Reading Eagle - October 11, 1980
Phils Down, 2-1
Experience: Joe Morgan Delivers
By John W. Smith, Asst. Sports Editor
HOUSTON – The Philadelphia Phillies have the edge on Houston in one significant category which doesn’t show in the statistics – playoff experience.
But today, Houston has the edge on the Phillies, thanks to the only Astro hitter with real experience.
Joe Morgan’s triple off the right-field wall leading off the 11th led to the only run as the Astros topped the Phillies 1-0 Friday.
That gave them a 2-1 lead in the best-of-five League Championship Series, with the fourth game set for 4:15 (EDT) today. No. 5, if the Phillies win today, would be Sunday night at 8.
.147 in LCS
Morgan played in five LCS with the Reds (plus three World Series). He has not exactly been Mr. October. His LCS figures are more like January, .147 before this year. The World Series figure isn’t great either, .227.
But Friday he made the biggest hit in this town by anyone lacking an oil drill.
He picked on a fastball from Tug McGraw and drilled it just beyond Bake McBride’s glove. It turned into a standup triple when it bounced by McBride coming off the wall.
The Phils intentionally passes Jose Cruz and Art Howe. Denny Walling, starting his first playoff game, lofted an 0-2 pitch to nearly medium left and pinch-runner Rafael Landestoy easily beat the relay on Greg Luzinski’s off-line throw.
Call From Rose
The only player in the game with more playoff experience than Morgan is, of course, his old buddy Pete Rose. Pete had called Morgan, aching from a twisted knee and from three straight losses to the Dodgers, to wish him well on Sunday. “See you in Philly on Tuesday,” Pete had said.
Morgan didn’t play Tuesday, because of the sore leg and because Lefty Steve Carlton was pitching. “I hope he stays where he is tonight,” Rose said then. “I’m sorry he’s hurt, but when Morgan’s not in the lineup, it’s a plus for us.”
Wednesday, Joe was a plus for the Astros by doubling to start the eighth and scoring the run which made it 3-2 for them. And his presence in the 10th dictated an intentional walk which turned into the deciding run.
Friday, the plus sign had an exclamation mark after it.
First Loss in 2 Months
McGraw, who gave up that double to Morgan Wednesday for the first earned run allowed by him since Sept. 2, thus suffered his first loss since Aug. 8. He had gotten Dickie Noles out of an eighth-inning problem, and allowed only one runner in the next two innings.
But he escaped that eighth-inning trouble only because of a great catch by Garry Maddox of a bullet in right center. And who hit the bullet? Joe Morgan.
“I just try to hit what I see against McGraw,” said Joe. “He threw me every pitch he’s got in the eighth, but he made a mistake.”
McGraw confirmed that the 11th-inning pitch wasn’t where he wanted it to be, either. “It was right out over the plate,” he said.
Somebody wanted to know if McGraw was surprised that Morgan could hit it that far. “I didn’t think it would go out,” said Tug, “because if Bull couldn’t hit one out, how could he? But I’m never shocked when a left-hander hits me.” (Four lefties hit grand slams off him last year.)
One Shot Too Few
McGraw, who would have been lifted for a hitter to start the 12th, of course, had a novel way to explain his failure. “I should have had one more shot of Irish whiskey,” he said with a grin. “The leprechauns got thirsty and took off.”
Unfortunately for Tug and his predecessors, so did the Phils’ hitters. Joe Niekro held them to six hits in 10 innings, issuing only one intentional walk. (Joe was at least a member of one LCS team – Detroit in ’72 – though he didn’t pitch.)
Rookie Dave Smith got the win despite giving a two-out double to Maddox in the 11th.
Meanwhile, Larry Christenton allowed just three hits in six innings. With Noles giving one and Tug two, that meant the Astros had just six hits for the 11 innings.
“We’re just not getting any offense now,” said Dallas Green, who saw his team waste opportunities in each of the first three innings and again in the last three.
“Niekro usually improves as the game goes on,” said Houston’s Bill Virdon. “He has a tendency to overthrow, but then he relaxes.”
“Little things mean a lot,” said Dallas, declining to elaborate.
One thing would have been to get Manny Trillo to third after he doubled to start the second. Maddox hit to the right side, all right – but a pop-up.
Another would have been to get Pete Rose in from third with one out in the third, and the infield back. But Mike Schmidt hit to third and Pete was out at the plate. (“If it goes to short or second, I’m in,” said Pete.)
Another would have been to get McGraw to second on a bunt after he was safe on an error to start the 10th. Rose forced him. McGraw admitted that a more experienced runner than he would have made it (though the next two went out anyway).
Stayed With Bull
Some thought a little thing would have been to substitute Greg Gross for Luzinski with the winning run on third. “Nobody would have gotten Landestoy,” Green insisted. “If Bowa couldn’t throw him out on that grounder Wednesday, nobody would have from left field. If it had been hit shallower, we thought Bull could.”
One big thing for the Astros could be the loss of their leadoff hitter, Cesar Cedeno, who tripped trying to outleg a relay to first and tore ligaments in his right ankle. He has already undergone surgery.
The Phillies were trying to stave off elimination today by going with Steve Carlton, who won Tuesday for the 25th time this year. The Astros were countering with Vern Ruhle (12-4, 2.38), pronounced cured of the slit finger which finished him early in Sunday’s regular-season finale.
PHIL-PHILLERS – Green said he was leaning to Marty Bystrom, but would first talk with Dick Ruthven, as far as a fifth-game starter was concerned…. Green lifted Christenson for a hitter in the seventh because his arm isn’t back to full strength. L.C. said he couldn’t fault the move…. Dallas had Del Unser bat for Boone in the 11th with two on because Del does well against hard throwers like Smith. But Dave got him with a forkball…. Nolan Ryan is the only other Astro with more than token playoff experience…. Christenson threw double-play pitches with two on in both the first and sixth, and got two groundouts with a man on third in the fourth…. “They have to beat the best pitcher in the world in the next one,” said Rose. “If they do that, they deserve to play in the World Seires.”… Pete said he’d talk to Howard Cosell about his criticizing his move home in the third. “I was told to go on contact,” said Pete.
Morgan had promised to “come back someday and help this team win a pennant,” when he was traded from the Astros to the Reds nine years ago…. Enos Cabell, Howe and Landestoy have token postseason experience…. First-string catcher Alan Ashby is also sidelined with a separated rib from Monday’s collision (not the kneeing) with Joe Ferguson. Cabell was limping after being hurt trying to steal in the 10th Friday.
Phillies Snowed With Men Aboard
By John W. Smith, Asst. Sports Editor
HOUSTON – “Baseball games are like snowflakes,” said Mike Schmidt to a group of writers gathered in front of his stall.
In case there was anybody unfamiliar with snowflakes in the gathering, he added, “No two of them are alike.”
At first glance, Friday’s 1-0, 11-inning loss to Houston was remarkably like Wednesday’s 7-4, 10-inning loss to Houston.
In both the Phillies squandered scoring chances as if they were as plentiful as snowflakes in Buffalo.
The major difference might seem to be that the wasted chances were largely late Wednesday and largely late Friday. But Schmidt wanted to emphasize another difference.
“Every time we had men in scoring position, we hit the ball hard – except the last time,” complained Mike. “But Niekro doesn’t care how he stops the rallies.”
It may be recalled that Wednesday, Astro relievers racked up four strikeouts and a pop with Phillies in scoring position in the seventh through the ninth.
Friday, pinch-hitter Del Unser struck out with two on in the 11th. Also, Garry Maddox and Larry Bowa popped out after Manny Trillo’s opening double in the second.
But there was Greg Luzinski’s grounder to short with a man on second in the first, Schmidt’s grounder to third with two in scoring position in the third, two shots to left by Bob Boone with somebody on second in the second and ninth. Mike also cited Bake McBride’s smash to center with one on in the 10th.
The best drive of all was Luzinski’s bid for a homer with two on and two out in the third.
3-0 Win at Vet
Jose Cruz haulted it in effortlessly just in front of the wall, near the power-alley 390-foot mark. “If we were playing in the Vet, we’d have won the game 3-0,” said Luzinski.
Was there any park in the league that ball wouldn’t have been out of?
“It might have been only off the wall in San Diego,” shrugged the Bull.
“They beat us with the last at bat and some luck,” insisted Schmidt.
The Phillies set a League Championship Series record – for both leagues – with their 14 left on base Wednesday. In only one postseason game in baseball history has a team left more than 14 on: the Mets stranded 15 in a 12-inning game against the A’s in 1973, a game incidentally won by Tug McGraw.
Friday, they stranded a mere 11, or one an inning. That the total wasn’t hight may be attributed to the fact that Joe Niekro retired 16 of 17 consecutive batters from one out in the fourth through two out in the ninth. (The one exception was an infield hit in the sixth by Pete Rose.)
However, the Phillies would surely have set a record – if such records were kept – for most men left on base in scoring position, seven consecutive innings: 9.
They left six there among their total of 10 LOCs in the last four innings Wednesday. They left three more there in the first three innings Thursday, with another thrown out at the plate.
It would be 10 for eight innings if you count the fact that Maddox, on first in the fourth with two out, was on his way to third on Boone’s hit-and-run grounder when the out was recorded at first.
“We should have won Wednesday and we should have won today,” summed up Larry Christenson, who wasted a fine pitching effort Friday. “We didn’t hit with men on bases.”
Lest one think that Christenson should not talk about hitting, it should be pointed out that only one Phillie has reached the stands in seven games in the spacious Astrodome this season (in contrast to five homers against Houston at the Vet, three by Schmidt).
That was Christenson, who hit a three-run homer May 17.
What’s more, it came off Joe Niekro.
Friday, he was 0-for-2 against Joe, on a strikeout and groundout. Maybe the trouble was he never came up with anybody on base.