Allentown Morning Call - October 7, 1980

Phils rate the edge this time despite shaky playoff record


By Ted Meixell, Call Sports Writer


If you watched the Houston Astros' 7-1 win over the Los Angeles Dodgers on the tube yesterday or listened in on the radio, you may have decided to root for the Astros against the Phils in the National League Championship Series which gets under way at 8: 15 tonight at Veterans Stadium. 


Isn't it true that after losing the last three games of the regular season to the Dodgers and blowing their three-game lead, the Astros' chances looked awfully slim in the one-game division championship playoff? But they came through, striking a blow for underdogs everywhere and proving they didn't take the field clutching their Adam's apples. 


Then, too, there's the fact that it's the first championship of any kind in Houston's 19-year existence (remember the Colt 45s?). 


But wait! If past frustrations are what lead you to choose sides, cast a glance at what our beloved Phils have failed to accomplish. The Phillies have won two pennants – in 1915 and 1950, which indicates they're not really due again until 1985.


Since the advent of divisional play, the Phils won three straight Eastern titles from 1976-78. They went quietly in their first playoff effort, dropping three straight to the Cincinnati Reds. In '77, they won the opener against the Dodgers in L.A. only to lose the next three, dropping the fourth game after leading 5-3 with two out in the ninth inning and the fifth in the infamous Bowie Kuhn Monsoon. And they fell again in four in '78. Who can ever forget the routine fly ball Garry Maddox dropped to end that one? 


And this is Phillies' Country, anyway. You wouldn't dare root for anyone else. Would you? 


Here's a position-by-position comparison between the two contenders. 


First Base 


Art Howe (Astros) vs. Pete Rose (Phils). Rose is a sure-fire first ballot selection to the Hall of Fame. And you can forget his sub-par (.282) season with the bat. He came alive in the decisive weekend series in Montreal. You could call him Mr. October if Reggie Jackson hadn't already staked his claim to that moniker. Howe, his four-RBI heroics yesterday notwithstanding, is a journeyman at best and he's far more comfortable at second base. BIG EDGE TO ROSE. 


Second Base 


Joe Morgan and Rafael Landestoy (Astros) vs. Manny Trillo (Phils). Morgan took over for Landestoy during the pennant drive and, although he's seen better days, he's a tough competitor and at his best under pressure. Landestoy has a good glove, no bat. Trillo is the league's premiere defensive second baseman and chipped in with a .292 batting average, his career best. EDGE TO TRILLO. 




Craig Reynolds (Astros) vs. Larry Bowa (Phils). Reynolds ( .224) is the classic good-field, no-hit shortstop. Bowa can still go get 'em, despite his traumatic season, and is a tad better bitter (.267).  BIG EDGE TO BOWA.


Third Base 


Enos Cabell (Astros) vs. Mike Schmidt (Phils). Cabell is a decent fielder, hits .276 (far lower with men on base), and has no power (two homers, 55 RBI). Schmidt is, simply, Best in Class an almost sure bet for Most Valuable Player honors. HUGE EDGE TO SCHMIDT.


Left Field 


Jose Cruz (Astros) vs. Greg Luzinski or Lonnie Smith (Phils). Cruz hit .302 with 11 homers and 91 RBI. Smith batted .339 and stole 32 bases, Luzinski suffered through an injury-plagued, unproductive season. But bet the house Luzinski plays. And in that case, EDGE TO CRUZ, 


Center Field


Cesar Cedeno (Astros) vs. Garry Maddox or Del Unser (Phils). Cedeno can do it all. He's a great fielder, hit .309 with 10 homers and 72 RBI and is a threat on the bases. Maddox is the best defensive centerfielder in the game but probably won't start against Houston's all-right-handed rotation. Unser, a journeyman, will probably get the nod. BIG EDGE TO CEDENO. 


Right Field 


Terry Puhl (Astros) vs. Bake Mc-Bride (Phils). Puhl is a solid major league player. He batted .283, led the Astros in homers with 13 and plays a fine outfield. But McBride has had an MVP-type season were it not for Schmidt's numbers. Bake hit .309 and drove in a career-high 87 runs. EDGE TO MCBRIDE. 




Alan Ashby (Astros) vs. Bob Boone or Keith Moreland (Phils). Ashby and Boone are excellent defensively, but neither hit a lick this year. Moreland still needs experience behind the plate, but adds offense and manager Dallas Green has shown no reluctance to use him. EVEN. 


Starting Pitchers 


Astros will use (probably) four righthanders – Ken Forsch (12-14) , Nolan Ryan (11-10), Vern Ruhle (12-4) and Joe Niekro (20-12). Manager Bill Virdon would like to open the series with Niekro, but he had to use him yesterday against L.A. Phils will open with probable Cy Young Award winner Steve Carlton (24-9) and use Dick Ruthven (17-10) tomorrow. After that it's anybody's guess – but pick from Larry Christenson (5-1) and rookies Bob Walk (11-7) and Marty Bystrom (5-0). The latter may not be eligible. N.L. President Chub Feeney is expected to rule on the Phils' request to use him early today. Both staffs are good, but SLIGHT EDGE TO PHILS. 




Astros' threesome of Joe Sambito, Frank LaCorte and Dave Smith is the league's best according to some observers. Joaquin Andujar is a sometime-starter, sometime-reliever. Phils' Tug McGraw has been without peer since coming off the disabled list July 27. In that time he's allowed just two earned runs. Ron Reed reassumes the No. 2 role since Sparky Lyle is ineligible. Warren Brusstar, Kevin Saucier and Dickie Noles add depth. EDGE TO ASTROS. 


It all points to the Phils' first-ever pennant. This time around they're the team with the playoff experience and the loss of ace pitcher J.R. Richard certainly can't help the Astros. On top of everything else, once Green chooses his lineup, the Phils' bench has a big edge.


A quickie poll of Morning Call staffers working last night says, "Phils in four." That's exactly the way I see it, too. 


What more do you need? Call your bookie.

Astros win 7-1; Phils’ series starts tonight


LOS ANGELES (AP) – Art Howe belted a two-run homer and two-run single yesterday, blasting the Houston Astros to a 7-1 National League West playoff victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers and a shot at Philadelphia for the league championship. 


"I hit a hanging curveball (off Dave Goltz) for the home run and a fastball (off Joe Beckwith) for the single, . said Howe, whose second hit was just as important as the first. 


The two hits came in consecutive innings, the third and fourth, and helped the Astros mount a 7-0 lead. It was more than enough support for knuckleballer Joe Niekro, who won his 20th game of the season with a six-hitter, marking the second straight 20-game-winning season for the righthander.


"I've been waiting for this 14 years," said Niekro, who used his knuckler during the early innings, switched to the fastball during the middle innings and went back to knuckleball in the later innings. 


Manager Bill Virdon, with a big grin on his face and drenched by champagne, said he would start Ken Forsch against Philadelphia in Game One of the NL playoffs " tonight and follow with Nolan Ryan. 


"I knew we could come back," said Virdon. "It will be tough in Philadelphia and we have not been too successful against them the last few years. Steve Carlton will be tough." 


The 31-year-old Howe was signed by Pittsburgh in 1971 and has battled his way up ever since. "I'm on Cloud Nine," he said. '''I always wanted to be a professional baseball player." 


Niekro said his brother, Phil, who plays in Atlanta; called him Sunday to wish him good luck. Joe told his brother, "I'll win this for mom and dad." 


The Dodger crowd of 51,127 proved most unruly, causing a delay at one time and the Astros' Cesar Cedeno commented, "It was bad. people shouldn't do that." 


"I still think the pressure was on them all the time and press comments last night brought out the best in us. But those fans were very, very lousy. They say we couldn't through. But who won?" 


The Astros opened quickly with two unearned runs in the first inning off Dave Goltz, 7-11. Leadoff batter Terry Puhl reached first on Davey Lopes' error at second and advanced to third on Enos Cabell's single. Cabell then stole second as Joe Morgan struck out. 


Jose Cruz hit a grounder to Mickey Hatcher at third and Hatcher's throw home was dropped by catcher Joe Ferguson for an error, allowing Puhl to score and advancing Cabell to third.


Cesar Cedeno then scored Cabell with an infield groundout for the second run of the inning. 


In the third, Howe hit his 10th home run, a two-run shot, scoring Cesar Cedeno, who had singled. 


The Astros opened their lead to 7-0 with three runs in the fourth off three Dodger relievers.

Phils on TV, radio



All game in the National League Championship Series will be televised live by ABC-TV, The telecasts from Philadelphia tonight and tomorrow night will begin at 8 o'clock on Channels 8, 7 and 16. The Friday telecast from Houston will begin at 2:30; Saturday's game, if necessary, will be at4 p.m.; and Sunday's game, If necessary, will be at 8 p.m. Radio stations KYW in Philadelphia and WEST-FM in Easton also will carry the games.