Camden Courier-Post - October 7, 1980
Phillies figure to have edge on Astros
By Bob Kenney, Courier-Post Sports Editor
PHILADELPHIA – There is nothing personal in the fact the Phillies were rooting for the Houston Astros to win the National League West.
It's simply a case of matching up better with the Astros, who open a best-of-five playoff series here tonight (Channel 6 and 17, 8 p.m.) in Veterans Stadium, after winning a one game showdown yesterday in Los Angeles.
The Astros are a fine baseball team, good enough to survive a miracle bid by the Dodgers and a season-long challenge by the Cincinnati Reds to win the division title. But Bill Virdon's club has its problems with Philadelphia and the Phillies know it.
"HOUSTON IS a team that comes at you with all those hard throwers," said Don Drysdale, the former Dodger pitching star now doing the color for ABC Television. "And the Phillies are best going against hard throwers."
It shows in the statistics, where the Phillies have pretty much dominated the Astros since 1976. This year Philadelphia won nine of the 12 games played and over the past two years is 8-4 in the Astrodome, 16-8 overall.
Not too many years ago, the Phillies hated to play in Houston but some recent success has made it one of the favorite spots in the circuit.
"It's a great place to pitch," said Tug McGraw, the southpaw who has carried the Phillies the past month out of the bullpen. "You don't have to worry too much about them hitting a home run there and we have the guys to play defense."
MAKING THIS first-ever playoff experience even tougher for Houston will be the strain placed on the pitching staff the past few days. While the Phillies were able to rest their regulars and pitching ace Steve Carlton, after clinching the title in Montreal Saturday, the Astros were fighting for their lives in Los Angeles.
As a result, Virdon has pitching problems. His stopper, 20-game winner Joe Niekro, pitched yesterday's game and will not be able to double up against the Phillies as planned.
Virdon won't even have his number two or number three starter ready when his tired Astros open the series tonight.
Vern Ruhle, who has a 2.38 earned run average, was the hottest arm on the staff in September but was used Sunday. Flame thrower Nolan Ryan, 11-10, pitched Saturday.
THAT MEANS Houston will open with Ken Forsch, the number four starter, against 24-game winner Carlton. Forsch has never had much luck against the Phillies and is 0-2 this season, while he is 12-11 against the rest of the league.
Carlton is 28-9 against the Astros, including two complete game victories this year when he simply overpowered them.
Besides Carlton, the Phillies have Dick Ruthven, 17-10 and Larry Christenson rested and ready. Ruthven, who once dreaded pitching against the Astros, allowed only five earned runs in four games this season. He's 3-1 against them and would have been 4-0 except for a balk and throwing error that gave a win away in July. Christenson is 1-0, Bob Walk won a three-hitter and reliever Kevin Saucier beat the Astros twice.
Only lefty Joe Sambito, the sinker ball ace who ranks with the best relievers in baseball, has been able to handle the Phillies. He's 2-0 in six games and has yet to give up an earned run.
SAMBITO is 8-4 with 17 saves and a 2.20 ERA. The Astros have two other fine relievers in Dave Smith and Frank LaCorte, both righties. Smith, the Houston rookie of the year candidate, posted a 1.92 ERA while winning seven and saving 10. LaCorte won eight and saved 11 for the Western champions.
Despite their fine bullpen, the Astros have no one to match McGraw, who has not given up an earned run in his last 15 games.
The "on paper" matchup doesn't get any better when the eight starters were analyzed. The Astros were designed around the spacious Astrodome and rely on speed and line drives to score. The Phillies operate much the same way but 48 home runs and 121 runs batted in by Mike Schmidt are a decided bonus.
Denny Walling, .299, and Art Howe, .283, platoon at first for the Astros and are no match for Pete Rose, who banged out 185 hits and fielded his position solidly.
MANNY TRILLO hit .292, his best ever, and now is to National League second basemen what Joe Morgan was as a Cincinnati regular in the '70s. Morgan is the Astros second baseman now and has been red hot the past six weeks but is a step slower and seems hung up trying to pull the ball. Morgan hit 11 home runs but batted only .242.
Craig Reynolds, .224 is a super bunter, a fair hitter and an average shortstop. Rafael Landestoy, .247, has played 150 games as the keystone backup. Larry Bowa, slowing down finally at 34, still rates a solid edge both at bat and in the field for the Phillies.
Houston's Enos Cabell has developed into a solid third baseman. He's a good hit and run man and may be the real team leader. His .276 average includes 22 doubles but compared to Schmidt, he doesn't rate.
Give Houston a slight edge in the outfield. Jose Cruz and Cesar Cedeno have been among the leaders in averages, doubles and runs batted in all season.
CEDENO, the top name on the club, is a happy player once again and is fielding with the best. Cedeno hit .309, and drove in 73 runs while hitting 32 doubles, eight triples and 10 home runs. Cruz leads the club with 91 runs batted in, and his .302 average features 29 doubles, seven triples, and 11 home runs.
Terry Puhl, once described as a big Greg Gross, has learned to pull the ball and is enjoying his finest season. His 13 home runs lead the team and he has knocked in 54 runs while hitting .283.
Bake McBride has statistics to match Cruz in right, a .309 average, 33 doubles, 87 runs batted in. But the Phillies haven't been getting the offensive punch they expected from Garry Maddox in center or Greg Luzinski in left.
Luzinski has lost his job several times to rookie Lonnie Smith, who is hitting .340. Maddox is struggling.
BEHIND THE PLATE, the Phillies have Bob Boone, who can catch, and Keith Moreland, who is hitting .314. Houston has Alan Ashby, who can catch, and Luis Pujols, who can throw.
If baseball games were decided on paper, the Phillies would breeze into the World Series. On second thought, if games were decided on paper, the Expos and the Dodgers would be squaring off tonight in Montreal.
Green gains confidence of McBride
By Ray W. Kelly of the Courier-Post
PHILADELPHIA – As a steady stream of visitors passed by his locker in search of Manager Dallas Green, Phillies right fielder Bake McBride just kept nodding, smiling and brushing his bushy Afro hairdo.
He brushed and pushed and pushed and brushed until he got the huge halo of curly hair just right. Then, he jammed an old hat atop his perfect creation and asked with a laugh, "Okay, what's goin' on in there?"
Of course, he knew the answer to the question before he asked it. For he had seen the hurt and anger in pitcher Randy Lerch's eyes when Green had called the righthander in for a brief chat.
All the players knew that in the afterglow of the Eastern Division triumph the eventual ax might fall on a swollen roster. Two pitchers (Nino Espinosa and Lerch) were having their names submitted to the Lords of Baseball for possible replacement on the eligibility list by rookie sensation Marty Bystrom and reliever Kevin Saucier.
Nino's removal would be no problem because of his arm problems. Getting Bystrom past the censors was another matter. Which explained the delay and Green's decision to at least advise Lerch that his precarious and unhappy position might last until game time tonight.
Green, who was also refusing to reveal the lineup he planned to field against the Houston Astros in playoff opener at Veterans Stadium (because he didn't know if he was going to face Houston or the Dodgers at the time), was hitting Lerch with some cold, hard facts of life. But at least he was being up front.
It's a quality that McBride learned to admire in the manager. Yet, it wasn't always that way.
In fact, there were two days during a weekend in September that Bake almost decided to "shut it down" and tell Green what he could do with his team, his organization and his dreams of a pennant.
Shut it down?
"Stop hitting. You know, stop trying," explained McBride. "And, I was serious."
The incident took place in Chicago. But the story, which goes a long way in explaining why the Phillies have changed so much under Green's management, began in spring training.
That is when McBride made a decision. ' He was sick of hearing how he wasn't supposed to be a hustling player. He was tired of hearing his name mentioned in every trade rumor involving the Phillies. And he thought it was about time he used his talents to show everyone just how desperately he wanted to stay in Philadelphia.
From the first day in Clearwater, Bake made an extra effort to be what the Phillies expected in a player. He hustled. He got along with the media. And he played outstanding baseball, even when he was hurt.
Once during the season, be failed to go from first to third on a basehit. Green ripped bim in the press. The next day, Bake was in his office.
Hadn't the manager realized he couldn't run? Didn't he know Bake had his sore knee drained of fluid that morning by the doctor? It was right there in black and white on the injury list submitted each day by trainer Don Seger.
"He admitted to me he hadn't read the list that day. It showed me something," said Bake, who rested his injury for a while before being told by Green that he would be in the lineup the next day.
When he wasn't, he went back into the see the manager.
"That's the thing. I felt I could go in and say to the man, 'You told me I , was starting. I'm not. What's up?'
"Communication. I think if there ! was more of it between Dallas and Garry Maddox, a lot of misunderstandings could have been avoided. I know it worked with me.
"He looked me in the eye that day and told me that, in addition to his wanting to give me an extra day to heal, he also felt Lonnie Smith deserved to stay in there because of the game he had the previous day. Hey, he gave me the truth. I can live with that."
Trusting a manager wasn't an easy thing for Bake to do. When he was in St. Louis, he was maligned, ridiculed and lied to by the management.
"Vern Rapp (the Cardinal manager at the time) told me one night that I didn't have to worry, that I wasn't going to be traded," recalled Bake. "I was traded the next morning."
Which brings us to this past September, when the Phillies made a deal with the Texas Rangers for reliever Sparky Lyle. In return, the Rangers were to receive, "a player to be named later".
Bake was told he was going to be that player. Friend and teammate Espinosa told him. Nino had been told by a friend back in Philly, who had read somewhere that McBride was headed to Texas after the season because Texas (it was no secret) wanted him, he couldn't nix such a deal and his contract would v be no problem for the Rangers to handle.
The rumor, which seemed logical at the time, hit Bake like a freight train. Here he was, dedicating an outstanding season to the idea of making the Phillies want him and he was still being traded. Bake went into a total funk.
Coach Ruben Amaro noticed right away. McBride told him he was finished trying his heart out for an organization that was always trying to get rid of him. When teammate John Vukovich came to him in the Wrigley Field clubhouse, McBride told him, "I don't care if you tell Dallas or not. This is it for me. I'm shutting it down for the season."
More than anything, McBride was hurt. It would be hard to find a member of the Phillies who cares more and gets less appreciation.
Vukovich went to Green, who went to the top before calling Bake into bis office to deny the report.
"After what happened to me before, you can understand me being a little hesitant about believing you," Bake told the manager.
And, if the truth be known, the right fielder will still hold his breath this winter whenever there are trade rumors involving the Phillies.
But, somehow, Green convinced McBride that he was not, "the player to be named later." Like so many others on the team, Green got the man to put his trust in him and the Phillies' organization.
Without McBride, there would be no division championship. And the Phillies wouldn't be sending Steve Carlton against an Astro club he has continually beaten, an Astro team that's the perfect stepping stone to a World Series.
When you take care of little things, the big things have a way of taking care of themselves.
Diary of Phils’ drive to Division title
The Phillies won their fourth National League East Division championship in the last five years in nearly classic fashion, going 23-10 (.679) from Sept. 1-Oct. 4. The following gives a game-by-game account of how it was done:
Sept. 1 at San Francisco: Steve Carlton wins his 21st with a 6-4 complete game. Phils emerge in a three-way tie for first place with Montreal and Pittsburgh.
Sept. 2 at San Francisco: Warren Brus-star works out of two bases-loaded jams as the Phils win, 2-1, in 13 innings. Ron Reed gets credit for the victory. Phils remain tied for first with Montreal.
Sept. 3 at San Francisco: Tug McGraw saves Dick Ruthven's 14th win, 4-3. Phils take a half-game lead.
Sept. 4 at Los Angeles: McGraw saves another one, this time for rookie righthander Bob Walk. The 3-2 victory gives the Phils a full game edge.
Sept. 5 at Los Angeles: Don Sutton beats Carlton in a classic pitchers' duel, 1-0. Phils fall into tie for first with Montreal.
Sept. 6 at Los Angeles: Righthander Larry Christenson has to leave game early with pulled groin muscle. Randy Lerch eventually loses in relief, 7-3, and Phils fall back into second place, a game behind Montreal.
Sept. 7 at Los Angeles: Phils are blanked, 6-0, and finish final trip to West Coast with a 6-5 record after 6-2 start, remain a game behind Expos.
Sept. 8 Pittsburgh: McGraw wins his first game of the season with 2 innings of shutout relief. Bake McBride goes 4-for-4, Mike Schmidt hits his 37th home run. Phils remain in second, but gain a half-game on Montreal.
Sept. 9 Pittsburgh: Phils win in 14 innings, 5-4, on Bob Boone's suicide squeeze bunt. Remain in second, one-half game behind Expos.
Sept. 10 at New York: Marty Bystrom makes his major-league debut with a five-hit, 5-0 shutout of the Mets. Expos, however, win to keep their half -game lead.
Sept. 11 at New York: McGraw saves his third game of the month in 5-1 win, Schmidt hits 38th home run. Still second, one-half game back.
Sept. 12 St. Louis (DH): The low point of the month, Brusstar gives up grand slam to Leon Durham in 7-4 first-game loss; Lerch allows bases-loaded triple to Keith Hernandez in the 11th inning of a 5-0 defeat in the nightcap. Reed is charged with loss of second game. Phils remain in second, but fall two games behind Expos.
Sept. 13 St. Louis: Carlton wins 22nd, 2-1, Schmidt gets game-winning RBI in sixth with sacrifice fly. Phils gain a game on Expos, trail by one.
Sept. 14 St. Louis: Bystrom goes 2-0 with seven shutout innings in 7-4 victory. Newly-acquired Sparky Lyle makes National League debut. McBride hits three-run home run. Second place, one game behind.
Sept. 16 at Pittsburgh: John Milner drives in game-winner in 3-2 Pirate victory. Schmidt hits 39th home run. Second place 1½ games out.
Sept 17 at Pittsburgh: McGraw beats Pirates for second time in nine days with two innings or shutout relief in a 5-4, 11-inning victory. Del Unser drives in game-winner with pinch-hit single. Lyle gets first save. Second place 1½ behind.
Sept. 19 at Chicago: Phils give one away, 4-3, to Cubs after taking 3-2 lead into ninth, Brusstar is charged with loss, but McGraw gives up game-winning hit to Jerry Martin. Second place: 1½ behind.
Sept. 20 at Chicago: Bystrom has his scoreless inning streak stoped at 20 by Dave Kingman home run, but wins his third easily, 7-3. Schmidt hits home run No. 40; Garry Maddox hits 10th. Second place, half-game out.
Sept. 21 at Chicago: Phils pound out 15 hits, including home runs by Schmidt (41) and Greg Luzinski (18), in another 7-3 breeze. Ruthven gets the win. Reed gets a save by retiring 10 straight Cubs. Second place, half-game back.
Sept. 22 at St. Louis: McGraw saves third game of month by pitching 10th inning of 3-2 win. Carlton gets victory. Schmidt homers for third time in three days. Keith Moreland drives in game-winner with pinch double. Phils take over division lead by one-half game over Montreal.
Sept. 23 at St. Louis: Cards get to Walk early and win, 6-3. Schmidt hits 43rd home run to touch off ninth-inning rally that falls short. Montreal, meanwhile, defeats Pirates, 7-1, to take half-game lead over Phils.
Sept. 24 New York: McGraw wins third game of month with two innings of shutout relief for Larry Christenson, who fires four-hitter for eight innings. Phils win in 10th, 1-0, on a Pete Rose single to center. Montreal wins. Second place; one-half game behind.
Sept. 25 New York: Bystrom goes 4-0 with 2-1 win. Lyle gets second save. Maddox and Lonnie Smith drive in runs. Montreal loses and Phils take a half-game lead.
Sept. 26 Montreal: Three-game show down with Expos begins with dramatic 2-1 victory on McBride's home run to lead off the bottom of the ninth. McGraw gets win in relief of Ruthven, Phils take 1½-game lead.
Sept. 27 Montreal: Expos defeat Carlton, 4-3, on RBI single in eighth by Larry Parrish. Woody Fryman saves game for Scott Sanderson. Schmidt homers. Phils' lead cut to one-half game.
Sept 28 Montreal: Expos catcher Gary Carter homers twice in 8-3 Expo victory. Walk is loser. Phils fall back into second, one-half game behind the Expos.
Sept. 29 Chicago: One of the truly crucial wins of the year. After falling behind by two runs in top of 15th, Phils rally to win, 6-5. Kevin Saucier gets credit for victory. Manny Trillo drives in game-winner with bases-loaded single after Maddox ties score with RBI single. Maddox and fellow veterans Luzinski and Boone benched by Manager Dallas Green prior to game in shakeup. Second place; one-half back.
Sept. 30 Chicago: Refurbished lineup that includes Lonnie Smith, Moreland and Unser pounds out 15 hits in 14-2 laugher. Bystrom gets credit for win to go 5-0.
Oct. 1 Chicago: Carlton no-hits Cubs for seven innings, but has to settle for two-hit 5-0 shutout. Schmidt and Luzinski hit back-to-back homers for sixth time in season, ninth of their careers. Second place; one-half back.
Oct. 2 Chicago: McGraw saves win for Walk, who pitches 7 strong innings. Schmidt hits homer No. 46. Two unearned runs in eighth prove difference in 4-2 decision. Montreal off, so Phils move into first-place tie.
Oct 3 at Montreal: Final series of season. Both Phils and Expos need to take two of three to win division. Phils win, 2-1, with Schmidt driving in both runs on sacrifice fly and home run No. 47. Homer ties record for third baseman. Ruthven gets decision over Sanderson, McGraw saves it by striking out five of the six batters be faces.
Oct. 4 Montreal: Start of game delayed more than three hours by rain. Poor conditions contribute to seven errors, five by Phillies. Teams turn six double plays. Expos take 2-0 lead on Jerry White home run. Phils make it 2-1 on RBI single by Rose, who goes 3-for-5 in the game, 7-for-11 in the series. Phils take 3-2 lead in seventh on two-run single by Luzinski, who has been restored to lineup. Expos go up, 4-3, in bottom of seventh with two unearned runs after Trillo drops pop up. Phils tie it with two out in ninth on Bob Boone's single off Woody Fryman. Phils win it, 6-4, in 11th on Schmidt's two-run home run (48) off Stan Bahnsen. McGraw gets credit for victory by fanning four of the 10 batters he faces. Triumph clinches division championship for Phillies.
One-Run Games: 12-3