Camden Courier-Post - October 8, 1980
Bull blasts Astros
By Bob Kenney, Courier-Post Sports Editor
PHILADELPHIA – The Phillies survived a sluggish performance by pitching ace Steve Carlton last night and ended a 65-year drought by winning a post-season baseball game at home.
The National League Eastern Division champions used a two-run home run by the slumping Greg Luzinski to ignite a 3-1 victory over the Houston Astros in the opening game of the best-of-five championship series.
Manager Dallas Green will send 17-game winner Dick Ptuthven to the mound tonight against flame-throwing Nolan Ryan in the second game of the eries, scheduled for 8:15 in Veterans Stadium.
The victory was the first at home by the Phillies since Grover Cleveland Alexander beat the Boston Red Sox on Oct. 8. 1915 in Baker Bowl.
"Everybody knows we have trouble in playoffs," said Luzinski. who extended his personal championship series hitting streak to 12 games with his sixth-inning home run. "That's why this game was so important to us."
The home run, with Pete Rose on base after his second single, came just about when the largest crowd in major league playoff history – 65,277 – was about to give up on the Phillies.
Houston pitcher Ken Forsch was sailing along with a 1-0 lead and the Astros seemed ready to break it open any time against Carlton, who was behind the count on almost every batter.
But Forsch got careless with a 3-2 pitch to Luzinski and the big outfielder put it deep into the seats in left field to put the home team in front 2-1.
"I knew it was gone the minute I hit it." said Luzinski. "Plate umpire Rob Engle said later the pitch I hit was a foot inside."
"That ball would have gone out of the Grand Canyon if we were playing there," said Forsch. "It obviously wasn't where I wanted it."
Greg Gross batted for winning pitcher Carlton in the seventh inning and gave the Phillies some breathing room with a clutch single into short left. Garry Maddox had singled, moved to second on a perfect sacrifice bunt by Larry Bowa, and moved into scoring position by stealing third base.
That gave the Phillies a two-run edge and relief pitcher Tug McGraw never gave the Astros a chance to get back into contention. McGraw retired three straight in the eighth and three of four Houston batters in the ninth to get the save.
In 16 games since the start of September, McGraw has not allowed a single earned run. During that stretch drive he has won five and saved seven, including last night's' game.
"That one extra run changed the way the Astros could play," said Green, who has managed the Phillies to seven wins in their last eight games and 20 of 28 since Labor Day. "We took away their running game and their bunting game."
Although he had control problems, Carlton was tough in the clutch and allowed the Astros just the one run. Houston used three singles. the last an infield hit off Manny Trillo's glove by Gary Woods, to score in the third inning.
"That's what makes Lefty a 24-9 pitcher." said Green. "He has that capability to leave men on base. He didn't have a good slider and they were sitting on his breaking stuff."
A victory tonight would pot the Phillies in a commanding position when the series resumes Friday afternoon in Houston.
"But we can't relax," said Bob Boone, the veteran catcher'. Any time you start getting into a numbers game you get into trouble. We're just going to take it pitch by pitch, inning by inning and block the first game out of our minds."
Phillies ride Bull to victory
Luzinski’s homer tops Astros before 65,277
By Bob Kenney, Courier-Post Sports Editor
PHILADELPHIA – The Bull returned to the China Shop here last night and proved the difference as the Phillies defeated the Houston Astros, 3-1, to open the National League playoff series.
The Bull, known as Greg Luzinski in real life, ripped a 3-2 pitch into the left field seats at Veterans Stadium with Pete Rose aboard in the sixth inning to erase a one-run Houston lead and turn the game around.
The victory was the first in post-season play at home for the Phillies since Oct. 8, 1915, when Grover Cleveland Alexander defeated the Boston Red Sox.
"WE'VE BEEN due." said Luzinski with a grin. "Certainly we knew that. That's what made this such a big game. We haven't done very well in the playoffs."
For five innings it looked as if the Phillies were going to follow the same script they did after winning Eastern Division titles in 1976, '77 and '78 and promptly forgot how to win.
Houston took advantage of wildness by Steve Carlton and scored a run in the third inning on singles by Jose Cruz, Cesar Cedeno and Gary Woods.
Meanwhile, Houston veteran Ken Forsch was in complete control, pitching out of two early jams and settling down to retire eight straight batters going into the sixth.
"WE WERE a bit sluggish," said Pete Rose, who opened the inning with a single to deep short, his second infield safety of the game.
But things got no better for the Phillies as Forsch struck out Bake McBride and got Mike Schmidt, the major league home run king, on a soft fly to center. That left it up to Luzinski.
Things haven't been going well for the big left fielder, who set the pace for the previous championship teams. He had knee surgery in July and was out of action until Aug. 24.
He recently went through an embarrassing 2-ior-27 slump where he struck out 11 times. But Luzinski has always thrived on pressure, as his current 12-game playoff hitting streak proves.
LUZINSKI WORKED the count to 3-2 then ripped an inside fastball into the seats. Suddenly it was 2-1 and the 65,277 fans, the most in major league playoff history, came alive. Veterans Stadium was again the China Shop for Luzinski.
"To be honest, I couldn't tell what I hit," said Luzinski. "It was a 3-2 count and I was protecting the plate."
"It was low and inside, not where I wanted it," said Forsch, who felt he had to pitch a shutout to win.
Once Luzinski took over, the Phillies relaxed and Houston lost control.
"AT FIRST, we were all trying to get it started, trying to do it ourselves," said Luzinski. "We always have trouble in the playoffs."
The Phillies added an extra run in the seventh. Garry Maddox opened the inning with a solid single to center and moved to second on a fine bunt by Larry Bowa. With two out, Maddox stole third.
"I have permission to go anytime," said Maddox. "With Greg Gross up, a guy who hits line drives to the opposite field, I felt I would be better off at third."
The stolen base paid dividends when Gross, who was batting for Carlton, flared a single to left and Maddox scored.
"I got a fastball inside," said Gross. "It was a heckuva pitch. I just fought it off. The hit put us two runs up and took away their bunting game."
TUG McGRAW, on the hottest streak of his life, came on and retired the side in order in the eighth. He walked leadoff batter Luis Pujols to open the ninth, but the extra run kept the Astros in a hole and Tug retired the next three batters.
In 16 games since the start of September, McGraw has not allowed an earned run, winning five and saving seven in that time.
"I don't know how long I can keep this up," said McGraw honestly. "I wasn't real sharp tonight but the mound had the problems, not me. After they play a football game here it is hard to readjust to the mound but things worked out okay."
The Astros, who spent Monday night making the coast-to-coast jet flight from Los Angeles after beating the Dodgers for the title, had Carlton on the ropes early but could not cash in.
"He certainly didn't have his best stuff," said Forsch. "I got two hits off him, didn't I?"
THE ASTROS had eight base runners through the first four innings as Carlton was behind in the count to almost every hitter.
"I think he had too much rest," said Rose. "He was not sharp but still held them. It shows just how damn good he is."
The Philadelphia defense rallied around Carlton, who doesn't need much help when he is sharp.
Wood's single came on a play which second baseman Manny Trillo usually makes. After that, Manny turned in two fine plays to make peace with himself and earn raves from the fans.
"My wife taped that game in Montreal," said Trillo, referring to the clincher last Saturday that Manny almost game away. "I watched myself drop that pop fly three times. Everybody drops one once in awhile, but I wondered 'why me' at that time."
The error in Montreal proved almost fatal. His failure to stop Wood's grounder also played on his mind. But Trillo, enjoying his finest season, forgot his problems when he dove for an Enos Cabel smash and robbed the Houston third baseman of a sure hit in the fourth.
Bull wants to stay in Philly forever
By Ray W. Kelly of the Courier-Post
PHILADELPHIA – When all around him people were agreeing that his days as a member of the Phillies were numbered, Greg Luzinski was counting down to his days of redemption.
He had faith in himself and what he believed to be the inevitable. He would prove to those who didn't think he had a prayer of overcoming his dismal 1980 season that he still belonged.
And, despite months of trial and tribulation, he wanted more than anything else to continue wearing the uniform of the Phils.
"Sure, I want to stay," said Greg. "After being here for so long, I'd like to think I'm still part of of the team. I'd like to think that, but you'd never know it from what I've been reading all summer."
It seems that folks forgot to remember one thing – when there is a division championship to be clinched or some playoff offense needed, Luzinski becomes a Born Again Slugger. Halleluiah!
Last night, before a Veterans Stadium congregation of 65,277 baseball worshipers, Luzinski stood at the plate and gave testimony the only way he knew how with a booming, two-run, game-winning home run.
The towering blast into the lower deck beyond the leftfield bullpen washed away more than just the 1-0 lead the Houston Astros were clinging so desperately to in that sixth inning.
It also dispelled the seeds of doubt that were planted in the first inning when shortstop Larry Bowa's throwing error, combined with a lethargic Phillies offense rekindled what Luzinski described as that old "here we go again" feeling.
Leading the way toward the Promised Land is nothing new to Luzinski, however. He was the one whose home run against Montreal clinched the 1976 division title. When the title was claimed by the Phils in 1978 on the next to last day of the season in Pittsburgh, The Bull's homer was a turning point. And, of course, there was his big hit against the Expos in Saturday's clincher.
"Oh, I remembered," said Greg. "But others forgot in a hurry "
His teammates didn't forget. And neither did manager Dallas Green, who withstood a lot of pressure in order to play Luzinski and get him ready for the annual playoff revival.
"I knew what I did (hit safely in all 12 previous playoff games). And Dallas knew... that's all that counted," said Greg. "There was no doubt in my mind about whether I was going to play."
Good thing the decision wasn't left to a vote of the general public. Even on such a joyous occasion as this, Luzinski's pregame introduction as a member of the starting lineup was met with an undercurrent of boos that shocked many out-of-towners.
Luzinski's reaction was a twirl of his cap.
"I was putting them (the fans) on a little bit," he said later with a smile. "It doesn't bother me. I see it this way, the people were frustrated by last year's fourth-place finish. I accept that frustration. They saw us when we had good years, and that's what they expect.
"I don't have anything against the fans. I bad a bad year. I've heard trade rumors and everything else. But I'm not going to be concerned about it. I'm not going to worry about myself. I don't want to put any pressure on myself. This is fun. You dream about being here. I'm just going to play."
Luzinski used to wear his heart on his sleeve during a romance with the fans that began in the early years when he used to carry the club on his back. When it ended last season with him being booed for the first time in his career in Philadelphia, he was hurt. But, he learned to cope.
"Being able to put things behind me has helped," he said. "I also knew that, in the past, I've gone into the playoffs in a slump and somehow came out of it.
"I have no idea why. I just really get revved up. I'm ready to go. It's a whole new season for me."
That explains the mental aspect. As for the physical, Luzinski suspects that the reawakening of his batting stroke was hastened by some adjustments he made during Saturday's rain delay in Montreal. Instead of holding bis bat pointing straight toward the heavens, he tilted it backward, eliminating the "loop" that had developed in his swing.
But the truth is that his manager and teammates never doubted that, when the time arrived, Greg would stop swinging what looked like soggy editions of the Dead Sea Scrolls and heal himself in time for his annual post-season crusade.
It's just a good thing Bull isn't pitching a tent and shaking a tambourine. He'd have them rolling in the aisles for sure.
Fastball was wrong pitch to Luzinski
By Vic Carucci of the Courier-Post
PHILADELPHIA – For a while, the Houston Astro pitcher Ken Forsch was doing what his 12-13 record and 3.16 earned run average said was virtually impossible – he was stealing the show in his pitching duel with the Phillies Steve Carlton last night.
Forsch outshined the Cy Young Award candidate through five innings of the National League Championship Series opener. His exceptionally good control and Carlton's wildness were two of the biggest reasons the Astros entered the sixth inning with a 1-0 lead.
But, before he could thoroughly stun a sellout Veterans Stadium crowd and a national television audience, Forsch made a costly mistake.
With two outs in the sixth and the count 3-2, he delivered a low, inside fastball to Greg Luzinski. The Bull crushed the ball for a two-run homer that paced the Phillies to a 3-1 victory.
"Obviously, I thought I could get Luzinski out and I challenged him with a fastball and he got the best of me," Forsch said. "I struck him out earlier with a fastball, so I went with a fastball again. I got it down a little bit and he really got extended on it.
"It's just hard to pitch against that power. The ball Luzinski hit would have been out of the Grand Canyon if we had been playing there."
The situation, in Forsch's view, cried for a challenge.
For one thing, he had struck out Luzinski in the first inning and got him to pop to short in the fourth. Secondly, the next batter after Luzinski was Manny Trillo, and Forsch didn't want to risk putting a second man on base with a walk.
"Trillo's a good hitter and I certainly didn't want to put a runner in scoring position,'' said Forsch, who went the route and allowed eight hits and struck out five. "So, with that in mind, I figured I had to go after him.
"I would have liked to get the ball up more, but, then again, I couldn't afford to throw the high, hard one that I feel I can strike Luzinski out on, because if he doesn't swing at that pitch, now I've got a man in scoring position with Trillo up."
"Forsch pitched exceptionally well, but it was just one of those things," Houston Manager Bill Virdon said. "I think that's about as good as I've seen him pitch in a long time."
As if giving up the home run wasn't bad enough, Forsch made another error in the top of the seventh that allowed Phils' catcher Bob Boone to pick him off first base.
"I just got of f the bag too far and I was trying to move back in," he said. "I felt like I had my foot in, underneath the tag. But it's my own fault. You get picked off like that, you deserve to be out."
Forsch was 2-for-2 at the plate, and that, he said, was an indication of how much Carlton struggled with his control.
"I don't think he was as sharp as I've seen him," Forsch said. "His control was a little bit off and his fastball wasn't really popping like it usually does.
"We kept threatening and hitting some hard balls off him and I thought, 'Golly, we might be able to get to him.' But we couldn't find the holes."
Right fielder Gary Woods, who knocked in the Astros' run, agreed that Carlton wasn't at his best.
"A couple of times, I didn't think he got it down there where he wanted it," Woods said. "The one he struck me out on (in the sixth inning) wasn't really a good pitch."
Nolan Ryan will be the Astros' starting pitcher tonight, and, although the difficulty of his chore has been intensified by last night's loss, he said he doesn't feel additional pressure.
"I wouldn't call it pressure, but I feel it's necessary we win one ball-game here," he said. "This is the kind of situation that you're looking forward to, pitching in a playoff and maybe helping to put your club in a good position.
"If we were to lose two, it's not the end of the world, but it makes your job a little bit tougher."
Ryan, who was 1-2 against the Phillies this year, said his approach tonight will be the same as always.
"I always go out there with the intention of trying to shut out my opponent," he said. "The loss doesn't really change my attitude or the way I'm going to pitch."
Phillies overcome sluggish start
By Walt Burrows of the Courier-Post
PHILADELPHIA – It took the Phillies five innings to warm up in last night's National League playoff opener.
But the fans, all 65,277 of them, were in championship form from the starts.
They cheered loud and long for the home team, except for Larry Bowa, who was booed harshly all night.
"I hope they keep booing him," said Pete Rose. "Since they started on him he's been hitting like crazy."
Bowa has earned the wrath of the Veterans Stadium regulars by ripping the fans, calling them the worst in baseball.
Loudest ovations went to Mike Schmidt and Tug McGra w, heroes of last weekend's division-clinching victories in Montreal. Schmidt received a standing ovation when introduced and again when he came to bat in the first inning.
Fans cooled considerably when Mike went down swinging.
Luzinski reversed the trend. He heard the boos early but was the welcomed-back hero after his sixth-inning home run.
Manager Dallas Green did his post-game cheering for Luzinski and Manny Trillo.
"Greg's home run helped me relax a bit," said Green. "I see a big difference in the way he is swinging the bat the last couple of days. If he gets hot, he can help carry this club."
Trillo failed to come up with a Gary Woods single that produced the Houston run in the third inning, but the veteran second baseman turned in one great play after another the rest of the way.
"I think we are all spoiled by Trillo," said Green. "When he doesn't make the big play we think something is wrong. He has been a very big part of this team."
Houston Manager Bill Virdon refused to blame the Astros' crosscountry trip from Los Angeles and subsequent late arrival in Philly for last night's loss.
"It didn't have much affect at all," said Virdon. "In fact, I thought we played quite well. We just got beat."
Virdon will send Nolan Ryan to the hill tonight, a game the Astros must win.
Green will counter with Dick Ruthven. Larry Christenson goes in the first game at Houston, Friday afternoon.
If the Phillies lead the series 2-1, look for Marty Bystrom to get the nod in the fourth game. If the Phillies are down, 2-1, on Friday, Carlton will pitch.
Rose fouled up Ken Forsch and the Houston Astros from the very beginning. As the Phils' leadoff batter, Rose went two and two on the first four pitches from the Houston righthander and then fouled off nine of the next 10 before grounding out to shortstop.
"He pitched a tremendous game," said Rose of the Houston veteran. "He was a championship-style pitcher tonight."
Rose later contributed two hits and turned in one of the game's top defensive plays. It came in the fourth inning when he charged diagonally behind the pitcher's mound to rob Forsch of a base hit on a bunt.
"I thought Carlton was going to catch it, but when it got past him I had to go get it," explained Rose, who had to go at top speed to make the play.
Rose, who has two hits in each of his team's last four games, felt the Phillies played very sluggishly through the first four or five innings. "We all were trying to do it by ourselves instead of trying to put something together," he said. "I think it might have been because we had too much rest."
"This club never plays well after a day off." said Green, who yanked Carlton for a pinch-hitter in the seventh and surprised some of the press box experts.
"We had Tug McGraw in the bullpen, and I didn't feel Lefty was Lefty."
McGraw was his usually jovial self during the post-game interviews.
"I feel real strong," said McGraw. "I do get a little stiff at times, but that usually happens to lefthanders who are Irish and drink a lot."