Montreal Gazette - October 8, 1980
Luzinski’s blast gives Phils series opener
By Michael Farber of The Gazette
PHILADELPHIA – When asked who would be in his lineup 24 hours before the first National League playoff game last night, Philadelphia Phillie manager Dallas Green said, "Bob Boone will catch."
And Greg Luzinski?
"Boonie will catch."
Well, Dallas was just kidding us because last night after the Phillies had taken a one-game lead over the Houston Astros in the best-of-five playoff with a 3-1 victory, the manager said he never had considered anyone but Luzinski.
Sure, Luzinski had three hits one a two-run single in the division clinching game against the Expos Saturday, but before that, he was four-for-32 with 14 strikeouts.
But when it counted again, it was all Bull. Greg Luzinski – who carries the nickname as menacingly as he carries a bat – hit a two-run home run in the sixth to lift the Phillies out of their early doldrums against loser Ken Forsch.
Luzinski, who has hit in all of his 12 post-season games, perfected his stroke in the bowels of the Olympic Stadium during the three-hour, 20 minute rain delay Saturday before the Phillies became the first team to back into a division title in head-to-head competition.
Problem with hands
"So much of hitting is confidence, is mental," Luzinski said, "but my problem was with the position of my hands. I tend to use too much top hand, anyway, and I was tilting the bat too far back. I had to flatten the bat out to prevent my being too quick."
Luzinski – who looks like he's about as fast as drying paint – was lightning on the 3-2 pitch from Forsch. Home plate umpire Bob Engel said the pitch was a foot inside, but Luzinski golfed it 400 feet into part of the crowd of 65,277 paying customers – the largest ever to see a playoff game – and commissioner Bowie Kuhn.
The home run – Luzinski's fifth in the playoffs – awoke everyone from their lethargy but the Astros, who arrived at 6 a.m. yesterday after their National League West playoff win against Los Angeles... and played like it.
Houston stranded seven runners in the first four innings – two on third, two on second – against winner Steve Carlton, perhaps the most tenacious, and certainly the best pitcher, in baseball.
When you wound Lefty, you better kill him. If you don't, he'll eat you.
Certainly it wasn't vintage Carlton, the 24-game winner. He allowed seven hits and one run (on a Gary Woods single which second baseman Manny Trillo would have prevented if he had put his body in front of the ball instead of waving at it like a bullfighter), and walked three – including left-handed hitter Jose Cruz after having him 1-1.
Strikes out Howe
But Carlton, who was 1-2 with a 5.89 earned run average in previous post-season play, struck out Art Howe with two runners on in the first, retired Rafael Landestoy on a two-out grounder with two runners on in the second, and retired Luis Pujols with runners on first and third in the third after the Astros had scored their run.
Philadelphia had early chances against Forsch, having runners in the first three innings but failing to move one to third. Forsch retired eight straight before Pete Rose singled to open the sixth.
Bake McBride struck out and Mike Schmidt flied out, but Luzinski took Forsch 420-feet deep.
Garry Maddox – an iffy starter like Luzinski – opened the seventh with a single against Forsch (who had hit for himself and singled in the top of the inning). Larry Bowa sacrificed Maddox to second, and after Boone had lined to Cruz on the warning track in left and Maddox had stolen third, Green sent left-handed pinch-hitter Greg Gross – a former Astro – to bat for Carlton.
"Lefty just wasn't Lefty," Green said. "We had a chance to get another run, and Lefty just looked sluggish out there. Plus we had the Chief ready in the bullpen."
Right, right, and right. Carlton was sluggish – having a horrendous night with his slider – Gross sliced a single to left for the final run.
And right, Green did have the Chief – Tug McGraw – in the bullpen.
McGraw, who danced all over the Expos last weekend, was his usually numbing self. McGraw, who had an 0.52 ERA since coming off the disabled list July 17, retired six of seven Astros in the final two innings.
And he was vintage McGraw after the game, too.
Are you worried about being stiff, he was asked.
"As a left-handed Irish pitcher, I get stiff occasionally," he said. "Usually it's accompanied by whiskey, and then a hangover. Well, at least it's not dope I'm talking about. I know the commissioner is here."
Are you ever worried about your luck ending, someone wondered.
"You're asking if I'll fall out of my tree," McGraw replied. "The last time I fell out of a tree I was seven years old and I needed 16 stitches in my crotch. It was no fun. I won't do that again."
The Phillie victory snapped a 10-game post-season losing streak at home, dating to Oct. 8, 1915 when Grover Cleveland Alexander beat the Boston Red Sox, 3-1.
Considering the 65 years of Philly frustration, McGraw can say what he likes.
Kuhn rules Bystrom eligible for playoffs, World Series
PHILADELPHIA – The Philadelphia Phillies pulled a fast one yesterday, fastball pitcher Marty Bystrom being declared eligible for the playoffs and World Series. In a joint decision, commissioner Bowie Kuhn and National League president Chub Feeney said Bystrom (5-0, 1.50 earned run average), a rookie who was called up after the rosters were frozen Aug. 31, could replace Nino Espinosa, who has "chronic bursitis."
Espinosa was so severely afflicted he pitched seven shutout innings against St. Louis in his last appearance, Sept. 12.
Surprisingly, the Houston Astros did not protest the decision to disable Espinosa, who Phillie general manager Paul Owen admitted wasn't injured in the conventional way.
"I am satisfied the investigation was properly handled and the disablement is legitimate," said Astro general manager Tal Smith. "The burden of proof was on the club, and the Phillies obviously gave sufficient proof."
Bystrom is scheduled to pitch the fourth game Saturday if Philly is leading 2-1. If Houston leads 2-1, Steve Carlton will come back with three days rest.
Philadelphia also dropped starter Randy Larch and added middle reliever Kevin Saucier to the roster. Both had been eligible...
Right-hander Dick Ruthven opposes the Astros' Nolan Ryan in Game two tonight (8:15). Ryan, working with three days rest, is 1-2 with a 2.88 earned run average in 25⅓ innings against Philadelphia this season. Ruthven (3-1, 1.41) has two complete games – one a shutout…
Phillie reliever Tug McGraw has names for his fast balls:
Peggy Lee ("hitters ask, 'Is that all there is?’")... Cutty Sark ("it sails")... Bo Derek ("it's got a nice little tail")... Frank Sinatra ("Fly Me to the Moon")... Titanic ("it sinks")...
Notice the Astros abandoned their garish uniforms with the bright orange, horizontally-striped bands and orange caps. The reason? New owner John McMullen detests the color orange.
"It's just as well," said Astro coach Don Leppert. "The old ones made me look like a school bus."...