Philadelphia Inquirer - October 8, 1980
Astros shrug off another low-scoring loss
By Larry Eichel, Inquirer Staff Writer
In the Houston dugout before the game, there was talk that the Astros would be flat after their emotional playoff victory over the Dodgers, that they would be tired after their night-long flight from the West Coast, that they would be so relieved just to be in the championship series that they would forget to play the game.
Joe Morgan, the team's injured second baseman and spiritual leader, would have none of it.
"Don't go writing excuses for us," he told his audience. "When this is over, we won't need excuses."
When Game 1 was over, and the Astros had lost, 3-1, there could be no deep explanations, no hidden psychological meaning. They had been beaten, not flattened. They had been outscored, not embarrassed.
"It was the kind of the game we've played almost every day since I've been in Houston – tight, low-scoring," said third baseman Enos Cabell, who has been there since 1975. "We must have played 200, 250 Just like it in the last two years alone. It's the only kind we play."
It was a game that, on paper at least, they did not figure to win – on the road against a lefthander named Steve Carlton, the premier pitcher in the league, a man who had beaten them 28 times over the years and lost to them only nine times.
"I felt if I gave up anything at all, we wouldn't have a very good chance of winning," said losing pitcher Ken Forsch.
But it turned out to be a game that they had a chance to win early, when Carlton was struggling. But they failed to get the big hit that might have changed the game.
"That's what really disappoints you," said first baseman Art Howe, one of the people who had a chance to give the Astros more than the single run they squeezed across in the third inning. "We had him on the ropes, but we couldn't put him away. He didn't have his good stuff, his normal good stuff. He didn't have that incredible slider he has some nights, at least he wasn't getting it over."
Howe had been up in the first inning with two on and two out, and Carlton had fallen behind him, three balls and no strikes.
"He tried to walk me and I wouldn't let him," Howe said. "I was all pumped up, and I chased a fastball up and away. Then I chased a slider down in the dirt. Then he blew me away (struck me out) with a fastball in the strike zone."
Howe wasn't the only Astro not to deliver in the clutch. Rafael Landestoy grounded out with two out and two on in the second; Luis Pujols hit into a force play with two out and two on in the third; Cabell bounced to second with a runner on third and two out in the fourth.
"He (Carlton) got out of 29 jams every inning," Cabell said. "We had pressure on him all the time. And the Phillies looked tight. They knew if they didn’t win tonight, they'd be in a heap of trouble. And Kenny was pitching a super game. I think he was pitching better than Carlton."
"I was so sure we were going to get to him," Howe added, "that I was sorry they took him out (after the seventh). That was a good managerial move. How often can you say that about Steve Carlton?"
Indeed, Forsch, the Astros' starter, was pitching superbly. Entering the sixth, he had given up only four harmless singles. But, since his offense had managed only one run, he was in a position in which one pitch could do him in.
That pitch, in the bottom of the sixth, was a fastball to Greg Luzinski, down the middle and low in the strike zone, with two out and Pete Rose on first base.
"I had gotten him to chase a high fastball when I struck him out in the first inning," Forsch said in a somber but hardly mournful Astros locker room, replaying the game of wits that he had lost.
"I'd gotten him to pop up on a slider the second time. When he was up in the sixth, and the count ran 3-and-2, I threw him that slider again, and he fouled it off.
"I didn't want to give him the slider again after that. You don't want to pitch too much in a pattern. Eventually, the hitter's going to figure it out. So I threw him a fastball. I didn't want to throw it too high, because I can't afford to walk him, not with Manny Trillo coming up next.
"So I threw him the fastball, lower than before. And he got great extension on it. It's just so hard to pitch against the Phillies' power in this park. Of course, that home run would have been out of any park, including Grand Canyon, if they ever played there.
"I challenged him, and he got the best of me. It was a game that boiled down to one pitch." After the game, the Astros announced that, despite the loss, they had every intention of showing up for Game 2.
"What can you say about this one?" Gary Woods, the young outfielder, asked himself as he stared into his locker. "It was a 3-1 game. That's all."
Bull’s blast wins it
The Phillies used a booming home run by Greg Luzinski and the steady pitching of Steve Carlton last night to open the National League Championship Series with a 3-1 win over the Houston Astros at Veterans Stadium. It was the first time they had ever won a playoff game at home.
Before the largest crowd ever to watch a baseball game at the Vet, 65,277, the Astros scored first, breaking through against Carlton in the third inning.
Leftfielder Jose Cruz drove a one-out single off Carlton's glove and moved to second base when center-fielder Cesar Cedeno singled to center field. An out later, rightfielder Gary Woods' second single of the game drove Cruz across the plate to make the score 1-0, Astros.
In the first three innings, Houston had left six runners on base and had forced Carlton to throw an unusually high number of pitches. Houston's starting pitcher, Ken Forsch, protected the lead until the sixth inning, in one stretch retiring eight straight Phillies batters.
Then it was the Phillies' turn. Pete Rose led off the bottom of the sixth with an infield single, his second hit of the game. Luzinski followed two outs later with a powerful drive deep into the left-field seats, making the score 2-1.
Bull silences those boobirds… his way
By Bill Lyon
It should have been a moment for him to savor. It was vindication and redemption.
But Greg Luzinski was subdued last night, tight-lipped. Two years of bitterness and frustration cannot be erased with one swing.
"Yeah, sure, it feels great," he kept dutifully saying into a thicket of microphones, but the needle on the emotional meter never even quivered.
He never has been a man for pyrotechnics. He is stolid, phlegmatic by nature, and he has swallowed enough hard times these last two seasons to know that you keep a cap on ecstasy because the fickle nature of sports is to turn roses into ashes.
In the pregame introductions, he had let some of what he bottles up fizz out. As he trotted out, he took off his cap and began making helicoptering motions with it.
"I was trying to get the crowd revved up," he said. "They seemed to be sittin on their hands. I wanted to get 'em psyched."
It seemed strange, that hulking man leading cheers, especially when they were, for him, sprinkled with boos.
His first two times up, he had done nothing to get the fans off their hands. He had struck out on a checked swing, popped to shortstop. The crowd at the Vet seemed tentative, fearful almost, as though waiting for another Phillie phold. The ghosts of playoffs past rose up in South Philadelphia.
And then in the sixth, he kissed one. A vintage Bull Blast. A 3-2 pitch sent screaming high and deep to left, with Pete Rose on first, and that would be the difference. That would get the monkey off their backs at long last.
The man who yanked off that monkey circled the bases as usual, business-like, arms and hands tucked in close to his side. No brandished fist. It would have been out of character. And it would have been hypocritical.
Because deep down, Greg Luzinski still hurts. You suspect that maybe he seethes. It was another season of injury, of being yanked for defensive caddies in the late innings, of being rotated even when he had regained his health. There had been a brief flare-up in the press, an open questioning of the managing.
He sat out games. Involuntarily. He watched his batting average drop dangerously close to his weight. And always there was the cascade of boos.
"Sure, I heard the trade rumors," he said. "I read, and heard, that I'd be gone, maybe DH in the American League. And I heard the boos. I'm not deaf.
"Most of the stories out of the Philadelphia press were whether I was even gonna start tonight. I hope I answered that."
His eyes clouded for a moment then, his voice deepened slightly. It was as close as he would come to an emotional outburst.
As for the technical side of it, the home run that Greg Luzinski crunched to beat Houston last night was not a good pitch. Not according to the manual. But when the Bull is in heat, the manual is as useless as junk mail.
"I can't even tell you what kind of pitch it was, 'cause it was 3-2, and I was just trying to pick up the ball. I knew that with two out, Pete would be running, and I figured if I could just drive one in the gap, he'd score, and we'd at least tie it. It was down and in. When Boonie went out the next inning, the home-plate ump told him it was a foot inside. But when I'm short and quick with the bat, that's the kind of pitch I can drive."
He golfed it, and it sizzled through the October night, and Greg Luzinski continued to be a money hitter. He has at least one hit in each of the 12 playoff games in which he has appeared with the Phillies.
"Can't explain that," he said. "Every time we get in the playoffs, it seems I slump in September and then come alive. I get juiced up, I know that."
You could never tell from his face.
"The secret is to control it all, make the adrenaline work for you," he said. "When we had that long rain delay in Montreal on Saturday, I went down in the cage and made some adjustments, tilted my bat."
Last night, he put the Astros on "tilt" with one crisp, compact swing. And the people who had booed him now wanted to canonize him.
"I've put what happened out of my mind," he insisted. "They've been booing a lot of other guys, too."
It is not the right nickname, the Bull. He doesn't paw and snort and rage. Not, at least, where anyone can see.
Cruel business leaves 2 hurt
By Frank Dolson, Inquirer Sports Editor
Last weekend in Montreal, the young men who play baseball for the Phillies made a lot of people in this city very proud. Yesterday, the men who compose the management of the Phillies made me more than a little bit ashamed. And very, very sad.
It's no great secret in our sports-mad society that winning has become more important than how you win, that the final score has become more important than living up to the letter and/or the spirit of the rules or doing what's right by the athletes who play the game.
Professional baseball... like pro (and college) football... like pro (and college) basketball... like all the games we play and watch is big business. And big business can be very cruel.
The Phillies pulled a fast one yesterday. They convinced the commissioner's office and the National League office that Nino Espinosa belonged on the disabled list so they could make rookie phenom Marty Bystrom eligible for postseason play.
And while they were at it, they also made Randy Lerch, the lefthander who's been struggling through a 4-14 season, ineligible for the playoffs and World Series – in order to make Kevin Saucier eligible.
For Bystrom, it was great. The kid had saved the Phillies in September, winning five straight games after being pressed into service when Larry Christenson pulled up lame.
For Saucier, a lefthanded reliever in his first full year with the Phillies, it was also great.
But what the Phillies' front office did to Espinosa and Lerch was shockingly cruel for an organization that prides itself on caring about its players.
What Paul Owens, Dallas Green and Co., did was put winning above all else. OK, I can already hear the cheers. That's the name of the game, right? Win at all cost – no matter who gets hurt in the process.
Well, 1 don't think that is right.
I think the Phillies owed something to Nino Espinosa, who had been with them two years and won 17 games.
And I think the Phillies owed something to Randy Lerch, who had been with them four full seasons and won 35 games.
Memories are short, and for Lerch the boos this season have been loud. But the fact remains that he won one of the biggest games in recent Phillies history – when he hit two home runs in a division-clinching victory in Pittsburgh on the next-to-last day of the 1978 season. For that, if for nothing else, the Phillies owed him something. Certainly, they owed him more than the slap in the face they gave him this week.
"They kicked me off the team, I guess," Lerch said late yesterday afternoon before heading to the Vet with his wife, Janet, to watch the opening playoff game from a seat in the stands.
There was bitterness in his voice, and that was understandable. As bad a season as Randy Lerch had, he deserved to be one of the 25 Phillies players in uniform against the Astros. Morally, ethically, the organization owed him that much.
The irony is that the Phillies thought enough of Lerch last winter to put his picture, in living color, on their calendar. Lerch's month? You guessed it, October.
"When it came out," said Randy, "I told my wife, "That's going to be my month.'"
Lerch got his first hint before Sunday's game in Montreal that not only wasn't it going to be his month, but that the Phillies were getting ready to bounce him from their postseason roster.
"I couldn't believe it, as much as I contributed to this team over the years," he said. "I told Janet, 'This is probably the worst day of my life.' The fact that I had a horsebleep year made being a part of this even more important to me. Like Janet said, it was like somebody died in the family."
Espinosa, if possible, may feel even worse. Not only was he declared ineligible, but the tactics the Phillies reportedly used to get the commissioner's office to' make that decision can only be described as reprehensible.
A player who asked not to be identified said Espinosa claimed he had been pressured by the Phillies into telling the commissioner's office that he was unable to pitch because of "chronic bursitis" in his right shoulder.
"They put it to him," said the player, "that he better agree to go on the disabled list or they'd make it really tough on him, tell scouts (from other teams) that he couldn't pitch any more, things like that. So when the commissioner called and asked him if he was hurt, he was so scared that he had to go along with it."
All in all, not a very pretty picture, but hardly that unusual for this day and age in the wonderful world of fun and games.
"The way I look at it," said Phillies catcher Bob Boone, "is from a human being standpoint for both Randy and Nino. You see it all the time in baseball. It's a dog-eat-dog profession, as I think all the sports are. Things like this crop up all the time, and you hate to see it from a human being standpoint because I think both players deserve to be here, but I also think Kevin Saucier and Marty Bystrom deserve to be here."
No argument there. Saucier has been a Phillie all year, too, although he was on the disabled list from Aug. 24 to Sept. 14. And Bystrom pitched so well in September, after being called up from Triple A, that he was named National League pitcher of the month.
But the fact remains that the Phillies' front office didn't think Bystrom belonged in their postseason plans or they would have brought him up before Sept. 1 to make him eligible. It was only when he unexpectedly got thrown into the starting rotation and went 5-0 that the Phillies realized he was ready to help. To make Bystrom eligible, while making Lerch and Espinosa ineligible, was patently unfair.
"It's a tough situation," Boone said. "Nino, I think, has done a tremendous job for us. I think he's probably one of the guttiest pitchers that I've ever caught, and I've caught a lot of them. Obviously, he doesn't throw the ball as hard as before he hurt his shoulder, and I'm sure he's still not 100 percent of what he was prior to that. But I know that I never once ever feared having Nino Espinosa on the mound (for the Phillies) during a ball game.
"All the players," added Boone, "definitely feel badly about the whole situation. I come from a baseball family. My father (Ray) played 13 years in the major leagues and never got (in a postseason series) and I know he wanted to very badly.
"This is our lives. This is what we play the game for. This is why you play Little, League, why you collect bubblegum cards to get into something like this. To tell somebody he can't play is really a tough thing. I know it hurts them (Espinosa and Lerch) deeply. They definitely are a big part of this team and none of the players feel they are not. As far as we're concerned we've got a 27-man squad going into these playoffs."
It seems safe to say that the two players who were dumped from the squad yesterday don't share that warm feeling.
"They want me to go along (with the team to Houston)," Lerch said. "They want me to sit on the bench the way a disabled person would. I've got more pride than that. I don't want to go anywhere I'm not wanted.
"All we've gone through in the last few years, it would be nice to be part of the Phillies winning the championship. But I've found out a lot in the last few days. I always wondered why veterans, guys that have been playing baseball a lot of years, were so hardline (in dealing with management). Now I see. We're just pieces of meat."
Lerch was told of the plans by Green in the manager's office Monday with the coaching staff present. It became official when Owens called the pitcher's house yesterday afternoon and talked to Randy's wife.
"I called my dad," Lerch said. "I didn't want him to be watching television and see everybody introduced and wonder what happened to me."
What happened to Lerch and what happened, to Espinosa is typical of the way things are done in sports these days. It may be expedient. It may be the best way to win. But from a "human being standpoint" it stinks.
Phils’ logic: Why play for 1 when Bull can get you 2?
By Allen Lewis, Special to The Inquirer
Twice, Pete Rose led off innings for the Phillies last night with singles. Twice, manager Dallas Green disdained the sacrifice bunt.
As it turned out, the decision not to play for one run worked in the Phillies' favor. It worked because Greg Luzinski, a championship hitter in championship-series play, crashed a home run in the sixth inning. And while many may have wondered why the Phillies, who certainly weren't doing much against Houston righthander Ken Forsch, refused to play for one run even though they trailed on each occasion, it didn't surprise Astros manager Bill Virdon. It didn't surprise him for the very reasons Green eschewed the sacrifice.
"No," Virdon said when asked if he was surprised the Phillies didn't have their No. 2 hitter, Bake McBride, bunting. "I don't think it's routine. If it were the eighth or ninth inning, that is something else.
"Of course, it depends a lot on who you've got hitting. Odds are better for scoring with Bake hitting. He can hit and run, pull the ball through the hole, and there are several ways tney can score.
"I really didn't even think about him bunting."
Neither did Green. "I don’t like to bunt with Bake," he said. "Really, he's not a good bunter. I like to hit and run with Bake."
That's the play the Phillies used in the top of the third inning moments after Gary Woods had singled home the lone Houston run. The play was not an unqualified success. The Astros smelled out the maneuver and called for a pitchout. The throw to second was high, but shortstop Craig Reynolds was still able to make the tag on the sliding Rose.
In the sixth, McBride struck out and, when Mike Schmidt had flied to center field, it appeared that the Phillies might never score off Forsch, who was mixing his pitches well and hitting spots. That's when Luzinski came through.
But Forsch wasn't as sure as his manager that McBride wouldn't bunt.
"Yeah, I figured he might bunt," Forsch said. "I tried to throw him good pitches up to keep him from getting the ball on the ground (if he was bunting)."
Houston third baseman Enos Cabell was thinking McBride might bunt, too. "That's the way they play now. They bunt and hit and run. They used to just wait for the home run."
As it turned out, that wait wasn't in vain.
There were only a couple of other decisions that had to be made by last night's managers.
Virdon said he had allowed Forsch to hit for himself in the seventh inning, because "I thought he was pitching quite well, and he is a good hitter."
Forsch proved that by lining an 0-2 pitch into center field to start that inning. He also proved he was a better pitcher and hitter than he was a base runner by getting picked off first when Rafael Landestoy squared around to bunt and took a high pitch. Catcher Bob Boone fired the ball to second baseman Manny Trillo, covering at first, and Forsch was out.
"That was a big play," Boone said.
Phils, Luzinski smash Astros
3-1 win opens NL playoffs
By Jayson Stark, Inquirer Staff Writer
The last Phillies pitcher to win a postseason game in Philadelphia was named Grover Cleveland Alexander. It has, uh, been a while.
But even 65-year losing streaks have to end sometime. And the Phillies finally ended their endless home-field 0-'fer last night.
Greg Luzinski went from the guy most likely to get booed to the hero with a two-run homer in the sixth. And that sent the Phillies and Steve Carlton to a 3-1 win over the Astros in Game 1 of the League Championship Series. The Phillies' last postseason win at home came in the 1915 World Series, in the friendly confines of Baker Bowl.
"We haven't just had trouble at home in the playoffs," said Luzinski. "We've had trouble, period, in the playoffs in the past.
"But I said before the game I thought this was a big game for us tonight. I think we have to win here. We've played good on the road, and I just think these two games at home are very important for us."
This wasn't Baker Bowl anymore. This was the Vet, filled with the largest crowd in the history of the playoffs, 65,277. (The old high was the one that sat though the game-four hurricane in 1977.) But for 5½ innings, it was hard to tell. That was because the Phillies weren't real Inspirational for the first 5½ innings.
"I thought we were a little sluggish the first four or five innings," said Pete Rose. "I got the feeling everybody was trying to do it on his own."
Astros starter Ken Forsch was only too happy to let them try, too. Forsch had a four-hitter and a 1-0 lead as he came to the sixth. But as Rose stepped in to hit, the scoreboard, reminded that sizeable entourage that there was a game going on. It flashed the prophetic message, "It's rally time."
And suddenly, there was some serious noise to remind the Astros it wasn't the regular season anymore. This was supposed to be where the Astros were vulnerable, waking up and realizing this was the playoffs, this was pressure time.
So it was The Force against The Forsch. And Forsch responded to all that noise by immediately going 3-and-2 to Rose. Rose then bounced a single into the shortstop hole.
Forsch came back to fan Bake McBride and get Mike Schmidt on a soft fly to center. And Luzinski heard those ever-present boos as he stepped in, riding a 5-for-41, 16-strikeout streak.
But he got to 3-and-2, fouled one back, then orbited the next one halfway up the 300 level in left-center for his fifth lifetime playoff homer. So it was 2-1. And the Bull pumped through one of his most emotional home-run trots ever, crashing a palm against coach Lee Elia's hand at third, high-fiving it forcefully all the way to the dugout.
"I can't even tell you what the pitch was, to tell you the truth," Luzinski said, "because it was 3-and-2, and I'm just trying to pick the ball up. I know it was down and in. The ump told Booney later it was about a foot inside. It was one of those pitches where I was just short and quick."
It was, to put it simply, the Luzinski stroke of old. More importantly, it was a Luzinski moment of old.
The last time the Phillies won a playoff opener, in 1977, it was a Luzinski homer that got them going. Last night, he got them going toward their first come-from-behind victory in playoff history. Of course, they had only won two in playoff history before last night.
This time they had Carlton out there to protect the lead. And Carlton had beaten the Astros six straight times since May 16, 1978, before last night. His lifetime record against Houston (28-9) looks like it ought to be the first-quarter score of an Oklahoma-Columbia football game. But nothing in baseball is automatic.
And last night Carlton was not, said Dallas Green, "the Carlton we've seen in the past."
Carlton struggled through four tough innings. The Astros got a run off him, but they also left seven men on. Carlton was throwing lots of pitches, having trouble throwing strikes, almost inviting the Astros to beat him.
But when you looked up on the board when he departed after the seventh, they only had that one run off him.
"That," said Green, "is why he's such a great pitcher. He has that quality of being able to leave guys on base. He didn't have such good stuff tonight. He didn't have good location, especially with the slider. He did not have the good slider by any stretch of the imagination.
"It was his sixth day (since he pitched last). And even though he's a 300-inning guy, he's still out there every fourth day. He just feels better that way. I just think the extra day's rest was Lefty's problem tonight more than anything."
Even the run Carlton allowed, though, might not have scored had Manny Trillo been his usual superhuman self in the field. It came with two on and two out in the third. The hitter was Gary Woods (the answer to the trivia question: Who stole the first base in the history of the Toronto Blue Jays?).
Woods bounced one to Trillo's right that Senor Gold Glove normally slurps up in his sleep. But this one ticked off his glove and into right for a run that would hold up a long, long time. "I still don't know how the ball got through," Trillo sighed.
Trillo made dazzling plays later on Woods, Enos Cabell and Cesar Cedeno. But he was afraid, as the game got to the sixth at 1-0, that all people would remember was the 'one that got away.
"All I've been hearing about since I got home was that pop-up I dropped in Montreal," Trillo said. "I've already seen the replay three times. My wife taped the game for me. People just remember the bad ones. That's just the way it is."
But Luzinski bailed him out. Then another member of the Luzinski-Boone-Maddox deposed Gang of Three struck in the seventh.
Garry Maddox, back in the lineup for the first time in nine days, set up the insurance run with a single and steal of third. Then Greg Gross pinch-hit for Carlton with two outs. And one-run lead or no one-run lead, those 65,000 weren't real thrilled to see Carlton go.
"The crowd's always going to be against you when you pinch-hit for somebody like Lefty," Gross said, philosophically. "But I was ready."
Forsch jammed him, Gross looped it off the fists into short left and the Phils had the extra run they didn't need.
They didn't, because Tug McGraw came on to save it with two more scoreless innings. McGraw hasnt given up an earned run since Sept. 2. That was 17 outings ago. He was asked if he was beginning to wonder how long he can go without falling out of this tree.
"The last time I fell out of a tree, I was seven years old," McGraw dead-panned. "I got J6 stitches in my (censored). So I don't let it worry me. One time was enough."