Allentown Morning Call - October 9, 1980

Astros trim Phillies, 7-4, in 10


Four-run rally evens series


By Ted Meixell, Call Sports Writer


PHILADELPHIA – When it had finally become, official on Monday evening that the Houston Astros would oppose the Phillies in the National League Championship Series, it was generally agreed the Phils held a distinct advantage. 


Some observers went so far as to predict a Phillie sweep. And almost everyone agreed the entire series would consist of close and low-scoring games. 


Today, after the feisty Astros fought off disaster on several occasions and mounted a four-run 10th-inning rally last night for a 7-4 series-leveling win, the sweep is out, the Phils' advantage definitely subject to debate and the notion of white-knuckle baseball still very much intact. 


The Astros came to town hoping for a split – and they got just that. Now, if any team has an advantage, it has to be Houston, since the Phils will have to win two of three in the Astrodome to at long last find the World Series grail. 


For the second straight evening, a record LCS crowd (this time 65,476) turned out to watch – and it spent the evening alternating between ecstasy and agony. 


Agony prevailed, especially during the Astros' winning outburst against Phil relievers Ron Reed and Kevin Saucier and, a half-inning earlier, when the Phils managed to hit three singles and failed to score. 


Let's take the last first. Houston rightfielder Terry Puhl, who had earlier driven in the Astros' first two runs with a third-inning single and a seventh-inning double, slapped a single to right to open the 10th.


Enos Cabell sacrificed him to second after Phils' first baseman Pete Rose had just missed making a diving catch of his popped-up bunt one pitch earlier. Reed walked Joe Morgan intentionally, but Jose Cruz – whose eighth-inning single had given Houston a 3-2 lead – bounced a single to right to score Puhl with the lead run. 


At that point, the roof caved in on Reed. Cesar Cedeno bounced a spinner toward short, but Larry Bowa's hurried throw to the plate was too late to nab the sliding Rafael Landestoy, who was running for Morgan. Reserve first baseman Dave Bergman, who entered the game as a defensive replacement in the eighth, made the outcome official by greeting Saucier with a triple to right-center.


Philadelphia frustrated itself and its charged-up crowd by stranding a total of 14 baserunners, including 10 in the final four innings and three with only one out in the ninth. And that ninth inning will be the source of nightmares for years to come for Phillies' fans. 


Bake McBride slammed a one-out single to right off winning Astro reliever Frank LaCorte and Mike Schmidt singled to center. Then Lonnie Smith, who ran for Tuesday hero Greg Luzinski in the eighth, fouled off at least seven 3-2 pitches before slashing a single to right.


McBride hesitated as he neared third, fearing that Puhl might catch Smith's drive and, when he didn't. McBride had to hold at third. It hurt at the time, but it hurt even more when LaCorte fanned Manny Trillo with the Astros defense playing at Little League depth. LaCorte polished off his escape routine by inducing Garry Maddox to pop to right. 


The Phils fought back for one run in the bottom of the 10th and actually had the tying run at the plate in the person of National League home run and RBI king Schmidt. But Schmitty just got under a Joachim Andujar fastball and lofted a long fly to right to end the game. 


Lost in the late-inning excitement were excellent performances by start ing pitchers Nolan Ryan of the Astros and the Phils' Dick Ruthven. The score was tied 2-2 after seven innings when they departed. 


Houston grabbed a 3-2 lead against the recently-invincible Tug McGraw in the top of the eighth on Morgan's leadoff double and Cruz's broken-bat single to right. But the Phils tied it again in their half of the inning on a-single by Luzinski, a sacrifice by Trillo and Maddox' line single to center.


After Puhl staked Houston to a 1-0 lead in the third, Philly bounced back for two in the fourth on back-to-back doubles by Schmidt and Luzinski and Maddox' basehit to left. Houston made it 2-2 in the sixth when Ruthven walked Ryan with two out and his pitching counterpart scored on Puhl's double.

No-name pitchers have their day


By John Kunda, Executive Sports Editor


PHILADELPHIA – Okay, so you heard about Nolan Ryan. Fastball, fast money. One of the wealthy heroes of our time. 


You might have heard a little about Joe Sambito, too. Good looking kid on the way up. But he's not even close to his first million. 


But Dave Smith and Frank LaCorte? 


You gotta be kidding. Where did they come from? 


Ask Mike Schmidt, Garry Maddox or Manny Trillo. Maybe they can't answer either. 


It's like Joe Morgan said earlier, "You'll hear about some of our guys pretty soon." 


Wherever it was that Smith and LaCorte came from, they learned not to be scared. Don t take the heat.   


And there were times last night when they should have been scared right out of their Astro knits. 


How'd you like to face Mike Schmidt with the bases loaded? And with close to 66,000 people screaming so hard And there were times last night when they should have that it drowned out the jet sounds of nearby International Airport? 


Cool kids, Smith and LaCorte. 


Smith was so cool he froze Schmidt on a perfect pitch with the bases loaded in the seventh inning. What a spot it could have been for Schmidt, the best home run hitter in the majors this season. 


It was Smith, not Schmidt, who became the hero. 


And what about LaCorte in the ninth? Bases loaded again. And the crowd going nuts again. 


But LaCorte, admittedly a nervous kind of guy, got out of the jam. The crowd was quiet and the Phillies were frustrated. 


But then again, the Phillies were getting used to leaving their runners behind.


Second guessers will have a field day on the circumstances surrounding Bake McBride and his hesitation when he arrived at third base. To go home or not to go home, what a question. What a surprise. 


It could have been the game. 


Phils Manager Dallas Green called the decision a "very difficult one... it's usually up to the baserunner. It's a kind of bleephouse or castle situation. " 


It turned out to be the former.


"It's a tough situation for the runner," Green continued. "He doesn't want to end the inning (by being tagged out), but he does want to score. He made the turn, but was held up. I was half-watching him. I had my eye on the ball. I don't know if he was being waved in or held up. That's not my job. That's the job of the third-base coach." 


It didn't matter much what happened in the 10th.


The Phillies lost a golden chance to put this thing away, but. unlike a championship team, missed the boat. Some will say they blew it, point blank. 


To add salt to the wound, Schmidt, who got a hit earlier, flied out with two men on in the 10th. 


Can the Phillies win two out of three in Houston's Astrodome? 


"We've been there before," said Green, stinging somewhat over questioning about McBride's run or not to run. "It's not like were going to strange territory. We beat this team nine out of 12 times, so somewhere down the road we had to beat them in the Astrodome." 


Green can point to the Phils' remarkable road record in the last weeks of the season. The Phils had won 21 of 27 games on the road, including the critical series up in Montreal. 


Green wouldn't let that get by. 


"We've won games we had to no matter where they were," said Green. "We proved that in Montreal." 


The Phillies left 10 runners on base in the last four innings. They did it with their big guns at the plate, too. "Sure," said Green, "we had the chances, but it wasn't our night tonight. We'll get 'em down there." 


Meanwhile, cool, almost too cool for comfort, Virdon called his Astros' performance "typical of our season." 


He added: "These games are never easy. You're playing the best team and they don't give up things that easy." 


Virdon said the relief performances of Smith and LaCorte "weren't surprising." He said, "they've been doing that all season... that's our strength." 


It was said at the start of this series that relief pitching was almost equal. Evaluations showed that the Phillies' Tug McGraw was practically unbeatable in September. But after McGraw? 


The relief pitching in Houston was a complete team effort. Seems everybody gets into Virdon's Captain Hook act. He's got the bodies, and he uses them. 


"We've never been in championship play before," said Morgan, the unofficial Astro captain, "so a lot of these guys aren't that well known. But I can tell you that they are talented. Our bullpen has been our strong point all season. You saw a good exhibition of it tonight." 


Morgan says there's still more to come.


"We have some strong offensive players," he said. "Again, a lot of people haven't heard about them, but they'll come around." 


Morgan hailed Jose Cruz as "probably the most underrated player in the game." 


Going to Houston even isn't exactly what the Phils had in mind. They came into this series brimming with confidence, and it looks as though it was justified. 


The Phils seem to be the better team. But they got nailed by a couple of no-namers. and a play that might be discussed and debated for months to come.

Ruthven not a ‘thinking’ pitcher


By John Kunda, Executive Sports Editor


PHILADELPHIA – There was a time when Dick Ruthven thought he was Nolan Ryan. Maybe all pitchers at one time or another think they are Nolan Ryan. 


Being Nolan Ryan can't be all that bad. Look what it got him – four million dollars, or thereabouts. 


But how many pitchers can live or die with the fastball like Nolan Ryan has? 


Ruthven couldn't. Ruthven threw the fastball, all right, but more times than not, he threw it into the stands. He didn't live with the fastball, he nearly died with it. 


"He was big, raw and wild," said Philadelphia Manager Dallas Green. "He threw as hard as anybody I've ever seen. Don't ask me where he threw it – he just threw it." 


Green smiled.


Meet the new Dick Ruthven, an articulate young man, who, through an intense work program, developed an assortment of pitches. Oh, he still has a fastball, but it's not his main pitch. 


Ruthven has become a ''thinking" pitcher. 


"He can curve you to death," Green said early last night before he handed the ball to Ruthven and sent him out against the Astros. "He has learned to mix his pitches very well. He's gotten a lot smarter." 


And Ruthven's motion is enough to confuse a hitter. Elmer Valo said, "Ruthven reminds me of a righthanded Curt Simmons with his gyrations." 


Ruthven had his best season in the majors this year, posting a 17-10 record. He was a question mark at the start, but developed into a pleasant surprise for the Eastern champion Phillies. 


Making things more comfortable for his start last night was the fact that Ruthven was 3-1 against the Astros in 1980. 


Ruthven isn't one to get carried away with the past. "What's done is done," he said. "It's like yesterday's 'newspaper." 


While he has rubbed out the good, he still talks about the not-so-good. And that is his only start in postseason competition.


Ruthven was a victim of the Dodgers in the 1978 championship series. It came in the second game of that series and it came after the Dodgers had opened with a win. He had to get the Phils back on track. 


"I remember the game very well," he said. "It was right here in Philadelphia. We had just lost the opener, and it was my turn. 


"I felt good about getting the start, and I started out fairly well. But they got to me. (Davey) Lopes hit a home run, I remember. We got beat 4-0." 


Ruthven pumped up the Phillies with his start in the 1979 season. He was on his way to a great season, winning his first six decisions. 


Then the roof caved in. He wound up with elbow problems and that ended the fast start m a hurry. He won just one other game the entire season and lost five.


"It was a nightmare," he said. 


This championship season was somewhat of a reward. "I'm proud of this team," he said. "And I'm proud of any little contribution I might have made for it. We got this far. I think we can go all the way." 


Before last night's game, Ruthven looked sharp on the final weekend against Montreal. He figured in the decision of the 2-1 win after 5⅓ innings of work. 


While the success of Ruthven involved a reshaping of his pitching program, the Astros' Ryan still sinks or swims with the fastball. 


Velocity and location have been the keys to Ryan's success. 


Manager Bill Virdon talked about that. "The key for Nolan is if he can get that breaking ball over to go along with his fastball because his breaking ball drops straight down," Virdon said. 


Ryan agreed. 


"Any time I have a good game," he said, "I have to have a good curveball and a good fastball and I have to be able to get the ball over the plate." 


Ryan's breaking stuff was more effective in the early part of last night's game. He was his overpowering self, although he did mix it up effectively.


Ryan, who has been through postseason play before in both leagues, hasn't had success against the Phils this season. He has lost to the Phils in his four starts. 


Despite an 11-10 record, Ryan struck out 200 batters in 233 innings. It is hi strikeout strength that got him the big money in the first place. 


Ryan, along with Joe Morgan, is an elder statesman on this young Houston team. And, like Morgan, he talked about how important it is to at least split on the road. 


"This is a short series," he said, "and we need a split here. The Phils would have to win two in the Dome. If we lost two, it's not the end of the world. But if we went home with a split, it would leave us in pretty good shape." 


Ryan noted that pitchers in Houston's Astrodome feel a lot more comfortable than in any other park. "It's a pitcher's park," said Ryan, pointing out the vastness of the indoor stadium. "Not too many balls fly out of the Dome," he said. "Not many runs are scored there, either." 


Morgan touched on that, too. "I'm not taking anything away from the Phils," he said, "but it is a fact that scoring in the Dome is more difficult. It's a big, big place.”

Maddox’ RBI forces overtime


PHILADELPHIA – Jose Crux singled to right to score Terry Puhl in the top of the 10th inning last night and and open the floodgates that powered the Houston Astros to a 7-4 win over the Phillies and tied the National League Championship Series at one game apiece. 


The best-of-five series will continue on Friday afternoon in the Astrodome in Houston, and the Western Division champions have to be relieved after winning a ' game which so often appeared about to go the other way.


●       ●       ●


It wasn't as though the Phils didn't have the chance to end it in regulation. They stranded two in the ninth – and seven in the last three innings of regulation play. 


The Phils had to battle back from 1-0 and 3-2 deficits last night to earn the late draw. And it was Greg Luzinski and Garry Maddox, two Phils who've been suffering through bad times recently, who starred in the second comeback.


With Houston ahead 3-2 in the middle of the eighth after shattering Tug McGraw's reputation of invincibility, Luzinski slammed a single to left to lead off. Lonnie Smith ran for The Bull and moved to second on Manny Trillo's sacrifice, after which Maddox ushered home the rookie flyer with a line single to center. 


McGraw replaced starter Dick Ruthven in the top of the eighth, inheriting a 2-2 deadlock. But Joe Morgan doubled off the wall in right and Jose Cruz knocked him in with the lead run with a broken-bat single to center. 


Just as they did against Steve Carlton Tuesday night, the Astros drew first blood. And they did it in the same inning – the third. Ruthven was sailing along effortlessly, having retired the first seven men to face him when he briefly lost control and walked light-hitting shortstop Craig Reynolds on four pitches with one out in the third. 


Astro starter Nolan Ryan moved him up a notch with a nice sacrifice, and he scored when Terry Puhl lashed a - single to left. Luzinski got a great jump on Puhl's ball and almost caught it. But he got it on the short hop at his shoestrings and his off-balance heave to the plate was way off line.


Mike Schmidt cut off the throw, but threw wildly trying to cut down Puhl at second. The Astros' rightfielder reached third, but Ruthven put his foot down and fanned Enos Cabell to avert further difficulty. 


This time, however, the Phils didn't wait quite as long to get untracked as they did 24 hours earlier. But Luzinski was once again right in the middle of it when the ruckus started – although not with the kind of hit he'll mention in his memoirs. 


Schmidt, the N.L. home run king, blistered a Ryan fastball off the top of the wall in right-center for a double leading off the fourth. The Bull then fought of an inside heater and inside-outed it down the rightfield line for another two bagger and Schmidt pranced home to tie the game. 


Trillo, who turned in another virtuoso performance afield, sacrificed Luzinski to third. Maddox, once again in manager Dallas Green's good graces, then lined a single to left to put the Phils ahead 2-1. 


Ruthven, who had all his pitches working, carried a one-hitter into the top of the sixth, but another streak of ; wildness put his back to the wall. He was able to escape ; totally unscathed only with an assist from shortstop Larry Bowa, who continues to respond to boos from the home folks by playing brilliantly. 


Ruthven retired the first two Astros in the sixth easily, before walking both Morgan and Cruz. Cesar Cedeno, the only Astro to stroke 1,500 career hits, lashed a sharp grounder toward left field. But Bowa ranged far to his ' right to backhand the ball and, although he had no play on Cedeno, he prevented Morgan from scoring the tying run. 


Ruthven was so grateful he slipped an 0-2 curve past Art Howe for the final out. 


The Phils made a spirited run at winning the game in the seventh, but fell short. Bowa singled to right and Bob Boone beat out a perfectly placed bunt toward second ' before pinch hitter Greg Gross bunted them both along. Astro manager Bill Virdon lifted Ryan in favor of lefty Joe Sambito who, after walking Pete Rose intentionally, struck out Bake McBride. 


Virdon, playing the percentages to the hilt, then signaled for the righthanded Smith to deal with Schmidt He did it quite well, thank you, slipping a called third strike past the startled slugger. 


Ruthven put himself behind the eight ball with bases-on-balls once too often in the seventh – and again it was the smooth-swinging Puhl who made him pay.


Ryan drew Rufus' fifth walk with – you guessed it – two out. Puhl lined a shot just out of the reach of a streaking Bake McBride for a double, and Ryan motored home ahead of Trillo's wide relay throw. 


Ruthven retired Cabell on a soft fly to right to end the inning, but Green had seen enough and sent Gross out to pinch bunt for the his 6-3 righthander during the Phils' abortive rally in the bottom of the inning.