Camden Courier-Post - October 9, 1980

Astros win to tie playoffs


By Bob Kenney, Courier-Post Sports Editor


PHILADELPHIA – Twice last night the Philadelphia Phillies could have virtually locked up a World Series date with a fly ball.


All they got both times was a strikeout and so the National League's Eastern Division champions head to Houston today with the best-of-five league title series tied at one victory each. Game three will be played tomorrow night.


The Phils dropped a 7-4 decision to the Astros in a three-hour, 34-minute game that left a playoff record crowd of 65,476 fans at Veterans Stadium hoarse from excitement.


The loss cost the Phillies the playoff edge since they now must win two of the three games upcoming in Houston to advance into the World Series.


"We were in the same position last weekend in Montreal, and we didn't do too badly up there," Manager Dallas Green said.


"We had the chance to win it (last night) and we didn't do it." he added. "We'll get them down there."


"We just didn't do it," said Mike Schmidt. "We can't worry about opportunities getting away. What's past is past."


Schmidt gave the fans one last glimmer of hope when he came to bat in the home 10th with one run in and two runners on base. One long drive by the major league home run king would have tied the score.


Joaquin Andujar worked the count to 3-0, then got Schmidt to fly out to Terry Puhl in right field for the final out.

Phillies play give-away


‘Team effort’ allows Astros to knot series


By Bob Kenney, Courier-Post Sports Editor


PHILADELPHIA – Manny Trillo made a bad throw, Dick Ruthven walked two guys he should have struck out and the Phillies stranded 14 base runners last night.


Third base coach Lee Elia misjudged a play, the big hitters didn't produce with the bases loaded and Ron Reed failed in relief.


It was a team effort as the Phillies dropped the second game of the National League playoffs to the Houston Astros. It took 10 innings and a playoff record 3:34 but the Phillies gave away a 7-4 decision and the home field advantage in the best-of-five series.


"EVERYTHING IS in our favor now," said Houston's Joe Morgan after the Phillies wasted bases-loaded, one-out situations in the seventh and ninth innings to frustrate 65,476 fans in Veterans Stadium.


You couldn't tell which team had the playoff experience tonight," said Morgan. "Now they come to our place and we have the pitching that can control them better than they can control us."


The Phillies dominated last night's game, right up to the final out. They outhit the Astros 13-5 over nine innings and could have put the Houston team away on several occasions. They left 10 men stranded over the last four innings.


"WE NEVER make them easy," said winning manager Bill Virdon. "It was typical of our season. We struggled but came out on top at the end."


"We had more than enough chances to win it," said Phillies boss Dallas Green, who used 16 players in an attempt to pull it out. "But we didn't do what we had to do. It's as simple as that."


In the seventh, Bake McBride and Mike Schmidt went down on strikes with the bases jammed. In the ninth, Manny Trillo struck out and Garry Maddox popped out foul after hits by McBride, Schmidt and Lonnie Smith put runners at every base.


McBride might have scored on Smith's hit, a flare into short right, but coach Elia was fooled by Terry Puhl's decoy in right field and held the runner. "I got held up," said McBride. "I don't know if I could have made it home or not."


PUHL MOVED up as if he would catch the ball, then backed away and took it on the bounce. "I thought I could get it at first," said Puhl. "But then I saw I couldn't get there, and it was too late to play it safe. I just kept coming and tried to short-hop it."


Puhl also hurt the Phillies with his bat, twice knocking in runs after Ruthven issued walks. In the third, weak-hitting Craig Reynolds walked, moved up on a bunt by Nolan Ryan and scored on Puhl's single to left.


Ruthven, who allowed only three hits, made his biggest mistake in the seventh when he walked Ryan with two out. Puhl followed with a double to right center and Ryan wobbled all the way home.


TRILLO'S RELAY to the plate was wide right and Houston had its second run. "That was a break," said Morgan. "Ryan's out by 20 feet if the throw is on line and Manny makes that throw most of the time."


It wasn't a Philadelphia night. In the eighth, Tug McGraw brought his 17-game scoreless string into battle. Morgan promptly doubled just out of reach of McBride in right and Jose Cruz grounded a single to center just inches away from Trillo's grab to end the string and put Houston up, 3-2.


The Phillies used Lonnie Smith's amazing speed to score in the bottom of the eighth to tie it. Greg Luzinski singled to open the inning and Smith took over. He made it to second on Trillo's bunt and raced home, literally outrunning the ball, when Garry Maddox singled to center.


AFTER THE Phillies failed to score in the ninth, Houston teed off on Reed. Puhl started the rally with his third hit of the night.


Enos Cabell put down a sacrifice bunt, then Green ordered Morgan intentionally walked. Cruz spoiled that strategy with a single to right that brought in Puhl and broke the 3-3 tie.


Shortstop Larry Bowa threw late to the plate with Cesar Cedeno's grounder and pinch-runner Rafael Landestoy scored to make it 5-3. Dave Bergman greeted reliever Kevin Saucier with a triple to right center to bring in two more runs.


EVEN THEN the Astros made Virdon sweat it out. The Phillies scored once in the bottom of the 10th and had Schmidt, the major league home run leader, at the plate with two on in the final inning.


Joaquin Andujar, the fifth Astro pitcher, saved the decision by getting Schmidt on a fly to right on a 3-0 count.


With the score tied at 2-2 in the seventh, the Phillies threatened to break it open. Bowa singled and Bob Boone's bunt got past the mound and went for a base hit. Greg Gross batted for starter Dick Ruthven, and moved the runners up with a fine bunt.


VIRDON YANKED Nolan Ryan, who was firing 95 mph fast balls earlier, and had lefty Sambito walk Pete Rose intentionally. Sambito then got McBride swinging for the second out.


Dave Smith, Houston's Rookie-of-the-Year candidate, came in to face Schmidt and got him looking at a called strike three.


The Phillies scored twice in the fourth inning. Schmidt doubled off the wall in right and scored when Luzinski extended his playoff hitting steak to a perfect 13-for-13 games with a double past first. Maddox singled to score Luzinski.

Indecision runs win right out of window


By Ray W. Kelly of the Courier-Post


PHILADELPHIA – If running the bases was as easy as running off at the mouth, the Phillies would hardly ever lose.


Unfortunately, there often comes a time in a baseball game when actions have to speak louder than words. And in last night's 7-4 loss to the Houston Astros, instead of putting up, at least one great debater chose to shut up.


Bake McBride, the latest star in the local hit series, "The Gripes of Wrath," began the day with a public airing of his complaints against Manager Dallas Green. He probably waited until the second game of the National League playoffs because there were so many teammates ahead of him in line.


His day ended, however, in sullen indignation because he got the feeling that someone was trying to get him to shoulder at least part of the blame for "the blunder" at third base. He was so right.


McBride had a shot at scoring from second base with a ninth inning run that would have broken a 3-3 deadlock and sent a record-setting crowd of 65,476 merrily home. But, he never tried for the plate.


"He held me up at third," said Bake. "He told me to stop."


The "he" in all this is third base coach Lee Elia, a burly Philadelphian with a history of success in minor league managing and the man Dallas Green chose to direct the baserunning traffic at Veterans Stadium this year.


Elia stood tall and admitted his mistake to a roomful of writers, saying, "It wasn't anybody's fault but mine. I screwed it up.”


He tried to hide the hurt inside. But then he said with a groan, "It took me 22 years to get here. I may be putting a lot of heat on myself when I say it, but I think Bake would have scored if I had sent him... Oh, the biggest game of the year."


Although it's true that the ultimate blame belonged to the coach for throwing up the red light, there is more to this that meets the eye. It's called baseball instincts.


Think about this:


McBride was on second and Mike Schmidt was on first when Lonnie Smith cuffed his one-out blooper toward Houston right fielder Terry Puhl, who was playing shallow enough to give a number of people the feeling that he was going to catch the ball.


"At first I thought I could get to the hall " said Puhl.


"Terry had a chance to catch if when he first started in," said Houston second haman Joe Morgan.


"I thought there was a possibility he might catch it. said Elia.


McBride didn't. From his vantage point, he saw it as an almost certain single. "I knew it was going to drop in," said Bake, who got a tremendous jump on his dash toward third.


Two pitches prior to this moment, Bake had been able to take so much liberty in his lead off the bag that he had attempted to steal third base. A foul ball off Smith's bat forced his return to second.


This explains why McBride was almost in Elia's lap before the coach could make a judgment on whether Puhl was going to catch the ball, a fact that threw Elia into a split second of indecision and confusion.


McBride was totally committed both mentally and physically to the idea of getting to the plate. He was right. But, more importantly, he was committed. There was no going back. Retreat to second base (to avoid a doubleplay if Puhl caught the ball) was impossible and unthinkable.


Like one veteran scout put it, "Once you get that far, it's either penthouse or craphouse. You gotta go."


Suppose Puhl had caught the ball and fell down in a dead faint before he could throw to second. Perhaps then McBride might have thought about running back to avoid being "doubled up." Other than that kind of situation, forget it.


Here's a team with a glorious history of doing whatever it feels like doing, and the one time someone follows orders, it's the wrong time.


Many right fielders would have tried for a diving catch, but Puhl chose to gamble on his glove and his arm. The Astros would later try to make him a hero by declaring his actions as some sort of "decoy" that Elia bought hook, line and sinker, but don't put a hand on a Bible when discussing that explanation.


Puhl tried for and succeeded in catching the ball on the short hop. Then, he fired a one-hop bullet to the plate. It was an unorthodox approach to the situation and it just made things that much harder for Elia.


Instinct – McBride's told him to go, go, go without so much as a glance toward Elia. But the coach's instincts told him that the ball was catchable and therefore Bake should be easing into a committment.


Instinct – That's what made Elia bring his arms up. He wanted caution, not for Bake to pull the emergency cord. And, by the time Elia realized the runner was right and he was wrong, Bake was looking like a guy trying to walk on basketballs.


"I should have realized that Bake had no chance of getting back if the ball was caught. Send him... and if he's doubled up, he's doubled up. If I had just hauled-assed him, I still think he would have scored," said Elia.


Not realizing the same thing was Bake's mistake. There was no turning back.


"What can I tell you," said the coach. "It kills me just as much as it does the kids on this ballclub."


The only difference is, Elia simply admitted out loud that he made a mistake. And just the thought of that would kill some of the people he coaches.

Reincarnated Astros are back in the running


By Jeff Jacobs of the Courier-Post


PHILADELPHIA – The Houston Astros died Sunday and were buried Tuesday night. But if you don't believe in reincarnation, check the boxscore in today's newspaper.


The Astros are Team Lazarus. When you count them out, they count themselves in. They never are a casualty statistic, because they don't believe in statistics – only winning, and usually when prospects appear most desperate. You can blindfold the Astros and lead them to the firing squad wall, but these guys all wear bulletproof vests.


It happened in Los Angeles. It happened again last night in the 7-4, 10-inning victory over the Phillies in the second game of the best-of-five National League playoff series. Now, the Astros are even with the Phils, and have the final three games at the Astrodome.


Don't count Houston in the World Series either. The Astros are procrastinators of the most self-destructive sort. They love to make things most difficult on themselves.


"This team has been counted out so many times, I can't even count 'em all," said second baseman' Joe Morgan, who returned from a knee injury. "They said we were dead back when we lost J R. Richard for the season. They said we were dead when we lost three straight games to L.A. And they said we were dead after last night.


"But i m telling you: Nobody can beat up on us, because we got the pitching. Not Mike Schmidt, not Reggie Jackson, not George Foster. We got Nolan Ryan and we got Joe Niekro and all sorts of other pitchers. All I hear is what a no-name team we are, but we are the most underrated team I've ever seen. We're going to win this series. It may be Friday and Saturday or it may be Friday and Sunday, but we are going to win."


If the Astros' track record holds to form, however, they likely will lose Friday and turn around and win Saturday and Sunday. After they dropped three consecutive one-run games to the Dodgers, the Astros created a tomorrow when there apparently was no tomorrow by whipping Los Angeles, 7-1, in a one-game West Division playoff.


After losing 3-1 in the N.L. playoff opener Tuesday night, the Astros found themselves behind again last night. This time, 2-1 after six innings, the coffin was readied, but hammering home the final nail became impossible.


"You can talk about all the hitting and pitching you want, but the biggest thing in baseball is guts," said pitcher Frank LaCorte, who won the game in relief. "Everybody in this clubhouse has guts. We keep battling back to survive."


In the top of the seventh, starting pitcher Nolan Ryan walked and then hustled home on a double by rightfielder Terry Puhl. "Five games in a row, I felt we didn't get any breaks," said Morgan. "We got one tonight. What I'm talking about is the play Trillo had to make the plate (on a cutoff). He had Nolan Ryan by 20 feet and Manny Trillo doesn't very often not use his strong throwing arm to get a guy like that."


After LaCorte pitched the Astros out of a bases-loaded, one-out jam in the ninth, the Astros struck for four runs in the 10th. Puhl led off with a single, Cabell sacrificed him to second and Morgan was intentionally walked. Jose Cruz, who had singled a key run home in the eighth, did it again. Morgan advanced to third on a bad throw by Bake McBride, but promptly took himself out of the game for pinch-runner Rafael Landestoy.


"I felt I was on third and we were going to try to score on anything hit, like a chopper to infield," Morgan said. "If I had to slide into the catcher with my bum knee, I might hurt it and be back where I was before. So, I told Bill (Manager Virdon) to let Rafael run, and he had to do that (slide when Cesar Cedeno hit a bouncer to shortstop Larry Bowa)."


Dave Bergman followed with a two-run riple. The Astros, incidentally, enjoy four-run innings about once every decade.


"Nothing comes easy for this club. Nothing," said Puhl, who finished with three hits and two runs batted in. "We had to win this one. Going into the Dome is a different story now. I wouldn't say we are in the driver's seat, but I'd say it's a little more than even in our favor now. We're tough there."


So, in fact, are the Phillies. They take a 4-2 1980 Astrodome record into tomorrow's game when Joe Niekro faces Larry Christenson.


"The Phillies have Schmidt and Greg Luzinski and when they hit the ball, it's out of any park, but I think going home will do us a world of good. We battled six tough road games in a row. It will feel great," said Ryan, who pitched 6 innings before giving way to Joe Sambito. "Our relief pitching got us out of some incredible jams in the seventh and ninth, but you can't get me to say I'm surprised. Heck, they do it all the time."


"We come here and split. We going to be tough at home," said Cruz, in broken English. "I almost have heart attack in L.A. We take four games to win one. After that, I don't like to talk too much. It's crazy.


"We win first. I talk later."


Cruz may not be able to talk at all by the time Team Lazarus is finished.