Corpus Christi Caller - October 9, 1980
Astros wallop Phils, 7-4, knot playoff
By The Associated Press
PHILADELPHIA – “They’re never easy" sighed Houston Manager Bill Virdon.
The anonymous Astros had clawed their way to a 7-4 10-inning victory over the Philadelphia Phillies Wednesday night, tying their National League Championship Series at one victory apiece.
Easy, it was not.
The Astros fell behind early, moved ahead late, stood off enemy rallies that left 10 Phillies on base in the final four innings and basically survived.
“This was typical of our season,” said Virdon. “It was a good game, interesting.”
It was that. The game see-sawed with an ebb and flow, swaying back and forth, inning by inning.
"We were ahead when it was over,” noted Virdon quite correctly. “It landed in the right column for us. We're 1-and-1 now and it will be a pleasure to go home."
“Home" is where the West Division champion Astros play best. They were 55-26 under the Astrodome roof this season, compared to 38-44 on the road.
“We're a little more than even now," said slap-hitting Terry Puhl who drove in two runs with a single and double and ignited Houston's four-run 10th-inning rally with his third hit of the game.
Jose Cruz followed with his second RBI single of the night, snapping the tie and Dave Bergman's two-run triple capped the big inning that tied this best-of-five pennant playoff.
Games 3 and 4 are scheduled for the Astrodome Friday and Saturday, and a fifth game, if needed, would be played there Sunday.
“Our pitching is awesome in the Dome,'' Puhl continued. “The ball doesn't carry as well there as it does in any other park in the National League, and their power wont be as important as it is here.
“This was a big one for us. We had to win this going into the Dome. Their having to win one game is one thing, but their having to win two is an entirely different thing.”
Puhl, who sat on the bench against left-hander Steve Carlton in the opener of this series Tuesday night, moved into the lineup as part of Virdon’s southpaw swinging platoon, and the switch paid off handsomely.
Twice, early in the game, Puhl made Philadelphia starter Dick Ruthven pay for his wildness, helping to cash in bases on balls with clutch hits. But his biggest hit came opening the 10th after the Astros had escaped a frightening one-out, bases-loaded situation in the bottom of the ninth.
Puhl opened the 10th with a single to right, and the Astros, playing by the book, had Enos Cabell sacrifice the runner to second.
With Puhl at second the Phillies chose to walk Joe Morgan, who had hurt them earlier with a leadoff double in the eighth. But the next batter was Cruz, Houston’s underrated left fielder and the leading RBI man on the club.
He had delivered Morgan from second with a single in the eighth and came through again with another hit, scoring Puhl with the go-ahead run. Right fielder Bake McBride, trying for the runner at the plate, threw wildly and the Astros had men on second and third.
Cesar Cedeno hit a fielder’s choice grounder to shortstop, and Larry Bowa’s throw to the plate was an instant too late to get pinch runner Rafael Landestoy. That made the score 5-3, and then Bergman settled the issue with a triple up the gap in right-center for two more runs.
The Phillies made a big bid to win the game in the bottom of the ninth, loading the bases with one out on consecutive singles by McBride, Mike Schmidt and Lonnie Smith, who had entered the game an inning earlier as a pinch runner for Greg Luzinksi.
Smith, a rookie, fouled off a half-dozen pitches before drilling his hit to right. McBride got a late start from second base and was held at third by Coach Lee Elia.
Now, with the game on the line, the Astros drew their infield in, a major risk on the artificial surface. They had done the same thing in a similar situation in the seventh inning and escaped unscathed.
And they pulled it off once more in the ninth.
Frank LaCorte struck out Manny Trillo for the second out, allowing the infield to return to normal depth. Then Garry Maddox, who had two RBI singles earlier in the game, popped out to first baseman Bergman, ending the inning.
The Phillies trailed 3-2 as they came to bat in the eighth, but bounced off the deck to tie the score against Dave Smith, Houston's third pitcher.
Luzinski, whose check-swing double had driven in the first Philadelphia run in the fourth, opened with a single and left for pinch runner Smith. Trillo sacrificed, and then Maddox drilled his second RBI single of the game.
Maddox dashed to second on the play to the plate, putting the potential winning run in scoring position. But Smith escaped by walking Bowa intentionally and then striking out Bob Boone and retiring pinch hitter Del Unser on an easy fly ball.