Elyria Chronicle-Telegram - October 9, 1980

Finally, Astros Can Enjoy 'Home Cooking'


By Joe Juliano, UPI Sport Writer


PHILADELPHIA - The Houston Astros were asked to undertake one of the most grueling road trips in sports over the past six days, sort of a death march, baseball-style.


The odyssey spanned more than 6,000 miles, from Houston to Los Angeles to Philadelphia and back to Houston, and six games of unyielding pressure in front of ear-shattering and hostile crowds.


But tucked safely back in their Houston homes today, the Astros not only are breathing, they're practically on top of the world.


Unheralded Jose Cruz broke a 3-3 tie with an RBI single to ignite a four-run 10th inning Wednesday night that carried the Astros to a 7-4 victory over the Philadelphia Phillies and an all-important split of the first two games of the National League Championship Series.


AFTER AN off-day today, the two teams meet again Friday afternoon in the Astrodome, where the rest of this best-of-five series will be played Saturday afternoon and, if necessary, Sunday night The Astros lost three games in Los Angeles before Niekro beat the Dodgers in a playoff for the NL West crown. They then flew coast-to-coast, arriving in Philadelphia less than 15 hours before Game 1 of the playoffs Tuesday night, and lost 3-1.


BUT HOUSTON came back Wednesday night with fine relief pitching and timely hitting. The Astros' bullpen triumvirate of Sambito, Dave Smith and Frank LaCorte was tough.


Sambito and Smith left the bases loaded with Phillies in the seventh after striking out Bake McBride and Mike Schmidt, respectively. Smith allowed the tying run in the eighth on a Garry Maddox single but stranded two runners.


Then LaCorte, the winning pitcher, waded out of a bases-loaded, one-out jam in the ninth. McBride and Schmidt singled but McBride failed to score on Lonnie Smith's bloop single down the right field line because he was held at third by coach Lee Elia, who admitted later, "I screwed it up."


LaCorte struck out Manny Trillo and retired Maddox on a foul popup as the Phillies left the bases loaded, giving them eight left for the seventh, eighth and ninth.