Philadelphia Inquirer - October 9, 1980

Astros erupt in 10th, even series

 

Phillies need two in Dome

 

By Jayson Stark, Inquirer Staff Writer

 

The Phillies had the Houston Astros by the throat three innings in a row last night. They could have just gone ahead and moved in for the kill right then. But what kind of Phillies postseason would it be if they didn't make two million people sweat just a little?

 

They can sweat all the way to Houston now, because the Astros pulled out a 74, 10-inning thriller last night. So their best-of-five playoff series is tied, a game apiece.

 

And they will play the rest of it in the Astrodome, where Houston was a mere 55-26 this year. The Phillies have to take two of three in the Dome if they want the World Series to open in the great outdoors next Tuesday.

 

"We were in the same position in Montreal, and we didn't do too bad up there," insisted Dallas Green, holding off the forces who were trying to make this loss seem cataclysmic. "I don't feel too bad about it.

 

"We've played in the Dome before, you know. It's not like we're going down there cold. We were 9-3 against these guys for the year, so we had to beat them down there somewhere along the line.

 

"Check our road record all year (42-39) and in September (12-5, counting Montreal). We haven't done too bad. It doesn't bother us going on the road."

 

As Sparky Lyle watched on TV in New Jersey or some place, the Astros scored four times off Ron Reed (with an assist to Kevin Saucier) in the 10th. Jose Cruz' RBI single off Reed, and Dave Bergman's two-run triple off Saucier were the big blows.

 

The Phillies did manage to charge back, score an unearned run and get the tying run to the plate in the 10th. But Mike Schmidt popped a 3-and-0 pitch from Joaquin Andujar to right, slammed his bat down and suddenly, it was the Phillies who were confronted with the harsh reminders of past playoff nightmares.

 

Because, to give the Astros the' chance to win in the 10th, the Phils had to leave eight men on in the seventh, eighth and ninth. That's not to mention their two in the 10th, and 14 altogether.

 

They had the bases loaded in the seventh. But Joe Sambito came out of the bullpen to strike out Bake McBride. Then rookie righthander Dave Smith, he of the 1.92 ERA, did the same to Schmidt.

 

The Astros took a 3-2 lead in the eighth, breaking Tug McGraw's streak of 16 games without an earned run. The Phils re-tied it on Garry Maddox' RBI single. But with two on and one out, Smith fanned Bob Boone and got Del Unser to fly to left.

 

The pain of those innings throbbed a little. But if this series turns out to have an unhappy ending, the inning that will pain the Phillies most is the ninth.

 

The critical moment: First and second. One out. Lonnie Smith battling Frank Lacorte for 12 incredible pitches. A playoff-record crowd stomping, roaring, pounding.

 

At last, Smith looped a single in front of Terry Puhl in short right. But could Bake McBride score from second? McBride was practically to third when he stopped, turned around and watched to see if Puhl had a play. That cost him any chance to score, and LaCorte fanned Manny Trillo and popped up Garry Maddox to squirm away free.

 

Almost forgotten was the duel between Dick Ruthven and Nolan Ryan over the first seven innings.

 

Ruthven allowed only three hits in seven innings, but he had uncustomary control troubles. He walked five and ran eight three-ball counts. He walked Craig (.226) Reynolds with one out in the third, and soon found himself behind, 1-0.

 

Ryan bunted Reynolds to second. Ruthven threw Puhl his quasi-screwball, the one Dallas Green loves to hate, on the first pitch. Puhl stroked it the other way into left, where Greg Luzinski barely missed shoestring-mg it, and Reynolds scored.

 

Schmidt cut off Luzinski's throw to the plate, and Puhl looked like a goner heading for second. But Schmidt whipped the throw into right-center, and Puhl pumped all the way to third. Ruthven came back to strike but Enos Cabell, so at least the error didn't burn them.

 

The question was, could the Phillies get to Ryan? Nolan the K hasn't been the same pitcher outside the Dome that he's been at home (3-8, 4.75 on the road this year). But in general he's been awfully consistent.

 

One scout who has seen Ryan a lot lately said "he pitches like hell for six innings. Then he starts to lose something." That turned out to be absolutely right. For three innings, Ryan was practically unhittable. All he allowed was a third-inning single by Pete Rose, who is 12-for-his-last-20.

 

However, Schmidt won one of those classic fastball-hitter, fastball-pitcher battles leading off the fourth to start the Phillies on a two-run rally. Ryan had two strikes on Schmidt, whose only hit off him this year was a homer, and then threw him his best tailing fastball on the outside corner. Schmidt gave it a quick flick of the wrists and lined it two-thirds of the way up the wall in right for a double.

 

Next was Luzinski. Ryan got a quick strike and came back with a fastball tailing in. The Bull gave it what amounted to a checked swing and wound up plunking it over first for a game-tying double. The Bull, 2-for-4 last night, has 11 RBIs in 13 career playoff games and has hit safely in all 13.

 

Trillo bunted him to third, so the Astros brought the infield in. But what they really hoped was that Ryan could blow away Maddox. Instead he hung a 1-1 curve up around Maddox' chest. Maddox lined it into left, and it was 2-1.

 

But Ruthven was still running those deep counts, and he almost ran one too many in the sixth. With two outs, he walked Joe Morgan. Then he ran three-ball count No. 7 to Cruz and walked him, too.

 

He jumped ahead of Cesar Cedeno, 0-2. But Cedeno bounced a 1-2 pitch into the shortstop hole. Bowa saved the run with a tremendous backhand grab. He had no throw, so the Astros had their second hit. But it was bases loaded instead of tie game.

 

Ruthven worked Art Howe gorgeously, setting him up for an 0-2 slider. Howe, who struck out only 29 times all year, took it on the outside corner for the third out.

 

That seemed as if it might be fatal for the Astros. But Ruthven walked Ryan with two outs in the seventh. And that will be the one act he will hate himself for this morning, because Ryan was 6-for-70 at the plate this year.

 

Puhl lined a high fastball to deep right-center that sailed just under McBride's lunging stab, and Ryan started motoring toward home. Trillo's relay throw from medium right was a little to the first-base side of the plate, but it had Ryan beat by four steps. Boone went to tag Ryan before he had it, though, and the throw skipped by as Ryan scored to tie it.

 

 

That was where the Phillies began their run of lost chances. If their weekend in the Dome doesn't have a happy ending, they can think back on them all winter.

…but will LOB spell DOOM for Phillies?

 

By Bill Lyon

 

LOB. In baseball, that's left on base. And usually, LOB translates into RIP. Which is what they carved on the Phillies' tombstone last night.

 

In the longest playoff game ever, and maybe the ugliest as well, the Phillies conspired to strangle themselves.

 

They went for the jugular, all right. Their own.

 

In the last four innings, the Phils stranded 10 base runners, left them out there shriveling like autumn leaves in the sun.

 

Houston, a team that uses the Chinese Water Torture offense, dripping you into an agonizingly slow death, won it with a four-run 10th. They never should have had a bat this blotchy game never should have gone into overtime.

 

In the bottom of the ninth, with one out, the Phils put two on, Bake McBride and Mike Schmidt singling. First and second, Lonnie Smith up. Smith hits one of his falling-down specialties, a flare into right.

 

McBride skates tentatively halfway to third while rightfielder Terry Puhl gallops desperately in. McBride finally goes on to third, almost missing the bag. On the replay, you can see Lee Elia, the third base coach, waving him on home. But McBride stops. The ball plops in for a hit. But instead of racing home with the winning run, McBride remains at third, and the Phils have the bases loaded. But Manny Trillo will strike out, chasing a pitch up around his cap bill, and Garry Maddox will pop out.

 

Puhl's throw from right was a laser beam. Maybe McBride scores, maybe he's thrown out. But in a tie game, in your place, in the ninth, you have to go for it, make the defense throw you out. Besides, if Puhl had caught the ball, McBride would have been doubled off second with an underhand, 54-hop throw. Puhl could have run it in and made the tag without a throw.

 

That was the most glaring play of the evening, and it was the one everyone wanted to quiz Dallas Green about… and he promptly took the fifth. He absolved his third base coach of all blame, but then he didn't indict McBride either.

 

That's a very difficult situation for a runner, especially with only one out," Green said. "We don't want him to run us out of the inning but we want the run, too."

 

Instead, the Phillies got neither.

 

Was the third base coach waving him on before he was picked up on the replay? Should he have been waving him on?

 

I’m not the third base coach," Green said. "That's not my job. For the runner, it's entirely up to him, and it's one of those outhouse or castle kind of deals."

 

The Phils are in no castle at the moment. They will be in a dome, the Astrodome, tomorrow night. Bake McBride will be second-guessed all winter in this town by fearful fans who remember things like a fly ball chattering off Greg Luzinski's glove in a playoff horror from the past.

 

"We had our chances to win," Green said.

 

They had more than enough.

 

In the seventh inning, the Phils had the bases loaded and only one out. McBride whiffed, flailing helplessly on Joe Sambito's southpaw sidearming stuff that was way outside. And then Mike Schmidt, against righthanded Dave Smith, took a called third strike down the pipe.

 

In the eighth, the Phils pushed across one run, had two on and only one out, but Bob Boone fanned and pinch hitter Del Unser flied softly to left.

 

In the ninth, drunk bases again, only one out, and no runs.

 

In the last three innings of regulation, the Phillies had runners in scoring position, each time with only one out, and didn't deliver. In fact, only once did they even manage to get the ball out of the infield.

 

That's eight LOB in three innings.

 

And in the 10th, down four, they scraped out a run and finally seemed about to break through. There were two on and two out when Schmidt came up, the tying run. Joaquin Andujar went to 3-0 on Schmidt. You take a pitch, right? Nope, Schmidt got the green light and flied out to right.

 

Two more stranded. Ten LOB in the last four innings.

 

And suddenly you feel the apprehension and fear rising in Philadelphia's throats, like sour bile.

 

The team got the playoff monkey off its back, and 24 hours later turned around and self-destructed.

 

Now the Phils must win two on the road. And how does Dallas Green feel about that?

 

"We were 9-and-3 against Houston in the regular season so we must have beat 'em down there sometime," he snapped. "It doesn't bother us to go on the road. We're in the same position we were in when we went to Montreal over the weekend.

 

"How do I feel about going down there? How do you feel about it?"

 

 

About, a writer responded, like your third base coach felt tonight.

Elia:  ‘I screwed it up,’ and win vanishes…

 

By Frank Dolson, Inquirer Sports Editor

 

It was a nerve-wracking, heart-pounding confrontation: Lonnie Smith, the Phillies' fleet-footed rookie vs. Frank LaCorte, the Houston reliever.

 

Bottom of the ninth and the game was tied. Bake McBride was on second. Mike Schmidt was on first. One out. And the battle... the classic one-on-one confrontation between the rookie and the relief pitcher began...

 

The count went to 2-and-2, then 3-and-2. Now the huge crowd rose as one, preparing to do to Frank LaCorte what another Vet Stadium crowd had done to a Dodger starter named Burt Hooton three years before.

 

The people clapped their hands, they waved Phillies pennants, they hollered themselves hoarse... and somehow LaCorte kept throwing the ball over the plate. In light of what would happen to him an inning later, when he suddenly went wild with the game seemingly wrapped up, it was a remarkable display of concentration.

 

Pitch after pitch LaCorte fired over the plate... and pitch after pitch Smith fouled off.

 

It didn't seem possible, but the noise grew even louder, nearly drowning out the organ music and the trumpet call from somewhere high above first base. LaCorte threw his seventh 3-and-2 pitch to Smith, and this time the rookie didn't foul it off.

 

The ball looped off his bat towards right field, and for an instant most of the 65,000-plus thought the Phillies had won.

 

"I knew the ball was going to drop," McBride said.

 

He also knew there was "no way" he could have returned to second in the event the ball didn't drop. Bake had gone too far. He was almost to third base when he picked up third base coach Lee Elia for the first time.

 

"He was telling me to stop," McBride said.

 

So Bake stopped.

 

And the bases were loaded with one out.

 

And they remained loaded.

 

"I have no more to say," McBride told the writers gathered around his locker in the Phillies clubhouse v shortly past midnight, and he got up and walked away.

 

There was no doubt that if McBride had come all the way on Smith's clutch hit... if he had sprinted around third without hesitation, without waiting to see if the ball was going to be caught, he would have scored.

 

"He said he was running on the pitch," Larry Bowa said. "If you're that far, you might as well keep going because it's a double play anyway (if the catch is made in right).

 

"That (loss) hurt. That gave them new life. If Bake keeps running, he's safe...."

 

And there would have been 25 happy faces in the Phillies clubhouse instead of all those sad ones.

 

And there wouldn't have been a crowd in the coaches' room questioning Lee Elia.

 

Elia handled the difficult inquisition the way you'd expect him to handle it. He isn't the type to pass the buck.

 

"It looked to me like he took his normal lead (off second)," the third base coach said. "Then he came. I just went like this...."

 

And Elia put his hands in the air in what could best be described as an indecisive signal.

 

"I screwed it up," Elia said. "The ball's caught, he wouldn't have a chance to get back, anyway. I should've taken a chance and sent him. But I held him up momentarily, and when I tried to get him to go again, it was too late.

 

"It was a reflex action thing. My hands just went up. What can I tell you, fellas? It kills me a much as it kills the guys on this ball club."

 

It didn't have to kill anybody, of course, if the Phillies had been able to get McBride in from third. But they couldn't.

 

"One out," said Pete Rose. "All we need is a fly ball to win. I don't think he (Elia) should take the blame."

 

More than anything perhaps, rightfielder Terry Puhl should receive a lot of credit for the job he did in fielding Smith's ball on a difficult hop and firing a one-bounce strike to the plate. But the best throw in the world wouldn't have nailed McBride if he had never slowed down... if he had gambled on either winning the game or getting doubled off second on the play.

 

And so this ball club that has made a practice of doing things the hard way all year will have to do it the hard way again – with two victories at the Houston Astrodome...

 

"No big deal," said Schmidt. "We're the best road team in baseball."

 

But the fact remains that the Phillies came close to carrying 2-0 lead to the Astros' indoor playpen. Even after the ninth-inning threat fizzled, even after the Astros scored four runs in the top of the 10th, the Phillies had a chance.

 

It wound up in a storybook situation: Schmidt, the big league's No. 1 home run hitter, at the plate representing the tying run with two out in the bottom of the 10th.

 

Three innings earlier, Schmidt had looked at an off-speed pitch from Dave Smith – a forkball, Schmidt thought it was – for a third strike with the bases loaded and two out.

 

"I thought it was high," Schmidt said, "but it was too close to take. I froze."

 

Now, with the remnants of the crowd screaming again, Schmidt had a chance to turn this ball game – and this ballpark – upside down.

 

Joaquin Andujar, the fifth Houston pitcher, threw him three pitches out of the strike zone. Schmidt glanced at Elia, who flashed the hit sign on 3-0. Why not? If the Phillies were going to pull a 10th-inning miracle, Mike Schmidt was the guy to do it.

 

"I was really relaxed," Schmidt said. "I felt I was going to hit it out, to tell you the truth."

 

The pitch was "up and out over the plate," a pitch that Schmidt felt he could drive.

 

"I didn't want to overswing at it and pop it up," he said. "I just tried to hit it where it was pitched, and I got under it."

 

Just barely under it. The ball sailed high, and not far enough, to right.

 

"Another quarter inch and we're still playing," Schmidt said.

 

 

And Lee Elia wouldn't have had to stand in front of his locker a few minutes past midnight answering all those questions.

Morgan hobbles out of the groove

 

By Allen Lewis, Special to The Inquirer

 

The thing that made Joe Morgan rue his latest in a long line of injuries was that he had recently found his old batting groove after a long and frustrating search.

 

The second baseman of the Houston Astros, who missed Tuesday night's Championship Series opener against the Phillies at Veterans Stadium, was in the lineup for the second game last night, but he was uncertain how effective he would be because of the left knee injury he suffered in the recent series in Los Angeles.

 

"Going into Los Angeles, I was swinging the bat better than I ever had," Morgan said. "Then, in the first inning Friday night, I popped my knee. All I want to do is to be able to turn. If I can do that, I'll be all right."

 

Injuries have robbed the former Cincinnati Reds star and two-time National League Most Valuable Player of much of his skill.

 

"I've been searching for myself for the past couple of years," he said. "I developed a lot of bad habits from all those injuries."

 

Pressed for details, Morgan said, "Compensating for the bad side, my swing got about four inches too long. I studied a lot of films and finally realized what I was doing."

 

Morgan believes that the Astrodome makes a big difference for fitters, and that the Astros are better suited for their home park than power-hitting clubs.

 

"You wouldn't find those guys hitting 35 or 40 homers if they played there," he said. "Neither the Phillies, Dodgers or Reds would score as many runs in the Astrodome as we do."

 

 

Phillies coach Bobby Wine has been mentioned as a man being considered for several of the managerial vacancies in the major leagues, but he professes to know nothing about any of them.

 

"I haven't heard a word from anybody," Wine said. "I haven't applied anywhere, so I guess nobody would know if I wanted to manage or not."

 

 

Nolan Ryan isn't quite the intimidating pitcher he was in his first full major league season with the New York Mets in 1968, said Houston's Bill Virdon, his current manager.

 

"He doesn't have the hop on the ball he used to have, although his velocity is about the same," Virdon said.

 

When it was mentioned that it was a good thing for opposing batters over the years that Ryan wasn't mean, Virdon said, "He's not a mean person, but he's not afraid to throw inside."

 

 

Joe Niekro, slated to pitch the third game of this series for the Astros, is a late bloomer.

 

Not until he was well past 30 did the righthander cast off the tag of being just the brother of Atlanta Braves pitcher Phil Niekro. Now, at 35, Joe is regarded as an outstanding pitcher in his own right, a 20-game winner for the past two seasons.

 

"I'm very thankful for what has happened to me the last few years," he said.

 

As for his relationship with his brother, he said, "I was behind Phil 100 percent when he was in the playoffs in 1969, and I'm sure he's behind me the same way now. He called me in L.A. and wished me luck before the final game."

 

Joe beat the Dodgers to give the Astros the National League West title and a spot in the playoffs.

 

 

Niekro's regular catcher, Alan Ashby, uses an oversized mitt when he catches Joe's baffling knuckleball.

 

"I use a bigger glove, and I wish they would let me use one as big as that batting cage, but they' won't," Ashby said.

 

 

The Astros were in for another early-morning arrival. Unlike the Phillies, who were scheduled to leave this morning, the Astros flew home after last night's game. But they will have plenty of time to rest today.

 

"I asked who wanted to work out tomorrow," Virdon said, "and I didn't have a single volunteer."

 

The Phillies plan a workout for late this afternoon in the Astrodome.

 

 

James Michener, whose favorite ballplayer of all time was former Phillies pitcher Robin Roberts, threw out the first ball last night. The novelist has always had a keen interest in baseball, as well as in other sports.

 

 

Like Houston general manager Tal Smith, Virdon was reluctant to get into the Marty Bystrom-Nino Espinosa controversy. Virdon said he felt that the only way a player (meaning Espinosa) would tell the commissioner he couldn't play in the postseason was if "there's something wrong with him. So the thing has got to be legitimate. The decision was made by the commissioner. I'm sure he had all the facts, and we'll stand by his decision."

 

 

Pete Rose says that getting booed hurts Greg Luzinski more than it does Larry Bowa. "The booing seems to rev Bowa up," Rose said. "How much does it hurt Greg? Just as much as cheers feel good when he gets an ovation. I think it puts a little pressure on him, especially a guy who's a power hitter and is going to strike out a lot anyway. He gets up there trying to hit the ball too damn far into the seats."

 

NOTES: Steve Carlton's three strikeouts Tuesday were his low for any game this year. His previous low was four, and he only had that few twice.... Astros reliever Joe Sambito cut his hand while opening a champagne bottle Monday in Los Angeles. So Virdon says that if the Astros win the playoffs, "I'll have all the bottles opened before we get in there."... Larry Christenson will start against Niekro in Game 3. Christenson was the only Phillie to hit a home run in the Astrodome this year.

 

 

Also contributing to this story was baseball writer Jayson Stark.

Phillies come up empty

 

The Houston Astros scored four runs in the 10th inning to defeat the Phillies, 7-4, last night at Veterans Stadium and tie the National League Championship Series at one game won by each team.

 

Houston scored first when shortstop Craig Reynolds walked in the third inning and was singled home by outfielder Terry Puhl.

 

In the fourth inning, third baseman Mike Schmidt doubled for the Phils, and leftfielder Greg Luzinski drove him home with a double. Centerfielder Garry Maddox singled Luzinski home, making it 2-1 for the Phillies.

 

Houston tied it in the seventh when pitcher Nolan Ryan walked and scored on Puhl's double.

 

The Astros moved ahead, 3-2, in the eighth inning when second baseman Joe Morgan doubled and came home on a single by leftfielder Jose Cruz.

 

The Phillies tied the game, 3-3, in that inning on a single by Luzinski and single by Maddox that drove in Lonnie Smith, running for Luzinski.

 

Houston's Puhl opened the 10th with a single and scored the winning run when he was driven across the plate by a single by Cruz. Houston then added three more runs.

 

 

The Phillies added a hopeless run in the bottom of the 10th.

Royals flushed, hope flag’s in cards

 

By the Associated Press

 

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – It was a confident gang of Kansas City Royals that clamored into their clubhouse yesterday after taking a one-game advantage in the American League playoffs.

 

"That's one. that's one," various Royals shouted in the wake of their 7-2 first-game victory over the New York Yankees, a team that has defeated Kansas City in three previous AL Championship Series.

 

"It was very important, especially if we can go on and win tomorrow," said Kansas City third baseman George Brett, who homered, doubled and walked. "Today was a confidence builder. We were down 2-0 after they hit back-to-back homers, and we came back."

 

The Kansas City victory represented the first time in the four Yankees-Royals playoffs that the home team has won the opening game, and left the victors enthusiastic about taking he best-of-five series.

 

"You never can say for sure," conceded Royals first baseman Willie, Aikens, whose two-run bloop single in the third gave Kansas City a 4-2 lead. "I really feel we have a chance to win tomorrow and go to New York and win the first game there.

 

"But then you have to look at their pitching. They have (Rudy) May and (Tommy) John going, and they have a good chance of winning. But I still believe we can win tomorrow and win one of the first two games in New York."

 

For New York manager Dick Howser, it was a frustrating afternoon, as his team had baserunners in all but one inning against Kansas City's Larry Gura.

 

Three times the Yankees left runners at third, including the seventh, when Gura got an inning-ending ground ball from Reggie Jackson with men at the corners. It was the fourth time in the game that Gura retired Jackson with men on base.

 

"We had a good opportunity there, but he really did the job when he had to," said Howser. "All of our opportunities during the game seemed to come with two out, and we didn't get the key hits when we needed them."

 

"It helps the Royals and it helps me," said Gura, who was 18-10 this season but who struggled through September. "I didn't tell anybody, but I was down for awhile. I can't complain though. I only had one bad month during the season."

 

The 32-year-old lefthander surrendered consecutive home runs to Rick Cerone and Lou Piniella in the second inning, but said he felt he was in control after the fourth.

 

"I just felt if I could make it through seven innings, we had Quiz (reliever Dan Quisenberry) in the bullpen," said Gura.

 

Reminded that the home team has never before won the opening game in previous Kansas City-New York playoff clashes, today's scheduled pitcher Dennis Leonard smiled slyly and offered a prediction:

 

"That just might not be the only 'first' you see this time," Leonard said.

 

 

"You know, there's something else that's never happened – us winning. If we win the second game, I would say we've got a pretty good lock on them," Leonard said. "I'm just going to go out there and try to do that."

Royals top Yanks in AL opener, 7-2

 

By George Shirk, Inquirer Staff Writer

 

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Larry Gura, the Kansas City Royals pitcher who hadn't won a baseball game since Aug. 25, finally won another one yesterday, throwing a complete game 7-2 victory over the New York Yankees in Game 1 of the American League playoffs here.

 

It wasn't exactly a pretty performance – Gura gave up 10 hits and struggled throughout the first three innings – but his teammates matched New York's scoring run-for-run in the early going, and jumped on top for good with two runs in the third.

 

The two-run lead was all Gura needed, as he checked a Yankees scoring threat in the seventh inning and held Reggie Jackson hitless in four plate appearances.

 

The victory was Gura's fourth over New York this year without a loss, and seemed to justify Kansas City manager Jim Frey's decision to start Gura.

 

And, of course, it did wonders for Gura himself, who entered September with an 18-5 record and left at 18-10.

 

"I think people would rather see me win one in the playoffs," Gura said afterward, "than win 20."

 

If Frey's strategy now seemed wise to the Kansas City fans, though, the folks in New York must be wondering about Yankees manager Dick Howser strategy in starting Ron Guidry.

 

Guidry, who won his first five games of the year before skidding all the way into the Yankees bullpen in August, lasted just three innings against the Royals with a slider that wasn't working. He gave up four runs on five hits, four walks and a wild pitch.

 

Howser was not impressed.

 

"He was very erratic," Howser said, "even within the strike zone. He had good stuff and good velocity, but the four walks hurt."

 

Actually, both Guidry (18-10 for the season) and Gura were having problems early.

 

In the first inning, Gura gave up a leadoff double to Willie Randolph, and Bucky Dent moved him to third with a sacrifice bunt. But Bob Watson grounded out and Jackson fouled out to Willie Wilson in left, ending the threat.

 

Guidry responded by giving up a two-out double to George Brett, but designated hitter Hal McRae's long, long fly to center was caught by Bobby Brown. Gura came close to getting yanked in the second after giving up back-to-back home runs to Rick Cerone and Lou Piniella, and a double to Aurelio Rodriguez.

 

But Frey held firm in the dugout, and Gura escaped further damage by getting Brown to ground out and Randolph to fly out to Wilson.

 

"From the fourth inning on, I felt pretty good," Gura said. "I was getting my pitches where I wanted. Control is always a big factor for me. That's my game."

 

Guidry, on the other hand, escaped nothing in the third.

 

He walked U. L. Washington, and even though he picked off Washington to clear the bases, he followed by walking Brett, striking out McRae, giving up a double to Amos Otis and then intentionally walking John Wathan to get to lefthander Willie Mays Aikens.

 

Aikens promptly singled in Brett and Otis with what proved to be the winning runs.

 

"It's gotten to the point where I don't like teams walking the guys in front of me to get at me," Aikens said. "This happened three or four times during the season, and I was able to come through. This was the first or second time I've gotten base hits off Guidry."

 

When the Yankees took the field in the fourth, Guidry was gone, Ron Davis having taken his place on the mound.

 

Davis got into trouble immediately, too, giving lip a single to Frank White. White stole second after Wilson had struck out, but could only get to third on Washington's subsequent single.

 

Davis got out of the inning when Brett bounced into a double play.

 

But in the seventh, Brett drove a Davis pitch onto the sloped lawn beyond the left-center-field fence, giving Gura a three-run cushion.

 

The Royals scored twice off Tom Underwood in the eighth after Darrell Porter reached first when Bob Watson dropped Dent's throw for what would have been the third out.

 

Frank White followed with a single, and Wilson's double scored Porter and White with the last runs of the game.

 

 

NOTES: Lefthander Rudy May (15-5 this season) will pitch for New York against Royals' righthander Dennis Leonard (20-11) Brett's homer was the fifth of his playoff career and tied him for most AL playoff home runs with Jackson and Sal Bando.... The attendance of 42,598 set a Royals Stadium record.... Two Yankees turned in fine fielding plays. In the second, Piniella made a diving grab of Porter's blooper to short left; and in the sixth, Randolph went wide to his right to snare Wilson's grounder up the middle and beat the speedster to first with an off-balance throw.... The temperature at game time was 87 degrees.

Winners joyfully take 1-1 ‘advantage’ to Astrodome

 

By Bill Lyon

 

Before Houston's gut-wrenching victory in Game 2 of the National League playoffs, Astros catcher Alan Ashby was making note of one essential truth of these five-game series.

 

There is no such thing as a split of the first two games. A split is a plus for the team that plays the final three games at home.

 

Read this split as advantage Houston.

 

“This is the pivotal game," he said. "There's no in-between. Either we're down 2-0 and it looks great for them or we're tied 1-1 coming home and it looks great for us."

 

In the Astros clubhouse after the game, it looked pretty wonderful to the champs of the West.

 

"To me it feels better than a split," said Dave Smith, one of the four relief pitchers manager Bill Virdon used to escape from the final four innings when the Phillies, recalling debacles of years past, stranded 10 men on base, most of whom had reached scoring position with less than two outs. “We're going back home to Houston. And you can look at our record in the Dome. I think you'll find it's pretty good."

 

How does 55 wins and 26 losses sound?

 

Smith was the second of the four relievers, the one who got Mike Schmidt on a called third strike with the bases loaded in the seventh, who got Bob Boone and Del Unser with two on and one out in the eighth.

 

"I got Schmidt with a changeup forkball," he said. "I got Boone on a changeup, too. That time, I was really looking for a strikeout. And I guess he was looking for hard stuff. And I won."

 

Joe Morgan, the one Astro who has been through many a postseason series, seemed more subdued than his teammates in the glee of the Houston clubhouse, as if he understood all too well that there is much baseball left to be played. But he was happy, to be sure.

 

"I can't say enough about our relief pitchers, they way they battled out there," Morgan said. "To come in and strike guys out when all they needed was a fly ball, that's something special. It takes a lot of character, a lot of guts. This team's a lot better than people give them credit for being."

 

The key Astros hits in this long and agonizing night came from Terry Puhl, who knocked in the first two runs, the ones that kept the Astros in the game before the late-inning dramatics, and Jose Cruz, who knocked in runs three and four with singles in the eighth and the tenth.

 

And it was Puhl, the rightfielder from the Canadian prairies, who fielded the ball that may live for years in Phillies history – like Manny Mota's double off the wall three Octobers ago – the looping single off the bat of Lonnie Smith.

 

It was the bottom of the ninth. Bake McBride on second, Mike Schmidt on first. One out. Smith had fouled off six pitches after the count had run full. And then he inside-outed the ball to right, Puhl's territory.

 

"At first, I thought I might catch it," Puhl said. "I came in as if to make the catch. But as I got closer, after the first two steps, I knew it was a base hit, and that it was going to short hop in front of me. I knew it was a hit for sure then. I couldn't lay back for the big bounce, because then McBride scores for sure. So I had to gamble. Fortunately, it didn't take a crazy bounce. I almost smothered it. And I came up throwing.

 

"Was I surprised he didn't try to score. Well, he was in a tough position. He had to watch to make sure it dropped. But I knew pretty early it was a base hit.

 

"I am a very happy man, right now, I can tell you that. We had to win this one. We couldn't go back 0-2. Then they'd only have to win one in the Dome. Now they have, to win two. That's tough, believe me."

 

 

What he was saying, what they were all saying, was that the score in games may be 1-1. But this was no split. It is advantage Houston.

With DH rule… a different story?

 

By Allen Lewis, Special to The Inquirer

 

The designated-hitter debate raised its head again last night as the Houston Astros defeated the Phillies, 7-4, in 10 innings at Veterans Stadium to square the National League's Championship Series at one game apiece.

 

Houston manager Bill Virdon's Astros were trailing by a run with two out in the seventh inning and starting pitcher Nolan Ryan was the scheduled hitter.

 

If this had been an American League contest with its designated-hitter rule, there would have been no decision for Virdon to make. But this was a National League affair where pitchers take their turns at the plate unless removed for pinch-hitters.

 

There had to be a goodly number in the crowd of 65,476 who must have wondered at the wisdom of Virdon's judgment when Ryan walked to the plate with a bat.

 

Ryan is hardly in the same class as a hitting pitcher with teammates Joe Niekro and Ken Forsch, who compiled respectable .272 and .234 batting averages during the regular season. In contrast, Ryan had an anemic .086 mark in his first season with the Astros after eight years with the California Angels for whom he almost never swung a bat in earnest because of the gimmick adopted by the junior circuit in an attempt to hype attendance.

 

The Astros were down to their last seven very precious outs, but Virdon made no move.

 

In the final analysis, the apparent gamble may well have been the thing that turned the game in Houston's favor. Phillies starting pitcher Dick Ruthven threw three straight pitches out of the strike zone and, after two strikes, hurled the fourth ball that put the pitcher on base with the fifth and final walk the Phillies righthander gave up.

 

When Terry Puhl followed with a double to right, Ryan scored, the game was tied at 2-2, and that unexpected run probably prevented the Phillies from winning the game in regulation time, 3-2.

 

It was reminiscent of the 1968 World Series game in Detroit when Tigers manager Mayo Smith allowed pitcher Mickey Lolich to bat in the seventh inning although his team was trailing by a run. Lolich blooped a single to right, eventually scored, and the Tigers went on to win both the game and the series.

 

The run that Ryan scored in this one did more than tie the score. It also resulted in Ruthven being lifted in the home half of the inning when Larry Bowa singled to right, Bob Boone bunted for a single and Greg Gross batted for the pitcher and sacrificed. Although they subsequently loaded the bases, the Phillies failed to score just as they failed to score in the ninth inning, and they lost a game they should have won.

 

Even though the Phillies failed to take the lead, lefthander Tug McGraw, their best relief pitcher, came in, gave up a run and left for a pinch-hitter in the home eighth after the Phillies tied the score.

 

Had Ryan been retired, Ruthven might have gone the route, or McGraw might not have had to come in until he needed to get only an out or two to protect a lead.

 

 

As managers have been saying since the days of Harry Wright, through John McGraw, Connie Mack and Casey Stengel, the best move you make may often be no move. It certainly worked out that way in Houston's favor last night, and the Phillies now have a difficult task trying to take two of three games to win this series in the Astrodome.