Wilmington Morning News - October 9, 1980

Astros rally past Phillies 7-4 in 10th


By Rod Beaton, Staff Correspondent


PHILADELPHIA – The Houston Astros erupted for four runs in the 10th inning against Phillies relievers Ron Reed and Kevin Saucier to earn a 7-4 victory last night in Game 2 of the National League Championship Series at Veterans Stadium.


The Astros' victory tied the best-of-five series for the NL pennant at one game apiece. The teams move to Houston for the balance of the series. Game 3 is scheduled for 3 p.m. (EST) tomorrow at the Astrodome.


In the American League playoff opener yesterday, Kansas City clubbed the New York Yankees 7-2 behind winning pitcher Larry Gura.


The Phillies had numerous chances to defeat the Astros, but they squandered bases-loaded, one-out situations in the seventh and ninth innings of a game tied at 2 in the seventh and 3 in the eighth.


Starters Nolan Ryan of Houston and Dick Ruthven matched arms in a pitching duel through six innings, with the Phils enjoying a 2-1 lead on Greg Luzinski's run-scoring double and Garry Maddox' RBI single in the fourth.


The Astros tied in the seventh on Terry Puhl's RBI double off Ruthven.


It was tied again in the eighth, the Astros went ahead against reliever Tug McGraw on Jose Cruz' single and the Phils retaliated on a hit by Maddox against Dave Smith, Houston's second reliever.


But after the Phils failed to capitalize in the ninth when Manny Trillo struck out and Maddox fouled out with the potential winning run on third, the Astros cashed in.


The key blow was a two-run triple by Dave Bergman against Kevin Saucier.

Astros rally to stun Phils in 10th


By Ray Finocchiaro, Staff Correspondent


PHILADELPHIA – The Houston Astros, counted out by everybody but themselves, scored four times in the 10th for a 7-4 victory over the Phillies last night, squaring the National League playoffs at a game apiece.


The best-of-five series now shifts to Houston for Game Three tomorrow afternoon.


"Obviously this was a pivotal game for us," said Astro catcher Alan Ashby, who handled starter Nolan Ryan and the Houston bullpen aces with skill. "We're going back home where our fans won't boo us."


The 65,476 Veterans Stadium fans – the most ever to see a game here – weren't as tolerant, particularly since the Phillies blew a golden opportunity to take a 2-0 lead into Houston today when they left the bases loaded in the ninth – and stranded 10 baserunners in the last four innings.


Ron Reed was the loser, being charged with all four runs in the 10th. Singles by Terry Puhl and Jose Cruz, wrapped around an intentional walk to Joe Morgan, set the stage and Dave Bergmann's triple brought down the final curtain on any hopes of a Phillie sweep.


"A split here was an accomplishment," said Houston Manager Bill Virdon. "Now we only have to win two of three at home. But you're never in the driver's seat when you play a good major-league club, and Philadelphia's a good ball club. We've still got our work cut out for us."


Phils Manager Dallas Green agreed.


"We were in the same position in Montreal," he said, dourly. "We didn't do bad up there. I don't feel too bad about it."


What did bother Green was stranding 14 baserunners.


"You're always concerned with guys not scoring," said Green. "We had chances to win the game. We didn't do it. We'll get 'em down there and go from there. I just felt we'd win the game. We didn't. It's that simple."


The Houston players didn't want to crow about the victory, giving the Astros a 10-7 record in extra innings, but the pride was obviously there.


"We had Steve Carlton on the ropes last night and couldn't do it," said Puhl, "so we had to win this one. Going to the Dome having to win two games is a lot different (for the Phillies) than having to win just one."


Frank LaCorte, the third part of Houston's bullpen trinity, was the winner, with erstwhile starter Joaquin Andujar picking up the save.


LaCorte came out to face the Phils in the ninth and ran into one-out trouble when Bake McBride, hitless in his last seven at-bats, singled to right and Mike Schmidt singled to center.


Lonnie Smith, who came in earlier as a pinch-runner for Greg Luzinski, battled LaCorte to a full count, then fouled off six pitches before slicing a single to right to load the bases. McBride, fearful that Smith's liner might be caught, hesitated going around third and had to hold up.


"We were playing him to right," said Puhl, who charged the ball quickly but had no chance of catching it. "At first I thought I had a shot at it, but I didn't want to play it on the long bounce or else McBride would score. If I keep charging it, he can't score."


As everybody noticed.


"That's a difficult decision for a baserunner with one man out," said Green. "He doesn't want to end the inning but he does want to score the run. It's the baserunner's judgement. Bake went halfway and hesitated. When he got to third base, we held him."


The Astros pulled the infield and outfield up, but LaCorte struck out Manny Trillo with a steady diet of fastballs to see a way out of sudden disaster.


And Garry Maddox, who'd driven home the tying run in the eighth, provided the Astro escape route when he fouled out to first.


"It was hard to see which team didn't have the playoff experience," said Joe Morgan, citing a familiar knock against the Astros. "Joe Sambito came in to strike out McBride (in the seventh) and then LaCorte strikes out Trillo. This is the most underrated team I've ever seen and before this is over, you guys will agree with me."


An earlier Phillies' threat had fizzled in the seventh when the Phillies KO'd Nolan Ryan.


Larry Bowa got the inning started with a line single to right. Bob Boone laid down a bunt toward the mound that Ryan let roll under his glove for a single. Greg Gross, batting for Dick Ruthven, sacrificed the runners to second and third.


Virdon decided eight hits were enough for Ryan and pulled his million-dollar fireballer and sent in another hard-thrower in left-handed reliever Sambito.


Sambito's immediate task, how ever, was to intentionally walk Rose, who was hitting .667 in these playoffs and had reached base his first three times up last night. The walk to Rose loaded the bases and brought up McBride. McBride, batting a respectable .276 vs. left-handers, chased an outside pitch to strike out.


"Nobody's taking us very seriously," Sambito said. "All I've read is how the Phillies took us lightly. Nobody even says this series will go five games. Well, that stuff doesn't affect us."


Virdon quickly yanked Sambito, who'd done his job, and brought in rookie Dave Smith to face MVP candidate Schmidt, who'd doubled off Ryan in the fourth.


But Schmidt looked at a third strike and the ecstatic Smith went down the Astro dugout, slapping palms as the Phillies took the field and Schmidt stood at the plate, still not believing he'd struck out.


Green brought in Tug McGraw to pitch the Astro eighth and McGraw's no-run magic ran into somebody who'd seen the trick.


Morgan doubled to the right field wall and Jose Cruz singled past the glove of diving second baseman Trillo to score Morgan with the tie-breaking run.


But Tug quickly settled into his groove, coaxing Cesar Cedeno to hit into a nifty double play that featured Trillo's quick release, then ended Art Howe's night with a grounder to second.


Smith, whom the Astros are touting for rookie-of-the-year honors, wasn't slapping anything but his hip in frustration in the eighth when the Phillies tied the score.


Luzinski hit Smith's first pitch to left for a single, then left for pinch-runner Lonnie Smith. Trillo moved Lonnie Smith into scoring position with a perfect bunt and Maddox got him home with a single to center. Lonnie's speed paid off as he slid under Cedeno's throw.


EXTRA INNINGS – Trillo tied a playoff record with seven assists... The 3-hour, 34-minute marathon is the longest in playoff history... Ruthven was 3-1 with a 1.40 ERA vs. Houston this season, while Ryan was 1-2, 2.88… Ryan struck out exactly 200 batters this season, hitting that plateau for the fifth straight season... The Phils travel to Houston today where they'll work out at 4 p.m. in the Astrodome.

Phils didn’t deliver the KO punch


By Hal Bodley, Sports Editor


PHILADELPHIA – For the Phillies, it was an exercise in futility. For the Houston Astros, it was a fitting example of what clever managing and outstanding relief pitching can accomplish.


Houston stunned the Phillies 7-4 in 10 innings to square the National League playoffs at a game apiece last night, but it was a game the Astros had no business winning.


The Phillies are playing in their fourth best-of-five championship series in five years and if they fail this time, their deprived fans will look back to last night's numbing loss.


The Phils, who now must win two of three in the Astrodome, out-hit Houston 14-8 and stranded 10 runners in the last four innings.


Overall, they stranded 14 on the cool night at Veterans Stadium.


The seventh and ninth innings may be remembered for a long, long time. In each instance, the Phils loaded the bases with one out, but did not score.


The ninth, however, was the most excruciating. A clutch single by Garry Maddox in the eighth pulled the Phils even at 3-3 and sent electricity through the crowd of 65,476.


With one down in the ninth, Bake McBride and Mike Schmidt singled against Frank LaCorte to give the Phillies runners on first and second.


Up came Lonnie Smith. The rookie outfielder hit a flare to right that Terry Puhl short-hopped. McBride, who had to wait to see if Puhl would catch the ball, did not try to score, stopping at third instead.


That it was not going to be the Phils' night probably was evident right there, three consecutive singles and no runs. But with the bases loaded and one out, Manny Trillo came up. He fouled the first pitch back, then took an inside pitch. He fouled off the next pitch and fanned on LaCorte's 1- 2 delivery. Garry Maddox, who had driven in two runs, fouled out to the first baseman and the inning was over.


In the 10th, the Astros exploded against ineffective relievers Ron Reed and Kevin Saucier and the Phils were out of it. In the Phils' half of the 10th, a murmur of hope swept through those remaining in the stands. After the fourth run scored, Mike Schmidt represented the tying run with two teammates aboard, but he lofted a 3-0 Joaquin Andujar pitch to right field and it was over.


"I was really impressed the way our team handled the pressure tonight," said Houston second baseman Joe Morgan, a veteran in playoffs from his Cincinnati days. "We didn't act like a team that is getting its first taste of playoffs. That ninth inning was a good example. If they bad won this one, they would have only needed one in the Dome. Now, they need two and we really are tough there."


The bottom line last night for the Phillies centered around McBride. He fanned in the seventh with the bases loaded and the game knotted 2- 2. And then in the ninth, he did not score on Lonnie Smith's single.


Shouldn't McBride have come around on the hit?


"That's a difficult situation for a runner with one man out," said Phils' Manager Dallas Green. "He doesn't want to end the inning, but he does want to score the run. In that situation, it's the base runner's judgment. Bake went halfway and hesitated. When he got to third, we held him up."


Did he do the right thing?


"You'll have to ask Bake that," said Green. "It's entirely up to the base runner. It's one of the most difficult things for a runner to do."


An indecisive signal by third-base coach Lee Elia did not help, but still McBride hesitated between second and third.


"I had to wait and see if the ball was going to be caught," said McBride. "It was difficult to tell the way he came in on it."


"At first, I thought I would be able to get to it," said Puhl, who had a doubled and two singles. "When I realized I wasn't going to get there, I thought I could short-hop it and keep McBride from scoring."


"There was a little delay on McBride's part," said Elia, "but it was no fault of Bake McBride's. My hand's went up as if to say 'stop' and at the same time I was yelling Come on.' He saw my hands go up and stopped.


"I guess it's putting a lot of pressure on myself, but inside, I think that had I really had him going hard, he would have scored. Unfortunately for the ball club and myself, it was a reflex action on my part. For some reason, the fact we only had one out kept sticking in my mind. I wanted that one run badly and through we could still get it. In retrospect, that's probably why I held him."


Elia admitted Puhl faked him into thinking he would catch the ball.


"My first reaction was he would get it," said Elia. "I know, if he had, he probably would've doubled Bake off second. That's the thing I guess that gnaws at me the most right now. Had I waved him in, he'd probably scored. Yeah, he would have scored."


"Bake normally scores on that play, but for some reason he got held tonight," said a dejected Larry Bowa.


Elia, however, had nothing to do with what happened in the seventh.


After starter Nolan Ryan gave up singles to Bowa and Bob Boone and they were advanced by Greg Gross' sacrifice, Houston Manager Bill Virdon called on left-handed reliever Joe Sambito. He walked Pete Rose intentionally to load the bases, then struck out the left-handed McBride. Now, Virdon summoned right-hander Dave Smith who got the dangerous Mike Schmidt looking at a third strike.


"Pressure just doesn't bother this team," Morgan was repeating. "This is the most under-rated team in baseball. When this is all over, I think everyone will be agreeing with me."


Last night, everyone was.

Bullpen makes Virdon a genius


By Rod Beaton, Staff Correspondent


PHILADELPHIA – If the Houston Astros win the National League pennant, Manager Bill Virdon will be glad to tip his cap to the Astrodome crowd. But he'll never, ever, tip his hand.


Even after Virdon's machinations culminated in a nail-biting 7-4 victory last night over the Phillies in Game 2 of the championship series, he wasn't gloating and he steadfastly refused to reveal the whys and wherefores of the moves he made to come out ahead when the Phillies time and time again had his club on the brink.


"As far as moves go, you do what you can," said the tight-lipped Virdon, as expansive on baseball strategy as Steve Carlton.


What Virdon did was parade a series of four relievers at the Phillies. The strong-arm tactics of Joe Sambito, Dave Smith, Frank LaCorte and Joaquin Andujar overmatched the ineffective work turned in by Tug McGraw, scored upon for the first time in a month, Ron Reed and Kevin Saucier.


"The pitchers, I thought, were excellent," he said. "LaCorte (who got the win) did a good job. He just started pressing a little at the end, trying to throw perfect strikes."


LaCorte had reason to be gun shy, having been the victim of Ron Cey's game-winning home run in the third game of the Los Angeles sweep that preceded the Astros Western Division playoff victory.


But this time out he put the Phillies under the gun, although he needed help from Andujar to set down an abortive Phils attempt to counter the Astros' four-run 10th.


The game got that far because Virdon – and his staff – kept coming up winners.


It started in the seventh, when Astros starter Nolan Ryan faltered with the game tied at 2. Virdon's wheels were spinning and the Phils were left spinning their wheels.


With runners on second and third, one out, hs summoned left-handed, hard-thrower Joe Sambito to face Bake McBride after a cursory intentional pass to Pete Rose.


"I figured Sambito to face McBride," said Virdon, who was rewarded with a quick strikeout. "If they pinch hit for McBride (likely Keith Moreland, possibly Lonnie Smith), we have a good chance at a double play.


"But no way would I want Sambito to pitch to Schmidt."


So he called on another fastballer, right-handed Dave Smith to deal with the Phils' third baseman's right-side power. Another strikeout.


He batted for Smith in the ninth, one move that failed him. But Smith's successor, LaCorte, did not.


Virdon stayed with him through a precarious ninth, watching and, he said, "praying," while the Phils tried to prey on his reliever.


But for the second time in three innings, Philadelphia squandered a bases-loaded, one-out situation and the Astros wriggled free.


This time Virdon didn't use his hook, and they got off one.

Bystrom won’t feel the pressure


By Rod Beaton, Staff Correspondent


PHILADELPHIA – His hair is auburn, a big clump of it, Oscar Gamble-sized, perched on top of his 6-foot-5 frame. His style is right out of "The Dukes of Hazzard."


No question about it, in the pattern of teammate Dickie Noles, Marty Bystrom is a good ol' boy – except on the mound.


Phillies Manager Dallas Green has lauded Warren Brusstar's "gunfighter's eyes." But Bystrom's approach is closer still to a bad man from a spaghetti western. He came out of the prairie, Oklahoma City actually, and preceded to gun down five teams without a trace of remorse.


He won't tolerate anyone messing with the kid, either. He knows he has a winning formula and he's not into changing.


"I've always had the mechanics right," said Bystrom yesterday. "(Pitching coach Herm) Starrette, he hasn't talked to me at all. Neither did Cot Deal when I was at Oklahoma City.


"Why should they? Why change when I'm going good?”


Steve Carlton should go so good. Since his call-up Sept. 1 from an injury-filled season at Oklahoma City (Triple A), all the big right-hander has done is go 5-0 with a 1.50 earned run average, 21 strikeouts opposed to just nine walks and only 26 hits in 36 innings. He was justifiably the National League pitcher of the month in September and the Phillies' Marty-on-the-spot.


He'll be on the spot Saturday afternoon at 4:15 (EST) when he takes the mound under the Dome to face the lefty-laden Astro lineup.


He could be facing Miami Killian High, his alma mater, for all the anxiety he's showing.


"I'll just pitch," he said, succinctly. "I don't let anything bother me."


He doesn't mind seeing lineups tilting to the port side. The thought of wrestling with an unfamiliar lineup in a pennant-clinching situation doesn't faze him, either.


"All the games I've pitched, I've never seen the team before," said the 22-year-old, whose path to five starts was eased by a two-inning debut in relief against the Dodgers.


"We didn't go over the batters. I just relied on whoever was catching. They hadn't seen me either."


What everyone saw was a three-pitch repertoire, standard stuff, fastball, curve and slider. The control, the crisp bite in the breaking pitches and velocity of the hard stuff were uncommon.


"I'm a little tougher on right-handers, the way the ball moves in, he said, “but I can be tough on lefties. I have to throw my breaking ball away from them for strikes.


"I can handle left-handers. In Triple A they had eight of them in the lineup against me some times. I faced plenty of teams with six or seven left-handers."


And he saw staggered arrays of platooned major-league talent, too. No problem.


"Against the Cards, my second start, they had seven left-handers in the lineup. I went seven innings without giving up a run.


He still could be deprived of the opportunity to beat Houston. He's penciled in Saturday ONLY if the Phils lead the series two-games-to-one. If they trail by that margin, Carlton gets the nod.


He's a great deal better off than it appeared he'd be.


Bystrom was called up as one of the players the Phils added when the rosters expand to 40 players. Accordingly, he could not be eligible for post-season play unless another pitcher was struck by injury.


Nino Espinosa wasn't exactly "struck down," but the Phils managed to get the National League's permission to sub Bystrom for him because of the "chronic bursitis" in Espinosa's shoulder.


The Machiavellian scheme was fine with Bystrom, it got him into the playoffs, but he gracefully chose not to discuss it.


He wasn't too eager to recall his second season in Oklahoma City, a lost year until the September call.


"I pulled my hamstring in the spring," he said. "In fact I pulled it three times in the season.


"I never had problems with injuries before. It was hard at first. They didn't rush me. But it turned out for the best.


Bystrom has never had problems in the bigs before. If he suddenly confronts them in the Astrodome, with a capacity crowd yelling as only delirious Texans can, will he cope?


"I just have to wait until I get on the mound and see how tough it is and how tough they (The Astros) are," he said.