A summary of the first four games of the National League Championship Series, included in the package that covered Game Five. The 1980 NLCS was one of the strangest, but best, playoff series in baseball history. Three of the first four games (and four of the five total games) went extra innings, and there were plenty of plays that acted as turining points to a series that was in doubt all the way to the last pitch.
|From The October
13, 1980 edition of The Philadelphia Inquirer:
Zany Playoffs Far From A World Serious
By Jayson Stark, Inquirer Staff Writer
HOUSTON- There have been some Phillies playoff series that even Philadelphians wouldn't want to remember. This year, though, there has been one the whole country might not be able to forget.
The Phillies and Astros have done things this week that nobody has ever seen in October before.
• They have played the longest game in playoff history. Twice.
• They staged a 20-minute rhubarb over a ball that traveled 50 feet. And the rhubarb was so weird that three umpires all disagreed on how many outs the play had produced, both teams protested the game over it and Mike Schmidt wound up arguing with the president of the National League himself.
• They have played three extra-inning games (four with Game Five), and not even a World Series ever had three extra-inning games.
• They had one game where the big play was a runner stopping at third instead of scoring. They had another game where the big play was a guy being called out at third after he already had scored.
• They have turned the sacrifice fly into the least routine play in baseball.
Already there have been two sacrifice fly/ double plays. There was another sacrifice fly that was turned into a double play because the run was disallowed.
There was a third sacrifice fly that turned into a controversy because Dallas Green didn't put a different guy out there to catch it. And then there were all the runs the Phillies didn't score because they couldn't hit a sacrifice fly in the first place.
• The Phillies got what looked like a game-winning hit in one game and got a shutout from a starting pitcher the next. And they didn't win either game.
• In three of the first four games, the team that won was trailing as late as the sixth inning. In the fourth, the team that won never led until the last play of the game.
It has, to be sure, been a wild, memorable, classic playoff series. It has been one that could make a baseball fan out of an armadillo.
"You could write a book about this, and it would be in the top 10 bestsellers in two weeks," said Schmidt after Game 4.
He could have been talking about the entire series. Here is a recap of the whole crazy week:
GAME 1: Phillies 3, Astros 1. The Phillies and Steve Carlton trail, 1-0, after five. But Greg Luzinski bombs his most dramatic home run since Opening Day in the sixth to put them ahead, 2-1. Greg Gross singles in the insurance run in the seventh. Tug McGraw saves it with two shutout innings.
GAME 2: Astros 7, Phillies 4 (10 innings). Dick Ruthven is beating Nolan Ryan, 2-1, in the seventh. But Astros manager Bill Virdon surprisingly lets Ryan bat with two outs, nobody on. Ruthven walks him, and Terry Puhl doubles him in to tie it. Each team scores in the eighth. Then the Phillies put two men on in the ninth.
Lonnie Smith battles Frank LaCorte for 12 pitches. Finally, he loops one into short-right. Bake McBride breaks from second, is nearly at third but turns to watch the play and can't score. The Astros win it with four in the 10th.
The next day the headline in one paper is, "Why Did Bake Stop?" But third-base coach Lee Elia takes all the heat. "I screwed up," he says. "The ball's caught, he wouldn't have had a chance to get back anyway. I should have sent him...."
GAME 3: Astros 1, Phillies 0 (11 innings). The longest scoreless tie in playoff history. The Phillies leave 11 more runners on and get another thrown out at the plate. They get six shutout innings from Larry Christenson and four more from Dickie Noles and McGraw, and that is not enough, because Joe Niekro matches that himself.
Garry Maddox makes a great catch to save the game in the eighth. Schmidt and Rose make two great plays on the same ball to save it another time. They turn two critical double plays. They still lose in the 11th, because McGraw gives up a leadoff triple to Joe Morgan and Luzinski's throw is 60 feet up the line after Denny Walling's sacrifice fly.
GAME 4: Phillies 5, Astros 3 (10 innings). One of the strangest but greatest postseason games ever played. The Phillies protest because Maddox' fourth-inning looper in front of the mound is ruled a double play. The Astros protest because it isn't ruled a triple play.
The 20-minute delay unnerves Carlton. He gives up two runs, is gone after 5-1/3 innings and the game is played in kind of a hazy fog for a long time. But the Astros lose their third run when Gary Woods is called out for leaving third base too soon on a sacrifice fly. The Phillies get out of two bases-loaded jams in a row. Then they come back to score three in the eighth. Jeff Leonard appears to trap Manny Trillo's liner to right, but that one is ruled a catch and a double play, too.
Then the Astros tie it in the eighth, and the Phillies have to do it all over again. But Rose singles, Luzinski comes off the bench to double and Rose bowls over the catcher to score the winning run.
"This baseball game doesn't approach any other baseball game I've ever seen or played in," McGraw said. "It was more dramatic, more exciting, more critical than any baseball game I've ever been a part of."