Posts Tagged ‘Larry Christenson’

The 1980 NLCS: All the Marbles

October 29, 2015

With the NLCS tied at two games each, Philadelphia and Houston squared off in the Astrodome for game five of the 1980 series. The winner went on to the World Series, the loser went home. For both teams winning would be a unique experience. Houston had never been to a World Series and Philadelphia hadn’t been to one since 1950.

Del Unser

Del Unser

Game 5, 12 October

To send the Astros to the World Series, Houston put Hall of Famer Nolan Ryan on the mound. Philly countered with rookie Marty Bystrom, who hadn’t pitched in the NLCS and was 5-0 in six total Major League games. At the beginning it looked like a bad choice. Astros lead off man Terry Puhl singled to start the bottom of the first, stole second, and came home on a Jose Cruz double. That put Houston up 1-0. But it didn’t hold up for even one inning. In the top of the second a single and walk put Manny Trillo on second and Garry Maddox on first. A ground out moved both up one base with two outs. Phils catcher Bob Boone singled off Ryan to plate both runs and put Philadelphia up 2-1.

That held up through the top of the sixth as Bystrom matched shutout inning for shutout inning with Ryan. In the bottom of the sixth, Denny Walling lofted a fly to left that Greg Luzinski misplayed into two bases for Walling. Then an Alan Ashby single tied up the game 2-2. In the bottom of the seventh Houston exploded for three runs as Puhl singled, came home on a Walling single after Cruz walked. A wild pitch by Phils reliever Larry Christenson brought Cruz home. Art Howe then tripled to score Walling.

But this was game five in 1980 and, well, it wasn’t extra innings yet, so Philadelphia came back in the top of the eighth. Three consecutive singles loaded the bases for Pete Rose. He coaxed a walk out of Ryan to make the score 5-3. A Keith Moreland ground out scored the second run. A single by Del Unser, playing right after pinch hitting earlier, and a triple by Trillo gave the Phils a 7-5 lead with six outs to go. They got two. Singles by Craig Reynolds and Puhl put runners on first and third and back-to-back singles tied the game at 7-7.

Philly got a  man as far as third in the top of the ninth but failed to score. Houston went in order in the bottom of the ninth and for the fourth game in a row, and four of five, the NLCS went into extra innings. With one out, Unser doubled. An out later, Maddox doubled plating Unser with the go ahead run. With Dick Ruthven now on the mound, a popup, a liner, and a long fly to center finished off Houston 8-7 and sent Philadelphia to the World Series, where they defeated Kansas City four games to two. Trillo was chosen NLCS MVP.

It was a great series of games, with four of five going into extra innings. Philly outhit Houston .289 to .233, but scored only one more run (20-19).  There was a major difference in the two team’s walks and strikeouts. Philly struck out 37 times and walked 13, while Houston struck out 19 times and walked 31. Greg Luzinski had the only homer for either team (in game 1) but Houston had five triples. Houston had a team ERA of 3.49, just slightly more than Philadelphia’s 3.28, while Philly pitching gave up 40 hits to the Astros’ 55.

Individually Manny Trillo led Philly hitters (players who appeared in all 5 games) by hitting .381 and racking up eight hits. Luzinski and Trillo both had four RBIs while Luzinski and Rose each scored three runs. Steve Carlton’s eight walks led both teams, while Nolan Ryan’s 14 strikeouts easily outpaced everyone else (of course it did).  Tug McGraw picked up two saves (and took a loss) and Dick Ruthven’s 2.00 ERA led Philadelphia starters with five or more innings pitched. Joe Niekro’s 0.00 ERA over 10 innings led all starters.

For a long time now, I’ve said that the 1991 World Series was the best I ever saw. But I’m not sure that for drama, emotion, and utter excitement that the 1980 NLCS wasn’t its equal.

The 1980 NLCS: Games 3 & 4

October 27, 2015

The Astrodome hosted the third and fourth games of the 1980 NLCS. Houston was neither a hotbed for baseball nor noted for quality sports teams in general. The Astros had been around since the 1960s but were not noted for their winning ways. they had three chances to change that.

Denny Walling

Denny Walling

Game 3, 10 October

For game three, the Astros started Joe Niekro. He faced Phillies starter Larry Christenson.  Christenson started only 14 games in 1980, but was 5-1 with a decent walk to strikeout ratio. Both men were excellent. Through six innings no one scored and nobody got beyond second base. Christianson gave up only three hits and Niekro was equally good. In the seventh, the Phils pinch hit for Christianson and brought in Dickie Noles to replace him. Essentially nothing changed. Noles gave up one hit in one and a third inning and Niekro kept chugging along. By the tenth inning there was still no score, Tug McGraw replaced Noles, Niekro kept pitching, and still no one had reached third. In the eleventh, Niekro finally yielded the mound to Dave Smith. Smith allowed a hit and intentionally walked Larry Bowa, but Philadelphia failed to score. Joe Morgan led off the bottom of the 11th with a triple and finally a baserunner reached third. A pair of intentional walks loaded the bases and set up the force play everywhere. Denny Walling, who’d started at first and moved to right field later in the game, came up with no outs. He lofted a long fly to left that scored the first run of the game. It gave Houston a 1-0 victory and a 2-1 lead in games. For the game the Phillies pitchers gave up only six hits, but walked eight (several of them of the intentional variety). Houston allowed seven hits and only two walks. It was an excellent pitching duel that left Houston one win from the World Series.

Manny Trillo

Manny Trillo

Game 4, 11 October

Down two games to one, Philadelphia brought back ace Steve Carlton in hopes of setting up a game five showdown. Houston countered with 12 game winner Vern Ruhle. The two teams traded zeroes until the bottom of the fourth when Enos Cabell led off with a double and went to third on a groundout. A walk put runners at first and third. Art Howe hit a long sacrifice fly to left that scored Cabell and provided the game’s initial run. A triple and single in the bottom of the fifth put the Astros up 2-0.

The Phillies finally broke through in the eighth when consecutive singles put men on first and second. Pete Rose drove in the first Philadelphia run with another single, both runners advancing on the throw to the plate. An infield single scored the second run to tie the score and put Rose on third. A Manny Trillo fly brought Rose home with the go ahead run. Philly was now six outs from tying up the NLCS. They got three. A leadoff walk in the bottom of the ninth put the tying run on base. A ground out and a Terry Puhl single tied the game at 3-3 and for the third straight time the game went into extra innings.

With one out in the top of the tenth, Rose singled. After a second out, Greg Luzinski doubled plating Rose and Trillo followed with another double that scored Luzinski. Now up 5-3, Philadelphia brought in Tug McGraw to close the game. A strikeout and two fly balls accomplished the goal and the Phillies had tied up the NLCS at two games each. A deciding game five the next day would determine who went to the World Series.

Although it did not lead to any runs, the top of the fourth gave the 1980 NLCS its most memorable play. With runners on first and second and no one out, Garry Maddox hit a soft sinking liner to pitcher Ruhle. Ruhle claimed he caught it, then threw to first to double off the runner (Manny Trillo). The first base umpire ruled McBride out but home plate umpire (and Hall of Famer) Doug Harvey said Ruhle didn’t catch the ball. Without calling time, the Phillies manager Dallas Green came onto the field. While he was starting to argue the call, Art Howe, Houston first baseman and current possessor of the ball, raced down to second and tagged the bag, arguing that the runner on second, Bake McBride who was currently standing on third without having returned to second, was out. The second base umpire agreed and called McBride out (making it a triple play). The problem was that the umpiring crew couldn’t agree on whether Ruhle caught the ball or not. After a 20 minute argument and consultation the umps ruled a double play and allowed McBride to return to second with both Maddox and Trillo out. Umpire Harvey ruled that his call of no catch “put the runner (McBride) in jeopardy and he advanced on my call,” an erroneous call. No one was quite sure what happened most people argued there was either one or three outs, but not two. The ruling stood and McBride went back to second with two outs. Larry Bowa then grounded out to finish a totally bizarre half inning.