So there will be no fifth-game drama between the New York Yankees and Kansas City Royals this American League playoff. With the two best pitchers at their specialty performing as expected and two swings by relative spear carriers, the Yankees won the pennant last night, 2-1.
Graig Nettles and Roy White hit home runs after Ron Guidry allowed a first-inning run - and Goose Goosage retired the final three Kansas City batters to lift the Yanks into the World Series for the third straight year. The series opens in Los Angeles Tuesday night.
Dennis Leonard pitched as well or better than Guidry, but watched two mistakes - to Nettles in the second and to White in the sixth - sail into the right field stands. And the Guidry Gossage combination simply was not going to allow this series past game four.
Guidry trotted to the mound for the Kansas City ninth - and the Yankee Stadium announcer reminded the crowd on 56,356 that anyone dashing onto the field would be arrested.
It seemed a premature message, because leadoff hitter Amos Otis smacked Guidry's first pitch off the left field fence for a double. Manager Bob Lemon took no chances. His ears ringing with boos he replaced the best pitcher in baseball in the regular season with the arguably best best relief pitcher in baseball.
Fourteen puffs of smoke later the Royals were runners-up for the third straight year. One pinch hitter struck out, another flied to left and Darrell Porter popped to center.
Yankee Stadium burst loose. Several dozen guards watched helplessly as several thousand fans sailed past them and onto the field. Perhaps not, too surprisingly, their first thoughts were not the Los Angeles Dodgers in the World Series.
The first chant was directed toward the Boston Red Sox, who the Yankees caught with a comeback as special as any in baseball history and passed with a playoff victory Monday.
Kansas City will be kicking itself not for last night, because Guidry figured to win, but for a first-game loss at home and Friday's squandered chance against Catfish Hunter.
The third time around and I'll still be seeing the World Series in street clothes," said Royal Manager Whitey Herzog. "This is about the 76th time we've played since I've been here - and I think they're two up on us now.
"We're basically even clubs (although) we had a better club last year and had three (playoff) games at home. But the Yankees have signed free agents. As a consequence, they're a better team."
Lemon and Guidry would not open the Series for the Yanks, adding: "We can only go to the pump so often." This was Guidry's 26th victory of the year and his third straight over the Royals. There were only two especially tense moments in the first inning and the last.
Guidry had better luck than Hunter with leadoff man George Brett. He held him to a triple high off the right field wall. Lou Piniella might have caught the smash with a better-timed leap. Brett had homered his first three at bats in game three.
The second hitter, Hal McRae, drove Brett home with a sharp single to center. But Otis struck out Al Cowens popped to first, Porter walked and John Wathan hit a two-strike fly that Piniella grabbed against the wall.
Guidry was touched for five more hits, but the Royals never got another man past second. To a man, the Yankees echoed Gossage's post game message: "The Boston playoff was the big game of the year. We knew we would beat the Royals."
The hero of last year's World Series and this year's playoffs Reggie Jackson, finally had a mortal game last night. Having reached base 15 of 19 previous at-bats, Jackson struck out each of his three chances against Leonard.
And Brett grounded to second twice and struck out in the eighth. Other than the ninth, the Royals' best chance to score after the first came in the fifth, when Willie Wilson was caught trying to steal third on a controversial call and what would have been a sacrifice by McRae ended the inning.
I still had a good fastball," Guidry said of Lemon's decision to replace him. "I never question his decisions. Otis tomahawked a high pitch."
Center fielder Mickey Rivers made a splendid back-to-the-plate catch to help Guidry in the Kansas City second and Nettles brought the Yanks into a 1-1 tie with a leadoff homer to right center.
Within baseball, Nettles is held in very high regard. Because he cooses not to trumpet his performances, the non baseball public tends to undervalue him in relation to the Reggies. Gooses and Guidrys. And the non baseball world tends to ignore White.
But White stopped a Leonard streak of 13 straight outs by lifting a fly to right that made the stands by 20 feet and stayed fair by perhaps half that much.
"If I'd hit it well." White said "it probably would have curved foul."
Later asked whether Guidry would pitch Wednesday's second game with just three days of rest, Lemon said: "It's very doubtful. We'll have to wait and find out how he feels."