On Greg Luzinski's two-out pinch-hit double, Pete Rose literally crashed home with the deciding run in the 10th inning as the Philadelphia Phillies beat the Houston Astros, 5-3, on "baseball's most incredible Saturday."
Tug McGraw called the day that. "Bizarre," Mike Schmidt said. Bill Virdon said, "It was a very strange game."
What it was, World Serious fans, was a 3 hour 55 minute thriller chiller with enough mysterious twists and turns to keep Sherlock Holmes on the case forever.
When is the last time you saw a baseball game with three double plays started by the right fielder? When last did you see a triple play talked down to a double play by an umpire who didn't see what happened? How about the left fielder squirting the ball out of his hand on an important throw the way you do with the soap in the shower?
Step right up, it all happened here in the Astrodome today.
You could write a book about this one game," said McGraw, the Phillie relief pitcher who shut down the Astros 1-2-3 in the bottom of the 10th to save the victory that sends these teams into a final 8 p.m. Sunday game for the National League championship (WJLA TV 7 in Washington).
Left for dead after seven innings today -- the Houston starter, Vern Ruhle, gave up only five hits in that time, stretching the Phillies' score- less inning streak to a major league playoff record 17 1/3 -- left for dead then, trailing, 2-0, the Phillies scored three times in the top of the eighth. t
They did it on four straight singles off Ruhle, with Rose driving in the first run, Schmidt the second. Rose came in with the third run on one of those bizarre plays.
Manny trillo lined to right field. Would Jeff Leonard, charging, make the catch? Rose waited at third on the base. He had time to score whatever happened. But Schmidt, at first, sprinted to second when he saw the ball take a short, hop into Leonard's glove.
Surprise, Mike. Right field umpire Bruce Froemming ruled that Leonard had caught the liner. Schmidt was doubled off first, ending a potential big inning. It wasn't the first time the Philadelphians' fate seemed in the hands of the men in blue, as we shall see, but it was costly.
Given that reprieve, the Astros tied the game in the last of the ninth on Rafael Landestoy's single, a sacrifice bunt and Terry Puhl's single off Warren Brusstar, the Phillies' fifth pitcher in relief of 24-game winner Steve Carlton.
Then the Phillies won it in the 10th. With one out, Rose rolled a single to center against Houston's best relief pitcher, Lefty Joe Sambito.
Schmidt lined out to left, Rose holding at first.
When Dallas Green, the Philadelphia manager, allowed Brusstar to hit for himself in the ninth with a man on second and two out, the second-guessers scalded the rookie skipper for not sending up Luzinski, the "Bull" who eats alive left-handers.
"Brusstar had good stuff, and I didn't want to use McGraw today unless I really had to," Green said.
The manager's patience paid off in the 10th.
Two were out when Green ordered Luzinski up to hit for left-handed swinger Bake McBride, a pathetic strikeout victim his first time up against Sambito.
Luzinski lined a certain double between left fielder Jose Cruz and the foul line. The uncertainty was whether Rose, no sprinter, could score from first base.
"I was going all the way," Rose said. "There were two outs and there wasn't anything to wait for."
He clearly would be out at the plate. Shortstop Landestoy took Cruz's throw and had Rose out by 10 feet at the plate -- except that the throw came to third-string catcher Bruce Bochy on a very short hop, making it virtually uncatchable in the pillow catchers use as gloves.
Bochy never caught it.
And here came Rose, who lives in our memories for upending catcher Ray Fosse to score a big run in an All-Star Game. "I had no choice what to do," Rose said, "He was blocking the plate, and if I slid I'd never get there."
So Rose crashed into Bochy a split second after the ball bounced off the catcher's mitt.
Safe, Philadelphia led, 4-3. And when Manny Trillo followed with a double, Luinski scored, too.
And so this best-of-five series comes down to one game, with Houston sending right-hander Nolan Ryan (11-10), strong in a no-decision effort in Game l, against Philadelphia's Marty Bystrom (5-0 after being called up on Sept. 1).
The astros could do nothing against Carlton the first three innings, but after a wild and crazy Philadelphia fourth, they reached the big left-hander for runs in the fourth and fifth inning.
In Philadelphia's fourth, McBride and Trillo led off with singles. Then the fun began. Garry Maddox squibbed a soft line drive back toward Houston pitcher Vern Ruhle, who scooped the ball up -- on the fly? -- and threw to first base. Before long, the Astros were claiming they had made a triple play.
After a 20 minute argument, chief umpire Doug Harvey -- who at several points consulted with National League President Chub Feeney in his box near the Astros' dugout -- finally ruled that Ruhle had caught the ball on the fly. But Harvey also said he had given a too-quick "safe" signal that may have confused the Phillie runners.
So he decided that it was a double play, with the runner allowed to return to second but the man on first being called out because, in Harvey's judgment, he was running all the way and would have been out no matter what Harvey's signal was.
Well, the Phillies didn't like it at all.
"I argued with every umpire I could find," said Schmidt. "It was plain as day from where I was, looking right at it from the bench, that the ball bounced.We should have had men on second and third with one out. Instead we got a man on second and two out. I argued with everybody , damn right, even Chub Feeney."
"After that long dissertation," said Green, "Carlton wasn't the same."
The Astros' run in the fourth came on Enos Cabell's double over a stumbling, hesitant left fielder Lonnie Smith and a sacrifice fly by Art Howe's fly ball was turned into a double play, by the way, when Smith, hurrying his throw, comically squirted the ball into the air and then picked it up to throw out Garry Woods trying to take two bases.
The Astros made it 2-0 in the fifth on Luis Pujols' triple to deep center and Landestoy's single.
And it would have been 3-0 in the sixth except for one of those double plays from right field. With the bases full and one out, Woods tried to score from third on Pujols' fly ball. He made it easily.
Any why not? He left third too early. On an appeal play at third, the kind you seldom see outside high school, Woods was called out.
The Astros tied the game, 3-3, in the last of the ninth before another base-running blunder ended the inning.
Landestoy, on with a walk from Brusstar, moved to second on Sambito's sacrifice bunt and scored on Terry Puhl's single.Stealing second with one out, Puhl was decoyed by Trillo into a slide at the bag -- even as right fielder McBride was catching Cabell's line drive. An easy 9-3 double play. f