For two brief innings today, the Philadelphia Phillies got a terrifyhing glance at the Kansas City offensive machine when it is performing in Royal order. In a World Series now tied, two games apiece, that fleeting insight into the Royals' potential for destruction could have a paralyzing effect on the Phils. Many a team has been stunned to its toes by a lesser demonstration of sprint-relay speed and daring than the Phils endured this day.
Of the first 14 Royals to step to the plate in Kansas City's 5-3 victory, one walked, two singled three doubled, one tripled and Willie Mays Aikens hit two 450-foot home runs. In that short span, the Phils saw Willie Wilson go first-to-third on a wild pickoff throw.They saw George Brett turn a double into a triple by sliding into third, and not headfirst. They saw U.L. Washington turn a routine ground ball into a bases-loading hit. They saw Wilson come within inches of turning a routine grounder to first into an unbelievable hit. Twice, they saw Hal McRae humiliate lackadaisical outfielders -- first Gary Maddox, then Bake McBride -- by disdainfully turning routine singles into sliding, stick-this-in-your-ear doubles.
In that two-inning nightmare, the Phils saw the Royals hit the ball between outfielders, into corners, into water fountains and over the car parked in the Royal bullpen. They saw their supposedly superb defense, which has five Gold Glovers, shredded and embarrassed. They saw their starting pitcher, Larry Christenson, last only six batters in a four-run first and leave the game at a point when his Series ERA was 108.00 and the Royals' slugging percentage for the game was 12.000. Pronounced twelve thousand.
After that early 5-1 blitz, in which the first five Royal hitters batted for the cycle -- single, double, triple, homer -- the game settled down like a Kansas twister blowing itself out. The Royals, who had salvaged a desperately needed 10th-inning victory just 14 hours before, subsided as though saving their fury for another day. The Phils, who start a rookie with just five big league wins (Marty Bystrom) here on Sunday (4 p.m., WRC-TV-4) against Larry Gura, can only hope that there will be no more Royal tornado warnings. But they can hardly count on that.
Wilson is very intimidating," admitted Larry Bowa.
Are you sure that guy's name isn't just Willie Mays?" said Pete Rose after watching Aikens become the first man in Series history to hit a pair of homers in two different games. Aikens needs one more four-base eruption to tie the Series record of five by Reggie Jackson, who had his famous three-homer game on this exact date three years ago.
They ought to rename Willie Mays. Call him Willie Aikens Mays," said K.C.'s Clint Hurdle. "Aikens thought he was the Babe (Ruth) today, coming out of the dugout and waving his hat.
Today, they got a little taste," said McRae. "I don't think we'll be losing any more."
We're finally playing like ourselves," said Hurdle. "It's a relief. Of course it worries you. Here we came to the biggest shootout of the year and we started off so tight we were shooting blanks."
I had some atoning to do," said bearded Dennis Leonard, who worked seven innings and survived nine hits for the dogged victory. "I had a four-run lead in the opener for us and I blew it. I wasn't going to let it happen again."
Of the 30 teams that have fallen behind two games to none in 76 previous Series, only seven came back to win. However, as Hurdle said, "Old Mo (momentum) is with us now."
If the best of the Royals appeared today -- with Wilson making a sterling running catch in deep left field, with Amos Otis in center turning two potential one-out gap triples back into doubles and with Brett at third transforming Phillie grounders into eight outs -- then the worst of the Phils also was on display. Their outfield looked as if it needed some of those greenies the Phils were accused of taking in midseason.
"We didn't look ready to play," said Manager Dallas Green in stinging commentary on a team in Series competition.
The Phils' only flash of staunch resistance was not Bowa's RBI single or the sacrifice flies by Bob Boone and Mike Schmidt. It was a knockdown pitch by excellent long reliever Dickie Noles which flipped Brett in a cartwheel in the fourth inning, barely missing his right shoulder.
"Not a bad one," said Green of the brushback. "You notice Brett didn't say anything about it and he's the guy who got shot at."
"How much did it miss me by?" was all Brett asked catcher Boone.
"Not much," replied Boone.
Royal Manager Jim Frey was not so calm. He charged onto the field, did some finger pointing, gave Noles a good cussing, and even engaged Rose in a discussion of mutual genealogies.
"Aw, I just did a lot of yellin'," said the 5-foot-8 Frey. "The last time I got in a fight, I was 21 and the other guy kicked the hell out of me. He knocked a newspaper out of my hand in a hotel lobby, so I swung at him and missed. He knocked me backwards over a couch. I ran around the couch and he knocked me back onto it. The third time he hit me, I said, 'Hey, this is a bad deal.'
"Ijust wanted to make sure that the knock-downs stopped. I can't repeat what I said to 'em or they said to me. It was just family talk. You know, they were talking about my mother and father, and I was talking about theirs."
The Royals joked down Brett's visit to the dust, but their memories may be long.
"I don't throw hard enough to retaliate," said reliever Dan Quisenberry, who got the last six outs for a save. "That is, unless I was throwing a grenade. Our pitching staff is talking about pooling our World Series shares and investing in nuclear arms."
"I accept it as part of the game," said Brett, holding a bumper sticker that read, I have hemorrhoids, too.'
"I accept it because I have no choice," Brett added. "I told Boone, 'Jesus, knock down Aikens. He's the one who's killin' you.' I will say that I believe in the Law of Hammurabi: 'An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.'"
Actually, the Phillies should probably be knocking down more Royals, not fewer. The hard-hitting heart of the Royals' order is taking the whole plate away from the Phillie pitchers in the dishcharging Charlie Lau style. The Nos. 3-4-5-6-7 hitters in the K.C. lineup -- Brett, Aikens, McRae, Otis and Hurdle -- are all hitting .400 or better. Among them, they are batting .479 and slugging .930.
Then why haven't the Royals swept the Series already? Because the other four guys in the lineup -- Wilson, Washington, White and Darrell Porter -- are hitting .115.
"Just the opposite of us," said Schmidt, whose Phils have a .314 team average in the Series. "Our singles hitters are hot, but us power people aren't doing the job. They've got seven homers to our two."
This Series began with the Phillies loose and combative. Now, it is the Royals who have taken the initiative.
"We're takin' it to 'em now," said Hurdle, adding with regard to Brett, "If it's necessary to act, there's not a guy on this team that won't fight George for him."
If the Royals' mood had a turning point, it may have come in a Frey meeting before the third game. Frey made a speech that he says "was full of colorful adjectives" in which he told the Royals that they are "the best team in America" and that if they lost the third game all it meant was "that we can win four in a row, which is something nobody has ever done."
Then, Frey produced a sports-nut impersonator who does a near-perfect Howard Cosell. The comedian regaled the Royals with pompous Cosell-style insults for each player, then turned his barbs on the Phils.
"He talked about how Philadelphia could never win at anything," Hurdle related. "Even when they get to the finals, like the (NBA) 76ers, they always find a way to lose. We just needed a good laugh."
"I thought we were intimidated by the crowds in Philadelphia," said Frey. "And I thought we were a little intimidated by being in the World Series."
Now, the intimidating is being done by Royal bats and feet, especially the lumber of Aikens, who won Game 3 with a 10th-inning hit and now is seven for 15 with 21 total bases and eight RBI.
"I've had my eye on Aikens for a number of years," said Frey, "because he reminds me of a young Boog Powell. Of course, before we got him (from California), he weight about 250 pounds. He looked like a bartender, not a ballplayer."
Suddenly, all the Royals are beginning to look more like ballplayers, and it is the Phils who are afraid that they may yet end up crying in their beer.