Best-of-five series: Wesnesday, at Montreal, 1:05; Thursday, at Montreal, 8:15; Friday, at Philadelphia, 4:05; Saturday, at Philadelphia, 1:05 (if necessary); Sunday, at Phila., 4:05 (if necessary).
Some teams have nagging injuries.
The Philadelphia Phillies, true to their history, have what Manager Dallas Green calls nagging thoughts.
Those nagging thoughts revolve around the notion that the Phillies do not have the good karma that aided them in October a year ago when they eliminated Montreal on the final Saturday of the regular season, beat Houston in the fifth game of a filled-with-miracle playoff, then won their first World Series in a century.
"We're not in as good shape as we were going into the playoffs last year," said Green. "I have nagging thoughts about out pitching. I don't think our pitching is nearly as ready as Montreal's."
The world champions do, indeed, have much to worry them.
Their second-half record of 25-27 would have been worse, but for an 8-4 closing push. Their 4-7 season record against Montreal includes an 0-5 mark in Montreal and the memory of an Expo penchant to run at will against Phillie catchers.
Worst of all, the Phils don't begin hostilities until Wednesday at 1 p.m. in Montreal. That means no off day, which, in turn, means the Phillies will have to use one additional starting pitcher. And, brother, that means trouble.
The Phillies open well with Steve Carlton, the best money pitcher of the day, and decent Dick Ruthven facing Steve Rogers and Bill Gullickson.
But, when this series returns to Philadelphia for the weekend, Green will have to pick from among these unworthies: Larry Christenson, Dickie Noles and Mike Proly. Christenson has a horrible record of blowing ski-high in the postseason, and Noles and Proly are, at best, journeymen.
If the Phils could win two of the first three games, then Carlton could get a full three days rest before the fifth game. But, if game No. 4 is live or die for the Phils, Green might have to push Carlton up with two days rest or face extinction with a nonentity on the mound.
In other words, the Phils go to Montreal under the gun; the usual playoff wisdom of "split on the road, then win two of three back home" may not be good enough this time. The Phils may need to win both in Montreal or face two pitching mismatches when they get home.
The defending champs have two factors on their side: their league-leading hitting and Montreal's managing.
The top of the Phils' order, which hit .273 with 491 runs in 107 games, is dy-no-mite. Leadoff man Lonnie Smith, thanks to a 23-game hitting streak, has raised his average from .250 to .324. Pete Rose, at 40, batted 325 (the fifth-highest average of his 19 seasons) and led the league in hits. Gary Matthews, with 19 RBI in his last 17 games, hit .301. And third baseman Mike Schmidt is, by a clear margin, the best offensive player in baseball -- 31 homers, 91 RBI, 316 average, plus loads of walks.
If the Phils' bats don't help them, they have the added possibility of benefiting from the managerial inexperience of the Expos' Jim Fanning. By firing the heady Dick Williams, a professional grump, and hiring Fanning, an organization good guy who hadn't put on a baseball uniform in almost 20 years, the Expos, in effect, made the public statement that a manager is of minimal strategic importance.
To throw Fanning into the boiling oil of a playoff is one of the cruelest baseball spectacles in years. Managing a ball game may not be equivalent to running a nuclear reactor, but it's a legitimately tangled chess game that, above all, requires the long process of learning by experience. If the man doesn't help lose at least one game all by himself, it will be a merciful surprise.
In each of the last two seasons, the Expos have lost the division flag on the final weekend of the regular season.This year, the comparable occasion would be to lose the miniseries to the Phillies.
The Pillies have a bit better hitting, a slightly better bullpen, much superior team leaders in Rose and Schmidt, a vastly more seasoned manager and the best hulk of a pitcher in the sport.
That ought to be enough. But you never know about the Phillies and those nagging thoughts.