In collaboration with the Sportsecyclopedia.com
It is regarded by some as one of the greatest series in postseason history. The Philadelphia Phillies and Houston Astros in the 1980 NLCS went the full five games, with the last four games going into extra innings. The series was filled with drama in every game as Pete Rose crashed into Bruce Bochy to win Game 4 in ten innings 5-3. The Phillies won the series with an 8-7 win in Game 5 in ten innings on an RBI single by Garry Maddox.
It was an up and down season for the Philadelphia Phillies, who won their fourth division title in five years by posting a 91-71 record for manager Dallas Green. Many of the Phillies’ wins were close, earning them the nickname, “Cardiac Kids.” The race for the National League East came down to the final weekend of the season. The Phillies and Montreal Expos were tied with three games left, as the two teams began a three-game series at Olympic Stadium. Philadelphia won the first two games of the series to win the division as Steve Carlton won his third of four Cy Young awards, and Mike Schmidt won his first of three MVPs.
Managed by Bill VIrdon, the Houston Astros built a team around dominant pitching as they played in the pitcher-friendly Astrodome. The Astros made a big off-season splash by signing free agent Nolan Ryan. The Astros were in first place most of the season but suffered a devastating blow when J.R. Richard, who started the All-Star Game, suffered a stroke and never played again. Richard had a record of 10-4 with a 1.90 ERA at the time his season came to an end in July. The Astros went into the final weekend with a three-game lead over the Los Angeles Dodgers, needing one win at Dodger Stadium to clinch their first division title. The Dodgers swept the series, with the help of a 19-year-old September callup from Mexico named Fernando Valenzuela. The Astros would need to win a one-game tiebreaker to win the division as Joe Niekro went the distance in a 7-1 win, with Art Home driving in four runs as the Astros posted a record of 93-70.
Steve Carlton made the start for Philadelphia in Game 1 at Veterans Stadium, while Ken Forsch got the start for the Astros. Houston got the first run of the series, as Gary Woods singled home, Jose Cruz. The Phillies took the lead on a two-run home run by Greg Luzinski. The Phillies added to the lead with an RBI single by Gabe Gross in the seventh. Tug McGraw came on in the eighth and earned the save, as the Phillies 3-1.
With Nolan Ryan matching up against Dick Ruthven in Game 2, the Astros again scored first as Terry Puhl had an RBI single in the third inning. Luzinski tied the game with a double in the fourth and scored on a single by Garry Maddox. Puhl hit an RBI double in the seventh to tie the game 2-2. Each team scored in the eighth, as Cruz and Maddox each drove in a run. With the scored tied 3-3, the Astros scored four runs off Ron Reed in the tenth inning, as Jose Cruz and Cesar Cedeno each had RBI singles and scored on Dave Bergman triple. The Phillies scored one run in the bottom of the inning but lost 7-4 as the series went to Houston tied at a game apiece.
Game 3 in Houston was the first postseason game played in a dome. It was classic pitchers’ duel as Joe Niekro got the start for Houston and did not allow a run in ten innings. Larry Christensen went six for Philadelphia as Larry Christensen, and Tug McGraw kept the Astros off the scoreboard, coming out of the bullpen. After Dave Smith took over for Niekro in the 11th, the Astros finally broke through, winning the game as Joe Morgan led off with a triple. Rafael Landestoy came into pinch run and scored on a sac-fly by Denny Walling to win the game 1-0.
The Astros looked to advance to the World Series with a win in Game 4, with Vern Rhule getting the start as the Phillies called upon Steve Carlton on short rest to stay alive and force Game 5. The Astros had a 2-0 led, scratching across runs in the fourth and fifth inning. The Phillies rallied in the eighth, scoring three runs to take the lead as Pete Rose and Mike Schmidt each had RBI hits, while Manny Trillo drove in a run with a sac-fly. With Warren Brusstar on the mound for the save, the Astros tied the game in the ninth inning as Terry Puhl knocked in Rafael Landestoy, who led off the inning with a walk. In the tenth inning, Pete Rose was on first with two outs when Greg Luzinski hit a double down the line. A good throw would have had Rose at home, but the ball bounced as Rose delivered a forearm shiver to Bruce Bochy, who was blocking the plate. Trillo followed with a double to score Luzkinski as the Phillies won 5-3 with McGraw pitching a 1-2-3 inning.
Game 5 looked like a mismatch on paper as Nolan Ryan started for the colorful Astros in their rainbow jerseys, while Marty Bystrom started for the Phillies. Houston got a run in the first inning on a double by Jose Cruz. Bob Boone answered with a two-run double in the second that gave Philadelphia a 2-1 lead. The Astros tied the game on an RBI single by Alan Ashby in the sixth inning. The Astros appeared to break the game open in the seventh with three runs, highlighted by a triple by Art Howe. However, Nolan Ryan tired in the eighth and walked in a run. After Joe Sambito got a ground out from Keith Moreland, the lead was down to 5-4, as Ken Forsch took over, looking to keep the Phillies from scoring the tying run. Forsch struck out Mike Schmidt. However, pinch hitter Del Unser knocked in the tying run with a single. Manny Trillo followed with a triple that gave the Phillies a 7-5 lead. The Astros would not go down without a fight as they scored twice off Tug McGraw to tie the game, in the bottom of the inning with RBI singles by Rafael Landestoy and Jose Cruz. With Frank LaCorte on the mound for Houston and Dick Ruthven on the mound for the Phillies, the game went to extra innings tied 7-7. The Phillies scored a run in the tenth as Garry Maddox knocked in Unser with a double. Ruthven would get the Astros to win the game 8-7 as Maddox caught the final out off the bat of Enos Cabel and was carried off the field on the shoulder of his teammates. With a .381 average, Manny Trillo was named NLCS MVP.
The Philadelphia Phillies would go on to win the World Series in six games over the Kansas City Royals, their first World Championship.