NLCS Phlashback - Part II

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

This is part two in a four part series chronicling the history of the Philadelphia Phillies and their National League Championship Series appearances, leading up to the start of the 2008 NLCS match-up with the Los Angeles Dodgers. Today we review the 1978 NLCS between the same two clubs.

You can read Part I, focusing on the 1977 NLCS between the Phillies and Dodgers by clicking here.

The 1978 National League Championship Series

Game One

For the Phillies the hope was that the third time would be the charm. Three seasons in a row the Phillies found themselves playing in the National League Championship Series, a best of five series then, for the right to represent the league in the World Series. Roughed up in their previous two trips by the Big Red Machine of the Cincinnati Reds and the previous year by the Los Angeles Dodgers, the Phillies dropped off a bit in regular season success. Previously the Phillies had back-to-back 100 win seasons. 1978 was a little different, with the team winning ninety games and only winning the division by a game and a half over the Pittsburgh Pirates. But this was still a team on a mission. Painful playoff exits were still fresh in the memories of the Phillies and their fans so once again getting off on the right foot was going to be key for the Phillies in 1978.

Opening with two home games at Veterans Stadium against the NL West champion Dodgers would hopefully do just that for the Phillies. Larry Christenson started for the Phillies in the series opener because Steve Carlton had started a few days before in the division clinching game. Christenson was no Carlton to say the least.

With an early 1-0 lead Christenson ran into trouble in the third inning. Steve Garvey had the key hit with a three run homerun in the inning. The Dodgers actually scored four runs in the third inning, after the Phillies had scored once in the second inning. Just like that the Dodgers had the momentum.

Davey Lopes, now the Phillies first base coach, connected for a two run homerun in the fourth inning to give the Dodgers a 6-1 lead. Rookie Dodger pitcher Bob Welch did his job. With a five run lead Welch had plenty of room for error and would go on to get the win for the Dodgers.

Garvey wasn't finished yet. In the fifth inning he reached third base with a triple in the Vet. He would then proceed to score and then in the ninth inning he hit a solo homerun. Steve Yeager got in on the homerun action with his own blast.

Pressure was put on by the Phillies in the fifth inning, scoring three runs. The short term rally cut the score to 7-4 in favor of the Dodgers. Proving they were resilient though, the Dodgers scored a run in the top of the sixth to extend their lead to 8-4 and were on cruise control the rest of the way to a 9-5 game one victory.

Game Two
Dodgers lead 1-0

Evening up the series, as in any five game series especially, in game two was critical. After losing both home games to the Dodgers in Veterans Stadium last year the Phillies knew it would be difficult. With the NLCS ready to shift to the west coast to Dodger Stadium the Phillies seemed to be in trouble.

Dick Ruthven got the start for the Phillies in the must win game and Tommy John opposed him for the Dodgers. John was the dominant pitcher of the game, pitching a complete four hit shut out for the Dodgers.

While the Phillies offense remained futile against the Dodgers, coming up short in the clutch yet again, it was Davey Lopes who got the job done for the Dodgers and their offense. Of the four runs the Dodgers scored in the 4-0 victory, Lopes was responsible for driving in three of them. Lopes was a double shy of the cycle, hitting a home run, triple and a single. Lopes was officially a Phillies killer. How is it that this guy can be welcomed in as the Phillies first base coach today?

The NLCS was now ready to shift to Los Angeles for game three. Philadelphia needed a win at all costs to stay alive.

Game Three
Dodgers lead 2-0

Steve Carlton finally made his first playoff start of the series, and the Phillies desperately needed it. Even if the series were to go five games, only having Carlton pitch once would likely be the downfall for the Phillies. Carlton did more than provide the Phillies with the starting pitching they desperately needed but also provided the offensive spark the lineup had been missing.

Carlton hit a three run homerun in the second inning off of Dodger starter Don Sutton. The second inning would see the Phillies leading the Dodgers 4-1. Los Angeles cut the score to 4-3 in the third inning but the Phillies would extend their lead in the sixth inning.

In the sixth inning Carlton helped out once again at the plate with a single that drove in a run. He would later score on a double by Jerry Martin. The Phillies would finish off the game by pounding the Dodgers for a hard fought 9-4 victory. Holding off on elimination the Phillies were now down 2-1 in the series.

Game Four
Dodgers lead 2-1

Los Angeles struck first in the second inning of the critical game four. Dusty Baker notched the RBI double that brought home Ron Cey to give the Dodgers a 1-0 lead. Philadelphia responded in the third inning, taking the lead on a Greg Luzinski two run homerun.

Ron Cey would tie the game with a homerun of his own in the fourth inning. The tension was mounting. Noting would change until the sixth inning. Steve Garvey hit a solo homerun in the inning, giving the Dodgers a 3-2 lead. That shot was Garvey's fourth homerun of the NLCS. Another homerun in the seventh, this time by the Phillies' Bake McBride, tied the game once again.

Homeruns were the themes of this NLCS, swinging the momentum from one side to the other with a swing of the bat. In the end though, it would be more heartbreak for the Phillies. As the game went into extra innings the Phillies failed to score in their half of the tenth inning. Tug McGraw entered to pitch for the Phillies, hoping to hold off the Dodgers for one more inning in hopes that the offense could put together a run in the eleventh.

McGraw retired the first two batters he faced. Ron Cey then forced a walk, giving the Dodgers a potential series clinching run at first base. Thoughts of bullpen failure were sure to be flowing through the minds of the Phillies and their fans. It was as if they had seen this all before. Dusty Baker hit a fly ball to Gary Maddox in center field, and the man who could cover whatever part of the planet that wasn't covered by water lost the ball in the Los Angeles sun. After misplaying the ball and not being able to correct himself in time, the ball glanced off of his glove. The misfortunes of Maddox's glove were not through.

With two men on base the only one that mattered was Cey at second. The fate of the series rested on his feet. A base hit would get him home.

Bill Russell stepped in to face McGraw. Russell got the better of McGraw, lining a hit to center field. Maddox charged hard and could have thrown Cey out at home if not just holding him to stay at third base. But the ball had other ideas.

The ball had skipped right by the charging Maddox, and Cey came home to score the series clincher. Dodgers win 4-3 in ten innings.


For the second straight year the World Series featured the Dodgers and the defending champion New York Yankees. The Dodgers took the first two games of the World Series, but the Yankees blasted their way back to win the series in six games.

As for the Phillies, the Pittsburgh Pirates were making strides towards capturing the NL East crown. The gap between the two teams had gotten smaller in 1978 compared to 1977. The following year the Pirates would take the NL East by two games in a year when the Phillies continued to decline. It was a time to change things up for the Phillies. To help the team over the hump of the NLCS the Phillies signed Pete Rose, making him the highest paid athlete in sports. The addition of Rose though did little to help in 1979. The Phillies dropped all the way to fourth in the division, finishing 12 games behind Pittsburgh.

While 1979 was not a fond year for the Phillies the team was developing for a championship push that would come a year later in 1980.

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