There’s something about the Texas Rangers spraying each other with ginger ale and Mountain Dew that made a lot of sense. Yeah, it was a nod to Josh Hamilton’s addictions and another unifying element for a team that looks like it cannot be beaten.
But there’s something about the entire process where the victorious ballplayers are handed the commemorative cap and t-shirt before they enter the clubhouse and can spray champagne and Budweiser beer. And yes, it’s Budweiser because they probably paid a decent chunk of change to sponsor the not-so spontaneous party with posters plastered everywhere.
Yet for the Phillies to get to do what the Texas Rangers did on Friday night, it’s going to take something the franchise has never done before…
Rally from a 3-1 deficit and force a deciding Game 7. The Phillies have been in a 3-1 hole four times starting with the 1915 World Series against the Red Sox. In the ’15 series the Red Sox closed it out at the Baker Bowl behind Rube Foster’s second win. It was the first World Series ring for Babe Ruth, a Red Sox pitcher who batted just once in the series.
Other names to emerge from the Phillies’ misfortune from trailing 3-1 were Rick Dempsey, Joe Carter and Hideki Matsui. Dempsey and the Orioles ended the ’83 World Series at the Vet in five, disappointing games where the Phillies batted .195 and scored nine runs.
Everyone in Philly already knows all about Joe Carter, Mitch Williams and what happened in Game 6 of the 1993 World Series, and Matsui capped off his MVP run with a homer and a double in Game 6 of last year’s World Series at Yankee Stadium.
Needless to say, the 3-1 deficit and the aftermath haven’t been too kind to the Phillies. When a Game 7 has been needed, the Phillies have not been able to do their part.
“As long as I’ve been here, we haven’t had to,” said the potential Game 7 starter, Cole Hamels. “We’ve been fortunate every time we’ve been in the postseason — we’ve been able to, I guess, get the series done and over early. But in this case, we’re playing a very good team on the other side and they’re doing everything they possibly can.”
Before there was such a thing as a best-of-seven LCS, the Phillies did make it to a do-or-die, winner-take-all game in the playoffs. In 1981 they rallied from a 2-0 deficit in the first-ever NLDS against the Montreal Expos only to lose the fifth game when Steve Rogers out-dueled Steve Carlton at the Vet.
But the mother of all do-or-die deciding games was the fifth game of 1980 NLCS at the Astrodome where the Phillies fell behind 2-1 in the series before taking the final two games on the road. That series featured four extra-inning games, 15 lead changes and one game where the Astros won 1-0 in 10 innings.
The Phillies forced Game 5 by scoring two runs in the 10th inning, the memorable one coming when Greg Luzinski hit a two-out double where Pete Rose bowled over Astros catcher (and current Giants manager) Bruce Bochy to score the go-ahead run. Actually, the Phillies were two outs away from winning Game 4 in the ninth inning, but reliever Warren Brusstar couldn’t stop Terry Puhl from driving in the tying run.
Puhl went 10-for-19 in the series and if the Astros would have advanced to the World Series, his performance would be more than a footnote of the series. Four of Puhl’s hits came in the deciding fifth game where ace pitcher Nolan Ryan—the current owner of the Texas Rangers—carried a three-run lead into the eighth inning.
Before the eighth inning began Rose told leadoff man Larry Bowa that if he could get on base, the Phillies would “win this thing.” So Bowa singled to center and Bob Boone, perhaps the slowest runner in Phillies history, beat out an infield hit back to Ryan. Still with no outs, pinch-hitter Greg Gross (now the Phillies’ hitting coach) dropped a bunt up the third-base line to load the bases for Rose.
Seven pitches after digging in, Rose forced home a run with a walk and forced Ryan out of the game.
Against lefty Joe Sambito, rookie Keith Moreland grounded into a force to plate another run before Mike Schmidt, in his biggest plate appearance to date, struck out looking on three pitches. But Del Unser followed with a two-out single to tie the game, setting the stage for NLCS MVP Manny Trillo to clear the bases with a triple.
Just like that, Ryan’s lead was gone…
Only to have the Phillies lead wiped out by Tug McGraw.
This was back in the days when the closer would come into the game as soon as possible and since the Phillies grasped the lead with six outs to go, manager Dallas Green turned the game over to McGraw even though he had used his ace in every game of the NLCS, including for three innings in Game 3 and two innings in Game 1, as well as three of the final four games of the regular-season when the Phils were trying to fend off the Expos in the battle for the NL East.
McGraw worked a lot in 1980 with little or no rest. Of the 57 games he appeared in that season, 16 were part of back-to-back games and another 12 were with one day of rest. McGraw also finished 48 games, piled up more than 92 innings and missed most of April and July with injuries.
But when September rolled around, McGraw pitched in 16 games for 26 1/3 innings allowing just one earned run. Moreover, when pitching in back-to-back games, McGraw held the opposition to a .092 batting average. Better yet, 11 of McGraw’s 20 saves in 1980 came when he pitched more than an inning.
In other words, going with Tugger, despite the taxing workload, was the move to make.
In the eighth, the Astros rallied with a one-out single from Craig Reynolds, and a two-out single from Puhl. But after Enos Cabell whiffed for the second out, back-to-back singles from Rafael Landestoy and Jose Cruz knotted it up again.
Green also lost McGraw for the ninth for a pinch-hitter, but Game 2 starter Dick Ruthven was as rested as any pitcher available, so it looked as if the right-hander was in for as long as he could go.
Why not? Ruthven piled up 223 innings, six complete games and 17 wins in 1980. He also pitched eight games on just three days rest in 1980, too, making Green’s choice elemental. Ruthven was going to pitch all night if need be.
Fortunately for the Phillies he only needed to pitch two innings.
That’s because Del Unser came through with a one-out double after Mike Schmidt struck out for the third time in the game. When Manny Trillo flied out for the second out, Garry Maddox belted a first-pitch double to center to drive in the run to send the Phils to the World Series. In the bottom of the 10th Ruthven needed 12 pitches to retire the side in order.
Yes, a September call up with just five big-league starts on the mound in the biggest game in franchise history against Nolan Ryan.
Strangely enough, Bystrom said he didn’t know he was going to start the deciding game until the Phillies won in Game 4.
“I hadn’t pitched in nine or 10 days and Dallas came up to after Game 4 and said, ‘You got the ball tomorrow, kid,’” Bystrom said. “I said, ‘I’m ready.’”
Bystrom called that NLCS finale “the toughest game I ever pitched.” More than just the pressure of a game with the World Series on the line, Bystrom recalled that the noise from the fans in the Astrodome was deafening.
“I took a suggestion from Steve Carlton and put cotton in my ears,” Bystrom said, adding that pitching with Rose, Schmidt, Bowa and Boone on his side in the field made things a lot easier.
Green later tabbed Bystrom to start the pivotal fifth game of the World Series in Kansas City – a game best remembered for the Phillies’ ninth-inning rally and McGraw’s heart-stopping pitching to win it.
“It was a moment I dreamed about since I was five or six years old,” Bystrom said of pitching in the World Series. “Then, all of sudden, it was today is the day – this is the day I was dreaming about all of those years.”
Now if the Phillies can force the Game 7…
“We’re going to get to tomorrow,” Manuel said. “I don’t want to say if we get there, because we are going to get there.”