Experience a big factor in Philadelphia and Baltimore playoff victories
They say there's no substitute for experience in the playoffs, and Philadelphia and Baltimore certainly demonstrated the truth of that axiom this year. Not only did the Phillies and Orioles outperform their foes by wide margins at bat and on the mound, they also looked like far superior teams in the intangibles that so often spell the difference in post-season play - fundamentals, execution, and general poise under pressure. Indeed, by the time they had finished dismantling Los Angeles and Chicago respectively in four games each, few could argue that they were the teams that belonged in the World Series.
And yet, despite the lopsided final statistics, each of these best-of-five league championship series was a battle for a while - and each had its pivotal moments when things could have turned either way.
The first two games of the National League series were close, tightly-pitched affairs. Mike Schmidt's first inning home run won the opener as Steve Carlton and reliever Al Holland made it stand up for a 1-0 Philadelphia victory, but the Dodgers came back to take the second game 4-1 behind the strong pitching of Fernando Valenzuela and Tom Niedenfuer.
At this point, the Phillies had to be wondering just a bit. All year long, the young, inexperienced Dodgers were known as a team with defensive problems, but against Philadelphia they looked like world-beaters, winning 11 of 12 regular season meetings and now playing well again in the first two playoff contests.
When the series moved to Philadelphia, though, everything fell apart for the Dodgers. In Game 3 they gave the Phillies one run on a pair of walks, a wild pitch, and a passed ball; handed them another one when third baseman Pedro Guerrero threw to the wrong base; and were victimized again on a couple of balls that were scored as hits but might have been played by shortstop Bill Russell and outfielder Ken Landreaux. Meanwhile, the Philly offense woke up, led by Gary Matthews (the series MVP with 3 homers and 8 RBIs), resulting in a 7-2 victory in this game and another by the same score the next day (with Carlton getting his second victory) to close matters before the Dodgers had a chance to come back again with Game 2 winner Valenzuela.
Baltimore, which had won the opener in every one of its six previous playoffs and five World Series appearances, was shocked at home as LaMarr Hoyt outdueled Scott McGregor, 2-1. That made Game 2 a ''must'' for the Orioles before the scene shifted to Chicago, and rookie Mike Boddicker got it for them, striking out a record-tying 14 batters in a five-hit, 4-0 shutout that earned him MVP honors for the American League series.
Up to this point, Baltimore's MVP candidate Eddie Murray was having a tough series, with a costly error that led to Chicago's winning run in Game 1 and an 0 -for-8 mark at the plate. He broke out of it quickly in Game 3, however, blasting a three-run first inning homer. A little later the White Sox, making an apparently unreasonable assumption that a couple of hit batters had been intentional, lost their cool attempting to retaliate. The Orioles' Cal Ripken was hit by a pitch, Murray was brushed back, and there was the usual bench-clearing scenario. When they started playing baseball again, though, the Orioles went methodically to work at the plate, sending the first post-season crowd at Comiskey Park in 24 years home early in an 11-1 rout.
This series was still far from decided, though - especially with Baltimore facing the specter of having to contend with Hoyt again in Game 5 if Chicago could even it up. The White Sox made a valiant effort, too, as Britt Burns pitched scoreless ball for nine innings. But Storm Davis (6 innings) and reliever Tippy Martinez (3) did the same for Baltimore, then in the 10th came one of those ironies that so often spice these post-season games as Tito Landrum , a late Baltimore acquisiton who five weeks ago was playing in the minor leagues, drilled a home run to trigger a three-run inning and a 3-0 Oriole victory that nailed down the series.