A World Series deadlocked at one game apiece and dominated by pitching so far resumes here tonight with a pair of Cy Young Award winners trying to maintain the same theme.
Philadelphia's Steve Carlton, a four-time choice as the National League's top hurler, goes against the Orioles' Mike Flanagan, the 1979 American League winner , in Game 3 of the best-of-seven classic. Games 4 and 5 will also be played in Veterans Stadium, with the last two (if either or both should be necessary) back in Baltimore.
The two ace left-handers who face each other tonight hardly need any introduction.
Carlton, one of the game's all-time greats, reached the exlusive 300-victory plateau this season and will be the first pitcher of that stature to appear in a World Series since Grove Cleveland Alexander in 1928. He has been tough in post-season appearances too, beating Kansas City twice in the Phillies' 1980 World Series victory and defeating Los Angeles twice in this year's playoffs.
Flanagan, while his career record isn't quite in that category, has also been a big winner for the Orioles for many years. He too has a pretty good post-season record (1-1 in the 1979 World Series against Pittsburgh, and now 2-0 in the playoffs following a victory over Chicago in his only appearance this year).
They'll both have to go some, however, to match the masterful hurling we've seen in this Series to date.
John Denny of the Phillies was superb in winning the opener 2-1 with late relief help from Al Holland, while loser Scott Mcgregor and his successors were almost as effective. There were no walks in the entire game, while each team could manage only five hits, with solo homers by Philadelphia's Joe Morgan and Garry Maddox and Baltimore's Jim Dwyer accounting for all the scoring.
That was a tough act to follow, but Baltimore's amazing rookie Mike Boddicker was equal to the task, spinning a brilliant three-hitter in a 4-1 victory that would have been a shutout except for an error that led to an unearned run. And of course the Philadelphia moundsmen weren't exactly blown out of the park either.
For the two games, in fact, the statistics show that the teams are now averaging 2 runs and just 51/2 hits apiece per contest - which pretty much tells the story.
Morgan has been the Phillies' top hitter in the first two games, with 3-for-8 including his home run in the opener. Left fielder John Lowenstein has led the Oriole attack with a 4-for-7 mark which also includes a homer. Otherwise, most of the bats have been pretty silent. Philadelphia's Mike Schmidt, the major league home run king, has been 0-for-8 so far, while Baltimore cleanup hitter Eddie Murray is only 1-for-8 - so each club is hoping for a little more production from its big men.
Strangely, each of these normally poised clubs already has made some damaging misplays - either of the physical or mental variety.
Murray, who has had his problems both at bat and in the field in post-season action (the 1979 World Series and this year's playoffs), dropped a routine throw to first base in the fourth inning Wednesday night, leading to an unearned run that gave Philadelphia a 1-0 lead.
Then Morgan made a rare (for him) mental miscue during Baltimore's game-winning three-run fifth inning rally. With one run in, a man on first and nobody out, third baseman Mike Schmidt barehanded a sacrifice bunt attempt but had to hold up his throw because Morgan had failed to get over quickly enough from second base to cover first, and before it was over the Orioles had two more runs, which turned out to be the ball game.
Getting back to tonight's pitching matchups, both Carlton and Flanagan, despite their glittering statistics, go into the contest with some question marks as well.
Carlton did get No. 300 this year, but was hardly his usual dominating presence, winding up with a 15-16 record despite pitching for a pennant-winning team. And although he looked sharp in the playoffs - especially in his 1-0 victory in the opener - he was not able to finish either of his starts.
Flanagan injured a knee early this season, had surgery on it, and missed a couple of months. He was effective both before and after the operation, finishing with a 12-4 record, but he went only five innings in his playoff stint against the White Sox, and thus, like Carlton, has to be a subject of some question marks in terms of the late innings.
The way these two teams platoon at several positions, both southpaws also will be facing lineups loaded with right-handed power in a pretty good hitters' ball park - including a few like Schmidt and Murray who just don't figure to be held in check forever. So it should be an interesting evening.
The managers say they intend to come back with first-game starters Denny and McGregor in Game 4 - and then presumably continue the same rotation they've been using. But pitching strategy is sometimes affected by what happens from game to game, so all this could change according to how the Series progresses.