Looking at the pitching matchup for this do or die game, one might be lead to believe that Houston had the edge even before it started. Dallas Green decided to go with rookie hurler Marty Bystrom (5-0, 1.50) to go up against seasoned vet, and future hall of famer, Nolan Ryan (11-10, 3.35). Sure Bystrom pitched great in his 36 regular season innings, but this was the playoffs. Not only that, but this was game 5 of the NLCS. It's rare to see a rookie start such an important game, but Green had faith in his guy.
That faith was tested in the bottom of the first inning when Terry Puhl scored the first run of the game on a Jose Cruz double. The 44,802 in attendance at the Astrodome cheered, as their team got on the board first for the fifth straight game of the series. It didn't take long the Phillies offense to strike back though. In the top of the second, catcher Bob Boone drove in two runs on a single that would put the Phils on top for the first time of the day. Now working with a lead, Bystrom held off the Astros' hitters for four straight innings, before Greg Luzinski's miscue in left field led to an Alan Ashby single to tie the game.
Things got worse for the Phillies in the bottom of the seventh when a single from Denny Walling, a wild pitch, and Art Howe's triple all resulted in runs scoring to make it a 5-2 game. As things got worse for Dallas Green, who had already tapped into the bullpen twice after removing Bystrom in the sixth, Nolan Ryan continued to mow down the opposing batters. After those two runs in the second inning, Ryan kept the Phils scoreless for five frames, until a disastrous eighth. Larry Bowa started things off with a single, then Boone hit a come backer to Ryan, which also resulted in a base hit. Now with two men on, Greg Gross laid down a bunt, which loaded the bases.
With the bases loaded and no outs, Ryan watched as Pete Rose stepped up to the plate. Rose worked the pitcher for a walk that drove in Bowa and ended Ryan's day. Houston then called on Joe Sambito to face Bake McBride, but the Phils put Keith Moreland in to face Sambito instead (McBride was having trouble with lefties). Moreland tapped a grounder that resulted in a force out at second and another run scored by Boone. It was now a one run game with runners still on first and third and just one out, as Mike Schmidt came to bat against the new reliever, Ken Forsch. Schmidt struck out, but Del Unser, pinch-hitting for the pitcher, drove in the tying run with a single to right.
Since they successfully dug themselves out of that 5-2 hole, the Phillies' job now was to take the lead and finish Houston off once and for all. Manny Trillo tried to get the job done with a two run triple that put the Fightin's up 7-5. The Astros weren't finished yet though. They scored two runs on four singles off of Tug McGraw in the bottom of the eighth to tie the game. No one was able to score in the ninth, so game five ended up in extra innings, just as the three previous games did.
LaCorte was on the mound for his second inning, when Del Unser tagged him for a leadoff double. Two batters later, Garry Maddox put the Phils back on top with a double of his own. As the top of the tenth ended, it was now up to Dick Ruthven to get the job done and get his team to the World Series. Danny Heep recorded the first out with an infield fly. Terry Puhl almost struck again with a shot to center, but Maddox was able to grab it on the warning track. Ruthven then accomplished his mission with a Enos Cabell fly ball right back to Maddox. The Phillies had won the NLCS and were now on their way to face the Kansas City Royals in the World Series.
As soon as that final out was in the glove of Maddox, the Phillies went nuts. A jubilant Harry Kalas made the call as Tim McCarver giggled like a schoolgirl in the background. Dallas Green hoisted Maddox onto his shoulders, and then went over to hug GM Paul Owens. After all the initial excitement, Manny Trillo was named NLCS MVP for his .381 average and four RBI in the series. Though Trillo was the official most valuable player, it's hard to say that the efforts of guys like Luzinski and Maddox were any less valuable to achieving what they did. Also, the pitching of Tug McGraw in every single game of the series was a feat that's difficult to overlook. Even though his ERA was 4.50, and he was given the loss in game three, he did get the save in two of the three Phillies wins. One guy that was MIA on offense was, surprisingly enough, Mike Schmidt. The 1980 NL MVP, and soon to be World Series MVP, hit only .208 with one RBI in his 24 at bats of the series. Maybe if Schmidt proved to be a bigger contributor, the Phils could have won the series a bit more easily.
The momentum and confidence gained in this series drove the Fightin's on to defeat the Royals four games to two in the World Series two weeks later. That 1980 title would be the first in the franchise's history, and remains the only one to date. Had it not been for the tremendous efforts given on the part of the Phillies, in what many consider the best playoff series ever, that championship and parade down Broad Street would have never happened. But luckily for us, it did, and will hopefully take place again in the not too distant future.