Beat L.A.: 1978 National League Championship

It was 30 years ago that the Phillies and Dodgers matched up for the second season in a row for the National League Championship. And for the second season in a row, the Dodgers came out on top.

After the 1977 NLCS, the Phillies thought they were due. While they didn't make excuses for the loss to the Dodgers the year before, there was an overwhelming feeling that they were done in not by the Dodgers, but by umpires and torrential rain.

1978 was the year they were supposed to make everything right.

The regular season wasn't the cake walk that it was thought the Phillies might have. The Pittsburgh Pirates - then in the NL East - pushed the issue and the Phillies didn't clinch until the penultimate day of the season when they went into Three Rivers Stadium and won a 10-8 battle with the Pirates. Pitcher Randy Lerch launched two home runs in that game to send the Phillies to their destined rematch with Los Angeles.

The series opened with Larry Christenson on the Veterans Stadium mound, squaring off against Burt Hooton of the Dodgers, who was looking for a little revenge of his own after the '77 series. Before they knew what was happening, the Phillies found themselves down 7-1 heading to the bottom of the fifth. A three run rally by the Phillies made it 7-4, but the Dodgers countered with an additional run in the sixth and went on to win 9-5 on the strength of Steve Garvey's bat.

One of the key players for the '78 Phillies was Dick Ruthven, who had come over from the Braves in a mid-season deal. Ruthven went 13-5 for the Phillies after the deal and started Game Two. Tommy John got the start for the Dodgers and shutout the Phillies in a complete game effort as the Dodgers sprinted out to a 2-0 lead in games, seemingly burying the Phillies in the best-of-five series. However, with Steve Carlton on the mound for Game Three in L.A., there was still some hope alive.

Carlton turned in a complete game effort of his own and the Phillies bats, which were silent against John, came alive against Don Sutton. Carlton even chipped in with a home run of his own as the Phillies took the first game in LA by a 9-4 score.

Now, back in the series, the Phillies looked to keep the momentum going. The baseball gods had other ideas.

Randy Lerch and Doug Rau were the Game Four starters and both lasted just over five innings. When they exited, the score was tied 2-2, but the Dodgers would get a run in the bottom of the sixth, only to have the Phillies come back against Rich Rhoden to again tie the game in the seventh. The two teams were unable to decide the game in nine innings and they went to the tenth. The Phillies failed in the top of the inning, but had the game in the hands of Tug McGraw.

With two outs in the tenth and the bases empty, Dusty Baker lined a soft fly ball to center fielder Garry Maddox. As the saying went at the time, "two-thirds of the Earth is covered by water. The rest is covered by Garry Maddox." One of the best defensive center fielders to ever play the game dropped the ball; literally. The sure third out of the inning became a rallying point for the Dodgers and before long, it was over; again.

For the second straight season, the Dodgers had found a way to smash the dreams of the Phillies. And for the second straight season, the Dodgers again matched up with the Yankees in the Fall Classic, falling - for the second straight season - four-games-to-two.

Both teams would miss the post-season in 1979, before the Phillies would win the 1980 World Series. The Dodgers took one more year to return to the post-season, but were World Series Champions in 1981. And yes, you guessed it; they beat the Yankees, four-games-to-two.

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