You just knew Pete Rose would be a factor in this series.
Even though he was 39 in 1980 and his peak years were behind him, Rose could still make an impact. He led the National League with 42 doubles — one more than Bill Buckner and Andre Dawson — that season.
So, it was rather fitting that his three-run double in the fourth inning was the big hit in Game 5 of our virtual matchup between the 1980 and 2008 Phillies teams.
Rose's bases-loaded double highlighted a four-run inning and the '80 club went on to win, 5-2, at Veterans Stadium. Larry Christenson was brilliant in pitching a complete-game three-hitter for the '80 club. He struck out nine and beat Cole Hamels, who went six innings and allowed five runs, one of which was unearned.
The series, which pits the only two World Series teams in Phillies history against each other, is being played via Strat-O-Matic computer simulation using actual statistics from the 1980 and 2008 seasons. Rose's virtual bat and Christenson's virtual arm have given the '80 club a three-games-to-two lead in the best-of-seven series.
The '80 club is sitting pretty with Hall of Famer and 1980 NL Cy Young winner Steve Carlton ready to go in Game 6 as the series shifts back to Citizens Bank Park.
Carlton has a chip on his shoulder after being outpitched by Hamels in Game 1. He will oppose Brett Myers, who was lit up in Game 2.
Carlton might not need that chip to beat the '08ers in Game 6. The '08 team's bats have been arctic for most of the series. The three-hit performance in Game 5 left Charlie Manuel's lads with a .168 batting average for the series.
In Game 2 of the series, Bob Walk held the '08ers to two hits as he went the route for the win. Christenson went the distance on 143 pitches. Throwing that many pitches was not uncommon in those days.
In real life, Christenson was one of the core members of those great Phillies teams of the late-70s. He was the third overall pick in the 1972 draft and debuted in the majors as a 19-year-old. He was a 19-game winner in 1977 and a year later recorded a career-best 3.24 ERA in 228 innings.
Christenson was sidelined by an elbow injury for a good chunk of the 1980 season but came back and pitched well down the stretch and in the NL Championship Series for Dallas Green's club. He was hit hard by Kansas City in his only World Series start in 1980, but all these years later has found redemption thanks to our handy-dandy computer simulation.
The Phillies, pushed by front office executive Bill Giles, signed Rose as a free agent before the 1979 season. Giles believed Rose's intangibles could help the Phillies reach the World Series after painful playoff eliminations in 1976, 1977 and 1978. Rose indeed helped the Phillies get to the Series and win it in 1980 and he was part of another Phillies World Series team in 1983, his last season with the club.
For Phillies fans, those were great memories, and like this virtual Spring Classic, are helping fill our baseball cravings while the game is shut down because of the coronavirus health crisis. Will the '80 Phillies wrap it up behind Carlton in Game 6? Or will the '08 team's bats finally come alive and force a Game 7 in South Philadelphia?
We know you can't wait.
See you Monday.
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