Steve Carlton

A couple of the most notable pitcher playoff home runs ever came from Phillies

A couple of the most notable pitcher playoff home runs ever came from Phillies

As we wrap up a look back at the 2008 Phillies World Series run, it would be remiss not to note how Joe Blanton could go down in history. If the new proposal of a National League designated hitter becomes permanent, Blanton could be the last starting pitcher to hit a home run in the World Series. With that in mind, let’s take a look at some of the most notable home runs by a pitcher in baseball’s postseason. Fittingly, two of them are Phillies. 

Steve Carlton 
Game: 1978 NLCS Game 3 off Don Sutton

Carlton's three-run home run at Dodger Stadium gave the Phillies a 4-0 lead and it helped them capture their only win of the four-game series. Fun fact: Carlton hit just 13 homers in a little more than 1,700 at-bats over a 24-year career, but none bigger than the one in Los Angeles. 

Joe Blanton
Game: 2008 World Series Game 4 off Edwin Jackson 

This was not the most recent pitcher-belted homer in the postseason overall, but it was the most recent in a World Series. Sure, Blanton’s home run made it a 6-2 game in the fifth en route to an eight-run win for the Phillies. But being the last to do something is a fun distinction and one that Blanton could hold for years to come, especially as a starting pitcher. Yes, in a crazy 15-inning game, a pitcher may be used for an at-bat with a DH in play. But if the DH in the National League becomes a permanent reality, JoeB will likely be the last starting pitcher to knock one out of the park in the postseason. I also love Blanton’s mindset at the plate in that Game 4. “I just close my eyes and swing hard in case I make contact." Brilliant. 

Kerry Wood
Game: 2003 NLCS Game 7 off Mark Redman

This one was a doozy. Tensions were running high at Wrigley Field on this night. Not only was it the game after the “Bartman” incident. But the Cubs watched their 3-1 series lead over the Marlins collapse into a winner-take-all Game 7. The Cubs were trying to get to their first World Series since 1945. Wood did his best to give Chicago a chance when he knocked out a game-tying two-run homer the second inning, but it wasn’t enough. In keeping with the trend for that series (and for the 100+ years of their curse), the Cubs eventually blew a 5-3 lead to fall to the Marlins. 

Jake Arrieta 
Game: 2016 NLDS Game 3 off Madison Bumgarner

As cursed as the Cubs were in 2003, they were fortunate in 2016. Everything seemed to go their way, eventually shaking off that 108-year World Series drought. Current Phillie, Jake Arrieta came through in Game 3 with a three-run home run off one of the best postseason pitchers ever. Sure, the Giants won this game in extras, but the Cubs got the last laugh and championship rings in the end. Fun fact: Just days before Arrieta, pitcher Travis Wood belted a home run of his own in Game 2. When you’re hot, you’re hot and the Cubs certainly were in 2016. 

Dave McNally and Bob Gibson

I grouped these two players together because they have the great distinction of being the only two pitchers to hit home runs in the postseason twice. And they both did it in the World Series, in back to back years. McNally, pitching for the Orioles, belted a homer in Game 5 of the 1969 World Series and hit one again in the 1970 World Series in Game 3. Gibson hit his homers for the Cardinals in Game 7 of the 1967 World Series and then did it the following year, Game 4 of the 1968 World Series. And they both won one World Series and lost one. 

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Mike Schmidt leads the way as 1980 Phillies pop champagne corks

Mike Schmidt leads the way as 1980 Phillies pop champagne corks


It's all over. The computer has rendered its results.

Mike Schmidt, you are the man!

The greatest player in club history was the best player on the field throughout our virtual matchup between the 1980 and 2008 Phillies, the only two World Series championship teams in club history.

Schmidt began the series with a home run in the top of the first inning of Game 1 and he closed it with a three-run bomb in the top of the ninth to fuel a series-clinching, 8-5 win for the '80 Phillies in Game 6 at Citizens Bank Park.

Steve Carlton, who took the loss in Game 1, came back with a vengeance and pitched 7⅓ innings of three-run ball for the win.

With the baseball world shut down by the coronavirus health crisis, we were looking for ways to satisfy our baseball cravings. The good folks at Strat-O-Matic graciously agreed to run a best-of-seven computer simulation between the 1980 and 2008 Phillies, using the actual statistics from those seasons. The '80 Phillies lost Game 1 but came back to win four of the next five with Bob Walk, Dick Ruthven, Larry Christenson and Carlton all delivering strong efforts on the mound against an '08 club that just did not hit.

Schmidt, the National League MVP and home run king in 1980, was the star of the series. (Oh, what the heck, clear a spot in the garage, Mike, we've crowned you MVP of this series.) Schmidt hit .435 (10 for 23) with two doubles, a triple and three homers. He drove in eight runs.

Three of those RBIs came with one swing in the top of the ninth inning in Game 6 after the 2008 club began to stir in the bottom of the eighth. The '80 club had taken a 4-0 lead into that frame before Ryan Howard clubbed a three-run homer against Carlton to make it a one-run game.

Charlie Manuel, the 2008 skipper, went to his bullpen ace, Brad Lidge, to keep the game close in the top of the ninth. The right-hander got the first two outs of the frame then struggled against the top part of the '80 team's batting order. He gave up an RBI single to Pete Rose before serving up the three-run homer to Schmidt as the '80 club went up, 8-3.

With closer Tug McGraw still reeling after giving up a grand slam to '08 hero Matt Stairs in Game 4, '80 skipper Dallas Green gave the ball to Warren Brusstar in the ninth. Stairs did it again, clouting a two-run pinch-hit homer to make it a three-run game, but Green stuck with Brusstar and he closed out the game as fireworks filled the air beyond the left-field wall, over the parking lot that once was Veterans Stadium, the 1980 club's home park.

While champagne flew in the visiting clubhouse, the home clubhouse was quiet. In real life, the World "bleeping" Champion 2008 Phillies had some thunderous bats. But in this computer simulation, they were quiet. Chase Utley hit .316 with four doubles a homer and four RBIs, but Pat Burrell, Jimmy Rollins, Jayson Werth, Howard and Shane Victorino all hit well under .200. In fact, Burrell had the highest batting average of that group at .167. (Sorry, guys, the computer just wasn't with you.)

As a team, the 2008 club hit just .187 while the 1980 club hit .305.

Game 5 was a big turnaround game. The 2008 club needed to build on the momentum it had gained from Stairs' dramatic ninth-inning grand slam in Game 4, but the 1980 club extinguished that momentum with Christenson pitching a three-hitter and Rose driving in three runs in Game 5.

In addition to Schmidt, the '80 club got big offensive performances from Manny Trillo, Larry Bowa, Bake McBride and Lonnie Smith. 

So that's our Spring Classic. We could play it all out again and the results might be completely different. Thanks to John Garcia of Strat-O-Matic for making it happen. It was a lot of fun to write about these great Phillies names of the past. Thanks to everyone who followed along.

"Those were two great teams going at each other," Bowa, an '80 star, said in real life. "For the most part, our pitching shut them down. It was fun to follow this series and the city should be very proud of both of these teams.

"Now, it's time to have a glass of champagne."

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Cole Hamels outduels Steve Carlton as 2008 Phillies beat 1980 Phillies in Game 1

Cole Hamels outduels Steve Carlton as 2008 Phillies beat 1980 Phillies in Game 1


Cole Hamels carried the Phillies throughout the 2008 postseason and he did it again in Game 1 of our Spring Classic, the virtual matchup between the Phillies' World Series championship teams of 2008 and 1980.

Hamels, the real-life MVP in the 2008 National League Championship Series and World Series, led the '08 team to a 4-2 victory with a huge performance on the mound and at the plate at Citizens Bank Park.

On the mound, Hamels outdueled 1980 NL Cy Young winner Steve Carlton in a battle of the two greatest left-handers in franchise history. Hamels pitched eight innings of four-hit ball while Carlton countered with seven innings of five-hit ball on a day when he battled command issues.

At the plate, Hamels doubled twice. Both of the doubles came against Carlton and the first one preceded the game's biggest hit.

The series is being played via Strat-O-Matic computer simulation, based on actual player statistics from the 1980 and 2008 seasons.

During the 2008 season, Hamels hit .224 (17 for 76) with just two doubles.

But, in the batter's box, the numbers came up right for him in this game.

He led off the bottom of the third inning with a double against Carlton. Two batters later, Chase Utley connected for a two-out, two-run homer against Carlton to give the '08 team a 3-2 lead that it would never relinquish.

It was interesting that Carlton struggled to put Hamels and Utley away in the computer simulation. Both are left-handed hitters and Carlton was death on lefties during the 1980 season. They hit a minuscule .183 with just four doubles and one homer against him during the regular season. Carlton allowed just 15 homers in 304 innings over the length of the regular season.

Something tells us Carlton might pitch with a little chip on his shoulder later in this series. That slider might have a little more bite.

While Hamels was economical with his pitches in Game 1 — he walked just one and struck out six on 104 pitches in his eight innings of work — Carlton was not. The Hall of Famer threw 132 pitches (pitch counts were not a thing in 1980) and struck out eight, but he walked five over his seven-inning stay.

One of Carlton's walks proved very costly. The '80 team had taken a 1-0 lead on a solo homer by Mike Schmidt in the top of the first inning. The '08 team tied the game in the bottom of the second. Pat Burrell walked, moved up on a groundout and a wild pitch and scored on a sacrifice fly by Pedro Feliz.

Utley teamed with Hamels to give the '08 club the lead in the third. In the fifth, the '08 club padded its lead as Hamels led off with a double and scored on a base hit by Jimmy Rollins.

The '08 team had just five hits, but they were timely.

Schmidt, the real-life NL MVP in 1980, had two of his team's four hits and both were for extra bases.

The game was played briskly in two hours, 27 minutes. That was a testament to the starting pitching. In the real-life postseason of 2008, Hamels, then 24, made five starts and allowed just seven earned runs for a 1.80 ERA. Though 35 in 1980, Carlton won a league-high 24 games and posted a 2.34 ERA over 38 starts.

Brad Lidge got the final three outs, no big surprise as he went 48 for 48 in save chances during that storybook 2008 season.

The loss put the '80 team in an uncomfortable spot heading into Game 2. Manager Dallas Green would be sending a rookie, Bob Walk, to the mound for that game while his counterpart, Charlie Manuel, was set to go with Brett Myers.

Will the '80 team's bats come alive?

Or will the '08 team's pitching dominance continue?

Come back for Game 2 on Thursday. We're just getting started. 

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