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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

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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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Pete Rose makes his presence felt as 1980 Phillies take 3-2 series lead over 2008 Phillies

Pete Rose makes his presence felt as 1980 Phillies take 3-2 series lead over 2008 Phillies

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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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1980 Phillies take series lead over 2008 Phils behind Larry Bowa and Dick Ruthven

1980 Phillies take series lead over 2008 Phils behind Larry Bowa and Dick Ruthven

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A reader, we'll just call him Larry from Philadelphia, reached out after Game 1 of our virtual showdown between the 1980 and 2008 Phillies, the only two clubs to win the World Series in the franchise's 137-year history.

We're not sure if the reader was more incensed or incredulous. He certainly was a little of both after reading that the 2008 Phillies had beaten 1980 National League Cy Young winner Steve Carlton in Game 1 of the series.

It wasn't the '80 team's loss that so much bothered the reader. It was how the loss happened, with Carlton, one of the best left-handers in the history of the game, giving up three killer extra-base hits to left-handed hitters and two of them to Cole Hamels, the opposing pitcher. 

"There's no way Steve Carlton gives up two doubles to the pitcher, no way!" the reader fumed. "He owned left-handed hitters. Ask Dave Parker."

Our virtual competition, being played out via Strat-O-Matic computer simulation, is based on actual statistics from the 1980 and 2008 seasons and Carlton was indeed death on lefties. In 1980, he led the majors with 304 innings pitched. Left-handed batters hit a minuscule .183 with just four doubles and one homer against him that season.

So, the reader's shock at Carlton's giving up two doubles to Hamels and a two-run homer to Chase Utley, another lefty stick, was not unfounded. 

That's the way the numbers played out, we told the reader, one Larry from Philadelphia. Stick with the series and see what happens, we said. It's actually a lot of fun and where else are you going to get some baseball during this shutdown?

"OK," said the reader, calming down just a little bit. "I'll stick with it. But I better be drinking champagne when it's over."

Clearly, the reader has a rooting interest in our little series. He was happy to see that the '80 club bounced back with a blowout win in Game 2 to even the series and he'll be even happier to see what happened in Game 3 at Veterans Stadium: The '80 club prevailed, 6-2, behind a strong start from Dick Ruthven. For the second straight day, the '80 club pounded out 15 hits. A guy named Larry Bowa had three of them. He also stole three bases and scored two runs.

Insert smiley-faced emoji here.

Bowa wasn't the only longtime Phillie to have a big day in Game 3. Greg Luzinski, who was in his last season with the Phils in 1980, clubbed a two-run homer against J.C. Romero in the seventh to put the game away. Jamie Moyer, the 2008 starting pitcher, gave up 11 hits but managed to limit damage by holding the '80 club to just four runs over six innings.

The 2008 club had just seven hits and left eight men on base. Through three games, the '08 team is hitting just .165 (14 for 85). Utley has two doubles, a homer and four RBIs in the first three games, but Ryan Howard, Jayson Werth and Shane Victorino, three of that club's big guns, have been quiet at a combined 1 for 31. It has not been hittin' season for Charlie Manuel's boys. The bats need to wake up in Game 4 against Marty Bystrom or this thing might end quickly.

Bystrom, a late-season star for the '80 team, will try to duplicate the success of teammates Bob Walk, who pitched a two-hit shutout in Game 2, and Ruthven, who gave up just two runs, one of which was unearned, over 6⅔ typically workmanlike innings in Game 3. Ruthven got a nice assist from relievers Dickie Noles and Tug McGraw, who combined on 2⅓ scoreless innings. 

It was nice to see the late, great Tugger make his first appearance of the series. Things are always a lot more exciting when he's around and we look forward to seeing him again, even if it is on a computer screen. (Wouldn’t a late-game showdown with Matt Stairs be cool?)

Down two games to one, the '08 team will go with Joe Blanton in Game 4. The right-hander joined the '08 Phillies that year in a trade-deadline deal with Oakland. He proved to be an excellent pickup, the kind of under-the-radar difference-maker Pat Gillick was known for. Blanton made 11 starts down the stretch for the '08 Phils and the club won seven of those games. He also was a standout in the postseason that year. His team needs a big effort in Game 4 of this Spring Classic.

Keep reading, Larry. (Wink. Wink.)

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