Spirit of '76: Phillies vs. Reds Flashback

Everything old is new again.

The 2010 NLDS marks the second time the Philadelphia Phillies and Cincinnati Reds have met in a postseason series, the first meeting coming in the National League Championship Series in 1976.  The Reds swept that series in three straight, despite the fact that the Phillies scored first in all three games.

As we all know, from years of studying Red Sox lore, the "Big Red Machine" Reds were defending World Champions in 1976.  They cruised through the 1976 season, winning 102 games and finishing 10 games ahead of the second place Los Angeles Dodgers.  The Phillies, for their part, topped 100 victories for the first time in franchise history, winning 101 and finishing nine games ahead of the Pittsburgh Pirates.

The 1976 Reds were led by second baseman Joe Morgan in arguably his best season, putting up a .320/.444/.576 line, leading the National League in both OBP and SLG.  As a second baseman.  His 10.0 WAR (BBRef) also topped the Senior Circuit.

For their part, the 1976 Phillies, in the postseason for the first time since 1950, were starting to emerge as a National League power, and as with most Phillies teams of the era, were paced by Mike Schmidt, whose 38 home runs and 306 total bases topped the National League.

Game One - Reds 6, Phillies 3

Phillies starter Steve Carlton surrendered five runs (four earned) in seven plus innings.  Reds starter Don Gullett allowed just two hits over eight innings as the Reds got off to a 1-0 series lead.

 

Game Two - Reds 6, Phillies 2

The early story of the game was Phillies starter Jim Lonborg, who no-hit the Reds for the first five innings of the game.  The Phillies jumped out to a 2-0 lead on an RBI single by Bob Boone in the second, and a solo home run by left fielder Greg Luzinski in the fifth, the Phillies' only home run of the series.  Then things went to hell in the sixth, with the Reds plating four runs, two of them resulting from a Dick Allen fielding error.  The Reds would score two more runs in the top of the seventh.

 

Game Three - Reds 7, Phillies 6

One of the more dramatic and painful games in the Phillies' tortured history, and one that would probably be more clearly remembered had it not been purged from the city's collective memory by the traumas of Black Friday in 1977.  Again, the Phillies took an early lead behind starter Jim Kaat.  The Reds, trailing 3-0 in the bottom of the seventh, scored four runs that inning.  However, Reds reliever Rawly Eastwick blew a save in the top of the eighth thanks to a Larry Bowa RBI double and a Dave Cash sacrifice fly.  The Phillies would add another run in the top of the ninth, taking a 6-4 lead into the bottom of the ninth.

Then, it hit the fan.  Reliever Ron Reed gave up back-to-back home runs to George Foster and Johnny Bench, tying the game at 6-6.  Enter Gene Garber, who surrendered a single to Dave Concepcion.  Tom Underwood, relieving Garber, walked Cesar Geromino.  Concepcion and Geromino were sacrificed to third and second, prompting an intentional walk to Pete Rose to load the bases.  Ken Griffey then hit a high chopper over the drawn-in infield, scoring the series winning run, and slapping the Philadelphia fanbase with just another disappointment.

 

Aftermath

These were two teams going in opposite directions.  The core of the Big Red Machine would make one more postseason appearance in 1979, dropping the NLCS to the Pittsburgh Pirates in three games.  The Reds would not appear in the postseason again until 1990, when they won the World Series in a huge upset over the heavily favored Oakland A's. 

The Phillies would make four more postseason appearances over the next six seasons, claiming their first World Championship in 1980.

In his first postseason appearance, Mike Schmidt put up "only" a .308/.286/.462 line, and would struggle in the playoffs over the next two seasons, feeding into his reputation for being "unclutch," a reputation he wouldn't fully purge until his mammoth 1980 World Series MVP winning performance.

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