Perhaps the 2015 Philadelphia Phillies wished they would’ve been like the their clubs from 1976 to 1978. Back-to-back 101-61 campaigns (both losses in the National League Championship Series) made the Phillies one of the major contenders. Even a 90-72 showing in 1978 had been enough for Philadelphia to earn its third straight NL East title, and that involved leading the division for 131 days.
On Sept. 30, 1978, the Phillies defeated the host Pittsburgh Pirates, 10-8, at Three Rivers Stadium to clinch the division. The Pirates won both games of a doubleheader the day before. Randy Lerch improved to 11-8 with five innings, five hits, four earned runs, three bases on balls, and four strikeouts.
Philadelphia triumphed by tallying solo runs in the top of the first, second, and fourth innings, three in the sixth, and four in the eighth. Pittsburgh plated four in the bottom of the first and four in the ninth.
For the Phillies, Lerch hit two solo home runs, one in the second and the other in the fourth. Greg “Bull” Luzinski notched a single, double, and his 35th sayonara along with three runs batted in. Garry Maddox and Bake McBride also collected three hits apiece and Rich Hebner doubled twice. McBride, Maddox, and Lerch each posted two runs.
Pittsburgh came into the contest one and one-half games behind the Phillies. The Pirates’ Bill Robinson compiled two singles, one double, one RBI, and one run . Will “Pops” Stargell deposited a grand slam for his lone hit in five at-bats.
Similar to 1976 and 1977, the Phillies were eliminated from the NLCS in 1978. The Phillies lost to the Los Angeles Dodgers, three-games-to-one. Philadelphia lost the first two games at Veterans Stadium, won game three in Los Angeles, and had been knocked out after 10 innings in the fourth contest.
*Information about the 1978 Phillies can be found in “The Phillies Encyclopedia (Third Edition)” by Rich Westcott and Frank Bilovsky.