1975 National League Championship Series
The 1975 National League Championship Series pitted the NL West's Cincinnati Reds against the NL East's Pittsburgh Pirates, with the Reds winning the playoff three games to none. It was already the third meeting between the two teams in only seven editions of the National League Championship Series; the Reds had come out ahead in both 1970 and 1972, but had lost the World Series both times.
Riding on the backs of Johnny Bench, Tony Perez, Pete Rose and the rest of the Big Red Machine juggernaut, the Reds dominated the National League during the regular season, winning 108 games and featuring three 15-game winners in their starting rotation. The Pirates, with star hitters Willie Stargell and Dave Parker and breakout pitching performer Jerry Reuss, were not so indomitable, but still a mighty force in the league - they finished with 92 wins and a 6.5 game lead over the second-place Philadelphia Phillies.
Just as they did in the regular season, the Reds steamrolled nearly unabated through the Championship Series, beating the Pirates with a combined score of 19-8. The Pirates got off to an early lead in the Series, scoring first in Game 1, however the Reds quickly overcame the deficit and beat them, 8-3, in the initial match. Game 2 followed with a similar walloping, as the Reds beat the Pirates, 6-1. After two easy victories, the Reds were clear favorites to win the Series, though Game 3 proved to be a nail-biter that ended up going to extra innings. It was a back-and-forth affair, with both teams holding the lead at different points in the game. In the end, the Reds came out on top, 5-3, after 10 innings.
The Reds dominated both at the plate and on the mound in the three game set, batting .284 (to the Pirates' .198) and posting a 2.25 ERA (to the Pirates' 6.58). The Reds' hitting stars included Dave Concepcion and Tony Perez, who batted .455 and .417 respectively, and Ken Griffey, who hit .333 with four RBI. On the mound, the Reds' Don Gullett tossed a complete game in Game 1, while Fred Norman posted a 1.50 ERA in his lone Series start.
Though the Pirates were unimpressive overall, they did feature some stellar individual performances. Richie Zisk and Richie Hebner batted .500 and .333, respectively, and pitcher John Candelaria struck out 14 batters in 7 2/3 innings, becoming the only pitcher with at least 10 Ks in the Series.
|WP: Don Gullett (1-0), LP: Jerry Reuss (0-1)|
|Home Runs: CIN - Don Gullett (1)|
- Attendance: 54,633
The Pirates took an early lead in Game 1 by scoring two runs off Reds' starting pitcher Don Gullett in the top of the 2nd inning. In the bottom of the frame, Gullett helped his own cause, by singling in a run. Clinging to a one-run lead in the 3rd, things began to fall apart for Pirates starter Jerry Reuss, who led off the inning by walking Reds second baseman Joe Morgan, who then stole second and third base. Johnny Bench then walked and Tony Perez whacked a single, driving Morgan in. Three batters later, Ken Griffey doubled, scoring Bench and Perez. Reuss was yanked from the game, replaced by relief pitcher Ken Brett. The Reds scored four more runs in the 5th inning, two from a Don Gullett home run. The Pirates remained quiet the rest of the game, save for the 9th inning, when they scratched a run, losing to the Reds in the opening match. Don Gullett tossed a complete game with five strikeouts and he went 2-for-4 at the plate, with three RBI. Griffey also had three RBI.
|WP: Fred Norman (1-0), LP: Jim Rooker (0-1), SV: Rawly Eastwick (1)|
|Home Runs: CIN - Tony Perez (1)|
- Attendance: 54,752
The Pirates were no match for the Reds in Game 2, as they matched starting pitcher Jim Rooker - who had a 2.97 ERA in the regular season - against Fred Norman, whose regular season ERA was 3.73. Tony Perez started the Reds' scoring in the bottom of the 1st inning, hitting a two-run home run that scored Pete Rose. Though the Pirates brought the score to within one in the top of the 4th, the Reds quickly answered by notching two more runs in the bottom of the frame, with starting pitcher Norman driving in one of the runs himself. Pittsburgh's bats remained quiet the rest of the game, as the Reds cruised to a victory on six strong innings from Norman and a three-inning save from relief pitcher Rawly Eastwick. Perez, who had an excellent Series, had three hits and three RBI in the game.
|WP: Rawly Eastwick (1-0), LP: Ramon Hernandez (0-1), SV: Pedro Borbon (1)|
|Home Runs: CIN - Dave Concepcion (1), Pete Rose (1); PIT - Al Oliver (1)|
- Attendance: 46,355
Game 3 would prove to be the closest of the Series, with the lead being swapped back and forth and the game ending in extra innings. Pittburgh's starting pitcher, John Candelaria, proved to be a formidable foe to start the match, striking out the side in the top of the 1st inning - Pete Rose, Joe Morgan and Johnny Bench went down on Ks, the first two looking. He then struck out the first batter he faced in the 2nd inning, Tony Perez. Nevertheless, the Reds struck first, with a solo home run from shortstop Dave Concepcion with two outs in the 2nd inning. With Candelaria mowing them down, however, their bats then went silent.
Cincinnati's starter Gary Nolan was also pitching a great game, holding the Pirates scoreless until the 6th inning, when they took the lead on an Al Oliver two-run home run, making the score 2-1. In the top of the 8th inning, Cincinnati's Pete Rose whacked a two-run shot himself off Candelaria, putting the Reds back in the lead, 3-2. Candelaria was replaced two batters later by relief pitcher Dave Giusti. "Candy Man" pitched a stellar match. Not traditionally a strikeout pitcher, he K'ed 14 batters in 7 2/3 innings, while allowing only three hits and two walks.
The bottom of the 9th was hectic and nerve-wracking, as Reds relief pitcher Will McEnaney allowed a single to the first batter he faced that inning, Willie Stargell. Willie Randolph was called upon to pinch run for the slow-footed Stargell and Dave Parker stepped up to the plate. He struck out. The Reds replaced McEnaney with Rawly Eastwick, who promptly allowed a single to Richie Zisk before inducing Manny Sanguillen to pop out. With runners on first and second, Eastwick walked Pirates pinch-hitter Bob Robertson, loading the bases with the unintimidating Duffy Dyer stepping up to the plate. Easwick, with the bases loaded behind him, walked the weak-hitting Dyer, forcing in a run and tying the game, 3-3. The next batter, Rennie Stennett, flew out, ending the inning and taking the game to extra frames.
The top of the 10th began with a flurry of changes: Relief pitcher Ramon Hernandez came in to pitch for the Pirates, Robertson moved to first base, Randolph to second base and Stennett from second base to shortstop. The new inning began like the bottom of the last, with Hernandez allowing a single to the first batter he saw, Ken Griffey. The pitcher then balked, moving Griffey to second, and Cesar Geronimo grounded out, moving him to third. Ed Armbrister came to the plate and hit a fly ball deep enough for Griffey to score, and score he did as he tagged up and scampered home, putting the Reds ahead, 4-3. Rose followed the sacrifice fly with a single, then Morgan doubled, driving Rose home, putting Cincinnati in the lead, 5-3. Kent Tekulve replaced Hernandez and got the final out of the inning. Pedro Borbon replaced Eastwick on the mound in the bottom of the inning, setting the Pirates down 1-2-3. The Reds won the game and the Series, three games to none.
- Mark Armour, ed.: The Great Eight: The 1975 Cincinnati Reds, University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln, NE, 2014. ISBN 978-0-8032-4586-0
- Joe Posnanski: The Machine: A Hot Team, a Legendary Season, and a Heart-stopping World Series: The Story of the 1975 Cincinnati Reds, HarperCollins, New York, NY, 2009. ISBN 978-0061582561
|Major League Baseball National League Championship Series