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Experience a big factor in Philadelphia and Baltimore playoff victories

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They say there's no substitute for experience in the playoffs, and Philadelphia and Baltimore certainly demonstrated the truth of that axiom this year. Not only did the Phillies and Orioles outperform their foes by wide margins at bat and on the mound, they also looked like far superior teams in the intangibles that so often spell the difference in post-season play - fundamentals, execution, and general poise under pressure. Indeed, by the time they had finished dismantling Los Angeles and Chicago respectively in four games each, few could argue that they were the teams that belonged in the World Series.

And yet, despite the lopsided final statistics, each of these best-of-five league championship series was a battle for a while - and each had its pivotal moments when things could have turned either way.

The first two games of the National League series were close, tightly-pitched affairs. Mike Schmidt's first inning home run won the opener as Steve Carlton and reliever Al Holland made it stand up for a 1-0 Philadelphia victory, but the Dodgers came back to take the second game 4-1 behind the strong pitching of Fernando Valenzuela and Tom Niedenfuer.

At this point, the Phillies had to be wondering just a bit. All year long, the young, inexperienced Dodgers were known as a team with defensive problems, but against Philadelphia they looked like world-beaters, winning 11 of 12 regular season meetings and now playing well again in the first two playoff contests.

When the series moved to Philadelphia, though, everything fell apart for the Dodgers. In Game 3 they gave the Phillies one run on a pair of walks, a wild pitch, and a passed ball; handed them another one when third baseman Pedro Guerrero threw to the wrong base; and were victimized again on a couple of balls that were scored as hits but might have been played by shortstop Bill Russell and outfielder Ken Landreaux. Meanwhile, the Philly offense woke up, led by Gary Matthews (the series MVP with 3 homers and 8 RBIs), resulting in a 7-2 victory in this game and another by the same score the next day (with Carlton getting his second victory) to close matters before the Dodgers had a chance to come back again with Game 2 winner Valenzuela.


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