ASTROS 1, DODGERS 0
Monday, April 10, 1978 at The Astrodome
Game 30 – 10/12/80
In a classic pitcher’s duel between NL West rivals Houston and Los Angeles, Art Howe’s RBI single in the first inning was all the scoring starter J.R. Richard and his teammates would need, as the Astros clipped the Dodgers 1-0 in Houston’s 1978 home opener at the Astrodome.
The game took a strange turn almost immediately, when LA manager Tommy Lasorda wasted no time pulling his starter, Doug Rau, in the first inning, after he’d given up two hits and a walk to load the bases. As a perplexed and apparently underachieving Rau headed for the dugout, Lasorda called for short relief specialist Terry Forster to take over, before he’d even had a chance to warm up. The equally-perplexed Forster took the mound, threw his allotted five warm-up pitches, and promptly served up Howe’s game-winning hit, which sent Cesar Cedeno trotting home from third.
Richard, meanwhile, began mowing down LA batters at an alarming rate, striking out seven over the first three innings alone. After giving up a single to Davey Lopes to open the game, Richard would not allow another hit until the eighth; he would finish with a 4-hitter, his ninth career shutout, and his second win of the season.
In that eighth inning, however, the Dodgers did pose a minor threat, when Ron Cey and Bill Russell reached base via singles to lead off the inning. But after Rick Monday struck out and Steve Yeager popped out to first, pitcher Forster was allowed to bat, with the tying and winning runs on base. Though he owned a career .412 batting average, he’d already pitched six innings, and there were seven Dodger batters waiting on the bench, all of them ready to hit. On an 0-2 count, Forster popped out to Howe at second to end the comeback bid, prompting those in attendance to wonder if Lasorda was even at the ballpark.
From there, Richard cruised through the LA ninth, getting a 4-6-3 double play to wrap up the game and give Houston the 1-0 win. He finished with 11 strikeouts—improving his two-game season total to 19—and no walks, and seems poised to top his career high of 214, achieved during both the 1976 and 1977 campaigns. The loss went to Rau (0-1), but it was Forster who suffered the most, working 7.1 exhausting innings, though his numbers for the night nearly equaled Richard’s: seven hits allowed, no runs, ten strikeouts, and no batters walked.
And after just two games as a member of the Dodgers, Forster wondered if he’d made the right decision when he left the Pirates as a free agent, and signed with LA during the off-season. While soaking his left arm in dry ice after the game, Forster told reporters, “Maybe I should’ve stayed in Pittsburgh…at least there my boss didn’t try to kill me.”
• The game was played at night at site RB1 in Rancho Bernardo, California.
• This was the 30th game played at site RB1, the only site thus far to host an SP78 game.
• This was the first game ever played on this date.
• This was my brother Scott’s fourth SP78 game played this season, and his third time managing the Dodgers; his favorite team; it was the first of three consecutive games he’d participate in over a four-day span.The loss dropped his record against me to 1-2, with one rainout.
• Steve Yeager was the only LA batter not to strike out against Richard.
• After playing just two games for April 9th, I skipped over the remaining games scheduled for that date and jumped ahead to April 10th, so Scott could play in today’s match-up and manage the Dodgers. The Dodgers game for April 9th had already been played, and had been rained out.
• Back on October 7, 2014 I’d been doing some re-calculating of April stats, and called Scott to tell him about this game, and how he’d yanked Rau after just 2/3 of an inning and brought in closer Forster for over seven. His explanation: Rau “had a prior injury” that had forced him to exit the game, and that he’d “had a talk with Terry about becoming a starter, and he was okay with coming in for some very long relief work.” As of that conversation, and 33 games pitched this season through the end of July, Forster has yet to start a game.
• Along with his infield flyout to crush a rally in the eighth, Forster had two other at-bats in the game, where he struck out in the third and flew out to center in the sixth. Richard, on the other hand, went 2-for-2 with a pair of singles and a sacrifice bunt.
• Actually, I shouldn’t be too hard on Scott’s managerial choices; I’d done the same thing just a few months earlier, when I allowed short reliever Bruce Sutter to bat in the eighth with the bases loaded, one out, and the Cubs down by one run to the Pirates. He fouled out to the catcher to end the threat, and the Cubs went on to lose 1-0.