Bowa, the effervescent shortstop, may have dropped his guard when he said, "The Reds are the best team in baseball, the world champions. Naturally, we play extra hard against them. But I can't say we've dominated them." In fact, five of the Phillie wins have been by one run and one by two runs. The Reds had their own reasons for wanting to give the Phillies what-for. They needed to provide their playoff foes with a taste of what the champions can do.
Of all the little advantages the Reds have, 5'7" Morgan is the biggest. He is enjoying an even more productive season than he had in 1975, when he was named the National League's Most Valuable Player. By week's end Morgan was hitting .336 and had scored 101 runs, batted in 96, hit 26 homers and stolen 48 bases. In the view of Anderson, he is "the best offensive player in baseball." And he is no knockabout second baseman. In a losing cause on Thursday, he hit two doubles and scored a run. On Friday he scored two of the Reds' four runs and batted in the others. And he made two outstanding plays in the field, taking a hit away from Boone on a ball that rebounded off Pitcher Pedro Borbon's glove and another from Maddox on a shot up the middle. On Saturday he hit a two-run homer and a single.
Morgan was only one of a swarm of potential batting champions at Riverfront last weekend. Of the league's top hitters, four are Reds—Morgan, Griffey, Foster (.312) and Rose (.323)—and three are Phils—Johnstone (.345), Maddox (.326) and Greg Luzinski (.306). In keeping with the affected nonchalance of the occasion, scarcely any professed interest in winning the title.
Johnstone, nominally the league leader, may not even get a chance to. A left-handed hitter, he starts only against right-handed pitching. Ollie Brown plays right field against lefties. As a result, Johnstone figures to fall slightly shy of the necessary 502 plate appearances required of a batting champion. An otherwise irrepressible man, Johnstone is uncharacteristically modest when it comes to his hitting. "Why should I worry about the batting title," he says. "In order to get enough at bats, Brown would have to sit down. We've gotten this far doing it the way we have. It would be unfair to Ollie and to the team for me to play just so I can win an individual honor."
Ozark is also forced to do considerable maneuvering at first base, involving Bobby Tolan, Tommy Hutton, Johnstone and Tim McCarver, because of the prolonged absence of Dick Allen. Allen has not played since July 25, when he more or less absented himself from the premises. He was suspended briefly, then placed on the disabled list because of tendon damage to his right shoulder. Ozark predicts Allen will be fit for the playoffs.
With or without Allen, the Phillies seem destined for the playoffs, an event familiar to few of them. "I'm sure there's a certain atmosphere there," says Bowa, "but then I wouldn't know about it."
Anderson is counting on the Phils' un-familiarity with postseason play to provide his team with another advantage. After all, as he said, placing himself in the pantheon of baseball grammarians, "The playoffs is a nightmare."