May 24, 1979: An Off-Day as the Pirates Head to New York for Four

The Pirates had an off-day as they traveled from Montreal to New York for a four-game series with the Mets.  They’re set to start Jim Rooker, Bert Blyleven, Jim Bibby and John Candelaria.  They’ll be facing Craig Swan, Mike Scott, Kevin Kobel and Pete Falcone.

At this point in the season, the Pirates’ offense is strong at the top of the order, not so much lower down.  Omar Moreno is hitting 321/376/449, Tim Foli 292/347/348.  The power guys were producing.  Dave Parker sports a .918 OPS with six home runs and Willie Stargell 1.017 with nine.  John Milner has been a force off the bench, with an OPS of .997 and six bombs.  Bill Robinson is scuffling a little, with a .751 OPS and just a .269 OBP, but he had seven longballs.

The rest of the lineup isn’t producing a great deal.  Primary catcher Ed Ott has an OPS of .644.  Steve Nicosia is doing better in more limited time, with an .834 figure.  Rennie Stennett has continued his struggles of 1977, batting just 252/298/317.  Lee Lacy has been solid off the bench, batting 257/378/400.  Dale Berra has been less so, batting just 171/278/298 and committing several key errors.

The pitching has been inconsistent.  Of the starters, Bert Blyleven has been erratic, with just one win and a 4.64 ERA.  The team’s other two top starters, John Candelaria and Don Robinson, have mostly pitched well.  They both have 3-3 records, with ERAs of 3.47 and 3.58, respectively.

The rest of the rotation has remained in flux.  New acquisition Rick Rhoden has started just once and is on the disabled list.  Veteran Jim Rooker just came off the disabled list, wit a strong start his first time out.  Ed Whitson and Bruce Kison have filled in at times while also pitching in relief.  Kison has made five starts and two relief appearances; oddly, his longest outing was one of the latter.  Whitson has made three starts, one good and two not, and his overall ERA is 5.52.

Of the four key relievers, Kent Tekulve has had the roughest time.  He has a 4.41 ERA and a 2-4 record, with four saves.  Grant Jackson has been used frequently to finish games, picking up five saves and throwing scoreless ball in 16 of 18 games.  Newly acquired Enrique Romo has been more solid than anything.  Swingman Jim Bibby has pitched solely in relief so far, with good results other than one rough outing.

Overall, the Pirates are two games under .500 at 18-20, in fourth place, seven games out of first.  They’ve scored two fewer runs than they’ve allowed.  They stand ninth in the 12-team NL in runs, although that’s partly because the NL West teams have played considerably more games than they have.  They’re tied with two other teams for the fourth-fewest runs allowed, although again that’s partly due to the schedule, or more specifically more rainouts in the east.

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