July 21, 1979: Eighth-Inning Bombs Give Pirates Sweep of Astros

Eighth-inning home runs by Bill Robinson and Phil Garner gave the Pirates a come-from-behind, 6-5 win over Houston.  With that win, the Bucs swept their four-game home series with the NL West-leading Astros.  The Pirates have now won six in a row and have beaten Houston eight straight times after losing the first four games between the teams.

Faced with doubleheaders tomorrow and the next day, the Pirates turned to left-hander Dave Roberts for his first start since they acquired him from the Giants.  Roberts threw two and two-thirds innings in relief just two days ago, but managed to give the team five passable innings today.  He gave up three runs and eight hits.

The Astros had 15 hits total, but didn’t take the best advantage of them.  They stranded nine, hit into one double play, had a runner thrown out on the bases, and had two runners caught stealing and another picked off.

Roberts gave up single runs in the first and second.  Terry Puhl led off the game with a triple and scored on a Craig Reynolds single.  The second was more difficult.  A double and two singles –the last hit by the still troublesome Art Howe — started the inning and brought in a run.  Roberts had Howe picked off first, but made an errant throw that left runners at second and third with nobody out.  Roberts got out of it by fanning Bruce Bochy, then getting a popup and a lineout.

The Pirates came back against Joaquin Andujar in the third to take a 3-2 lead.  Singles by Omar Moreno and Tim Foli put runners at the corners, and a run scored when Dave Parker hit into a forceout.  John Milner then put the Pirates ahead with his eighth home run of the season and second in the series.

The teams traded runs in the fourth.  Houston scratched one out on an infield hit, a walk and a two-out single.  The Pirates got it back when Moreno singled and stole second — his 41st steal of the year — and Foli doubled him home.

Roberts departed after the fifth with a 4-3 lead, but Enrique Romo couldn’t hold it.  Romo gave up a pair of doubles in the sixth to tie the game.  The Astros ran themselves out of an inning in the seventh.  Terry Puhl walked and took second on a balk.  After a popup, though, Ed Ott threw Puhl out trying to steal third.  Enos Cabell then singled, but Ott threw him out stealing.

After Foli’s double, the Pirates couldn’t get much going against Andujar.  He set down the side in order in the sixth and seventh.  The Astros hit for him in the eighth and it worked out for them temporarily.  With Romo on for a third inning, an infield hit, a wild pitch and a steal put the leadoff runner on third.  After a walk and a strikeout, Denny Walling hit for Andujar and singled to put Houston ahead, 5-4.  Fortunately, when Bill Robinson threw to third to try to get the runner there, Walling tried to reach second and third baseman Bill Madlock cut him down with a throw to Garner.  Romo got a popup from the next batter to end the inning.

With Andujar out, Houston went to lefty Joe Sambito.  The first batter he faced was Robinson, who went to the opposite field to tie the game with his 20th home run of the season.  After two outs, Garner then homered to the same area, putting the Bucs up, 6-5.  The longball was Garner’s sixth of the year and third of the series.

Chuck Tanner turned to Grant Jackson to start the ninth.  Jackson gave up a leadoff single to pinch hitter Jesus Alou, then got the left-handed Puhl on a groundout.  That put the tying run on second with two right-handed hitters, Jeffrey Leonard and Cabell, due up.  Tanner brought in Kent Tekulve, who fanned Leonard and got Cabell on a comebacker.

Despite the subpar outing, Romo got the win, making him 5-3.  Teke picked up his 14th save.  The Expos and Cubs both won, so the Pirates remain a game and a half behind Montreal, tied with Chicago for second place.  They now face two straight doubleheaders at home against Atlanta.

Having followed the Pirates fanatically since 1965, Wilbur Miller is one of the fast-dwindling number of fans who’ve actually seen good Pirate teams. He’s even seen Hall-of-Fame Pirates who didn’t get traded mid-career, if you can imagine such a thing. His first in-person game was a 5-4, 11-inning win at Forbes Field over Milwaukee (no, not that one). He’s been writing about the Pirates at various locations online for over 20 years. It has its frustrations, but it’s certainly more cathartic than writing legal stuff. Wilbur is retired and now lives in Bradenton with his wife and three temperamental cats.

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