The Pirates extended their season-high winning streak to eight games by sweeping a doubleheader from Atlanta, with both games decided by one run. A strong relief effort by Kent Tekulve keyed a 5-4 win in game one. Jim Bibby dominated game two on the mound and at the plate as the Bucs won, 3-2.
Both game one starters were a bit shaky, but the Pirates made just a bit more headway against Eddie Solomon than the Braves did against Don Robinson. Robinson gave up a pair of two-run innings. The first came on a two-run home run by Dale Murphy in the top of the second that briefly put the Braves ahead. The second one came in the fifth, when Gary Matthews followed a pair of singles — the first one by Solomon — with a two-run double. That gave Atlanta its second lead.
The Braves’ first lead disappeared in the bottom of the second and it was Robinson who had the big hit. A one-out, Ed Ott double with two on brought in the first run and left runners on second and third. Rennie Stennett fanned — one of eight strikeouts by Solomon — but Robinson came through with a two-run single to put the Pirates on top, 3-2.
The second deuce off Robinson put Atlanta up, 4-3, but the Pirates came back in the bottom of the sixth. Singles by Bill Robinson and Phil Garner, who had three hits on the day, along with an error, put runners at second and third with one out. The Braves elected to walk Ott and bring Gene Garber in to face Stennett. Chuck Tanner sent up Mike Easler to hit and he came through with a two-run single, putting the Pirates back on top, 5-4.
Tanner also hit for his starting pitcher in the sixth, then went to Tekulve. Teke made the one-run edge stand up for the last three innings. The toughest spot came in the eighth, when the Braves got two singles with one out. Tekulve snuffed out that threat by getting Murphy to ground into a double play. Atlanta got a leadoff single in the ninth, but Teke picked up another twin killing.
Don Robinson gave up eight hits in his six innings, but got the win to move to 6-5. Tekulve recorded his 15th save.
Game two turned into a showcase for Bibby. The big righty went eight innings, allowing five hits and two walks. His one stumble came in the third, when Matthews put Atlanta up with a two-run blast.
After the third, Atlanta never got a runner past second. Bibby gave up just three singles and two walks over his last five innings.
The Bucs cut the Braves’ lead to 2-1 in the bottom of the third. Dave Parker followed singles by Omar Moreno and Tim Foli with an RBI double. That left runners on second and third with one out, but after walking Bill Robinson intentionally, Braves’ starter Mickey Mahler worked out of trouble.
In the next inning, Bibby himself put the Pirates on top. He followed a Steve Nicosia double with his first home run of the season, the second of his career. That made it 3-2.
After that point, the Pirates couldn’t do any more with Mahler or reliever Bo McLaughlin than the Braves could with Bibby. The 3-2 count held through eight and Tanner elected to go with Teke again in the ninth. The Braves got a leadoff single, but Tekulve got Jeff Burroughs to hit into yet another double play. The next batter singled, but Teke retired Murphy on a grounder to end it.
The win improved Bibby’s record to 6-2. Tekulve got his 16th save. The Pirates had eight hits, with only Foli getting two.
While the Pirates were getting their sweep, the Expos and Cubs each split doubleheaders. That pulled the Bucs to within half a game of first-place Montreal and left them a game ahead of Chicago. The Phillies are two and a half games out of first.
Tomorrow the Pirates play their second straight twin bill and third in five days.
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.