The Pirates extended their winning streak to nine by beating Atlanta, 7-1, in the first game of a doubleheader. Bert Blyleven went the distance and Tim Foli drove in four runs to lead the effort. The streak came to an end with an 8-0 loss in the second game, though, as the Bucs couldn’t solve Phil Niekro.
In game one, things were quiet until the third. The Braves got on the board in the top half, as Jerry Royster singled and stole second with two outs, and Gary Matthews singled him home. In the bottom half, the Pirates took advantage of the wildness of Braves’ starter Preston Hanna. Walks to Rennie Stennett and Omar Moreno put two on with two out. Tim Foli singled to drive in Stennett and Moreno scored on an error by Matthews in right.
With the Dutchman in command, the Pirates already had all the offense they needed. Blyleven retired sixteen straight through the eighth inning.
By then, the Pirates had added on five more runs to make it 7-1. Foli struck again in the fifth with another two-out hit, driving in Moreno, who’d reached on a force and stolen his 42nd base of the year.
In the sixth, Ed Ott singled in a run. Foli later came up with the bases loaded and two outs, and again came through with a single to score two.
The Pirates got their final run in the seventh when John Milner led off with a home run. It was his ninth of the year.
In the top of the ninth, the Braves got their first baserunner since the third when Matthews led off by reaching on an error by first baseman Milner. Bob Horner singled with one out, only the fourth hit Blyleven allowed, all of them for one base. Jeff Burroughs then grounded into a double play to end the game.
Blyleven moved to 8-3. He walked only one and fanned six. Foli had three hits and Ott two.
Game two was a lot quieter on the Pirates’ end. Niekro was in command throughout, allowing just a single by Dave Parker and a double by Steve Nicosia. He also walked one. Other than Nicosia, who was stranded at second, the Pirates got nobody past first.
The Braves got to Pirates’ starter Jim Rooker for three runs over six innings. Rooker allowed a run on a walk and two singles in the first, then two more on a Bruce Benedict double in the fourth.
The bullpen had a rough time in the late innings. Enrique Romo got banged around for three runs in the eighth on four singles and a double. Recent callup Joe Coleman pitched the ninth, his first major league game of the year. He gave up two unearned runs due to an error by Phil Garner at second. Rooker took the loss, dropping to 2-5.
Montreal won, so the Pirates lost half a game for the day. They now stand a game out of first and half a game ahead of second-place Chicago, which beat the Reds.
The Pirates will finish their 11-game home stand with three against Cincinnati. Bruce Kison (6-4, 3.03 ERA), John Candelaria (9-7, 3.30) and Dave Roberts (1-2, 2.73) will face Fred Norman (6-8, 3.23), Tom Seaver (10-5, 3.25) and Manny Sarmiento (0-4, 4.79).
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.