Starter Bruce Kison retired only one batter before departing as the Pirates dropped a 6-5 decision in the opener of their three-game series with the Reds. The bullpen contributed a good effort, but the team’s comeback effort fell short.
Kison faced seven batters and, apart from a strikeout of Joe Morgan, all of them hit singles. Dan Driessen drove in one run and Ray Knight two before a final RBI hit by Johnny Bench chased Kison to the showers. Veteran Joe Coleman relieved and threw a wild pitch to put runners on second and third, but he struck out Paul Blair and pitcher Fred Norman to prevent any further damage.
Coleman pitched very well, ultimately throwing three and two-thirds scoreless innings. He even hit a double, although it didn’t lead to a run. Enrique Romo followed with scoreless innings in the fifth and sixth.
The Pirates cut the deficit to 4-3 with three runs in the fourth. Up to that point, they’d had only a walk and Coleman’s double off Norman. Dave Parker led off with a double and, after an out, Willie Stargell singled to score the Cobra. The next batter, Bill Madlock, launched his ninth home run of the year to cut the deficit to one.
The score stayed 4-3 until Romo ran out of gas in the seventh. A leadoff walk and a Ken Griffey bomb gave the Reds a 6-3 cushion. Romo gave up two more hits and a walk, but got out of the inning without another run. He ended up striking out five over three innings.
The Pirates did little against Norman from the fifth through the seventh, then finally knocked him out in the eighth. With one out, Bill Robinson doubled and scored on a single by Pops, his third hit of the game. That brought on Doug Bair, who got one out before walking Phil Garner. John Milner, batting for Steve Nicosia, singled to drive in Stargell and send the tying run to third. Mike Easler then hit for reliever Grant Jackson, but Bair fanned him.
Jackson and Kent Tekulve each gave the Pirates a scoreless inning of relief, but they couldn’t push another run across against Bair in the ninth. A two-out walk to Parker was the only baserunner they managed before Robinson struck out to end the game.
Kison dropped to 6-5. The Expos and Cubs both lost, so the Bucs remain a game out of first and half a game ahead of Chicago.
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.