Cincinnati completed a three-game sweep of the Pirates at TRS, winning 9-7. The loss was the Bucs’ fourth straight following a nine-game winning streak. They lost the season series to the Reds, eight games to four, including seven of the last eight.
Both starters, Manny Sarmiento for the Reds and Dave Roberts for the Pirates, had a rough time. Things started well for the Bucs, as they knocked Sarmiento out after an inning and a third. Willie Stargell started the scoring in the first with his 20th home run, driving in Tim Foli. The home team got three more in the second. Ed Ott singled, Phil Garner doubled and, following a sacrifice fly by Roberts, Omar Moreno tripled. That finished Sarmiento. Foli got Moreno home with a fly ball off Mario Soto.
The Reds didn’t wait to come back. They tied the game 2-2 in the second, as Dan Driessen doubled in a run and Paul Blair singled in Driessen.
After the Pirates went back on top, 5-2, the Reds responded again, taking the lead with a four-run third. The inning started with an error as third baseman Bill Madlock couldn’t handle a ground ball. Roberts walked Joe Morgan and then served up a three-run bomb to Johnny Bench, the catcher’s third home run in two days. A double by Dave Concepcion finished Roberts, bringing on Joe Coleman. A single put Concepcion on third and a double play ball hit by Driessen put the Reds on top, 6-5. Roberts’ line was six runs, four earned, in two-plus innings.
Coleman couldn’t hold the Reds back, either. In the fourth, Soto led off with an infield hit, and a double by Dave Collins and single by Bench made it 8-5. That gave Bench four RBIs.
Soto gave the Reds a solid outing in relief, going five and two-thirds innings. Bill Robinson reached him in the sixth for his 21st home run, cutting the lead to two. The Reds got that back, though, in the top of the eighth. With Enrique Romo on the mound, Ed Ott failed to pick up a dribbler by Bench, letting an unearned run score from third to make it 9-6.
The Pirates finally got rid of Soto in the bottom of the eighth when Dave Parker led off with a walk and Stargell singled him to third. Tom Hume came on to face Bill Robinson and got a double play ball. Parker scored, but it was a trade the Reds were no doubt happy to get.
Hume finished out the eighth and then set the Pirates down in order in the ninth. Roberts took the loss, dropping to 1-3 on the season, 1-1 with the Pirates.
The Cubs won and the Expos were off. The end result was that the Pirates now trail Montreal by two and a half games and Chicago by a half game.
Tomorrow, the Pirates start a critical four-game series in Montreal with a doubleheader. Don Robinson (6-5, 3.95 ERA) and Bert Blyleven (8-3, 3.72) will face Ross Grimsley (8-6, 5.19) and Scott Sanderson (6-5, 3.42) in the doubleheader. The other games will pit Jim Bibby (6-2, 2.93) and Bruce Kison (6-5, 3.40) against Dan Schatzeder (5-3, 3.12) and Steve Rogers (9-6, 2.41).
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.