It was a big day for Expos’ fans, as it featured the return to Montreal of Rusty Staub, who’d been reacquired from Detroit. It was a bigger day for the Pirates, as they not only stopped a four-game losing streak, they swept a doubleheader to pull within half a game of the first-place Expos. The Bucs rode a big day from Phil Garner and a complete game in game two from Bert Blyleven to 5-4 and 9-1 wins.
In game one, the Expos’ defense gave the Pirates a quick start. After Omar Moreno walked, starter Ross Grimsley threw away Tim Foli’s bunt and Moreno came around to score. Another error, this one by second baseman Tony Bernazard, put Foli on third and a sacrifice fly by Bill Robinson brought in a second run.
Pirates’ starter Don Robinson didn’t have his best outing, though, despite striking out nine over six and a third innings. Larry Parrish reached him for a two-run bomb in the bottom of the second to tie the game.
The teams traded runs in the fourth. Garner belted his seventh home run of the year to put the Pirates back on top, but Parrish tied it again with an RBI double in the bottom half.
The score remained 3-3 until the seventh, when the teams traded runs again. In the top half, Bill Madlock, Garner and Steve Nicosia led off with three straight singles. The last one scored Madlock, but Garner was thrown out trying to take third. In the bottom half, Don Robinson left with a runner on second and one out, giving way to Kent Tekulve. Teke got Andre Dawson on a fly ball, but Tony Perez reached on an infield hit to third and the runner scored on an errant throw by Madlock. That closed the books on Robinson, with four runs allowed, three earned.
In the eighth, the Pirates took the lead again and this time it held up. Dave Parker led off against Elias Sosa with an infield hit and Bill Robinson bunted him to second. After a walk to Willie Stargell, Rennie Stennett popped up, but Garner got his third hit of the game, a single to put the Pirates ahead, 5-4.
Tekulve got two outs in the bottom of the eighth, then walked Bernazard. With the left-handed Staub pinch hitting for Sosa, Chuck Tanner brought in Grant Jackson, who got Staub on a shallow fly to right.
Former Pirate Woodie Fryman got three groundouts in the top of the ninth and Tanner went with Enrique Romo in the bottom half. Romo got two outs, walked Dawson, and then retired Perez on a grounder. Tekulve got the win to move to 4-6. Romo got his third save.
In game two, Blyleven threw his second straight complete game, both on three days’ rest. The Expos had two runners reach in an inning only twice in the game. The first time came in the first, when a two-out walk and double put runners at second and third. Blyleven ended that threat by getting Parrish to hit a comebacker.
The only other time was the third, when Jerry White and Warren Cromartie led off with back-to-back doubles to produce Montreal’s only run. Blyleven finished with five hits allowed, all of them doubles. He walked three and fanned nine.
By the time the Expos got their run, the Pirates already had a 5-0 lead. They got two in the first off Scott Sanderson. With Garner and Parker aboard, John Milner singled to plate Garner. Parker then scored on a sacrifice fly by Bill Robinson. In the top of the third, after Garner doubled and Parker walked, Milner blasted a three-run shot to right, his 11th home run of the year and fifth in eight days.
The Pirates added on in the late innings. In the seventh, Garner tripled to drive in Moreno, then scored on a single by Robinson. That made it 7-1. Foli added two more in the ninth with a bases-loaded single that drove in Garner and Parker.
The win left Blyleven 9-3. Garner again had three hits and also scored four times. Milner drove in four and Parker scored three runs. The Cubs won, so they’re tied with the Bucs for second.
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.