April 7, 1979: Pirates Get a Win and Make a Trade

On the season’s second day, the Pirates got their first win in a wild one against Montreal, 7-6.  They also made a big move off the field.

The off-field move was a trade of left-handed starter Jerry Reuss to the Dodgers for righty Rick Rhoden.  Reuss was a Pirates’ mainstay from 1974-77, winning 58 games.  In 1978, though, he struggled with injuries and won only three games.  After a shaky first LA season, he had the best stretch of his career, going 86-69, 3.11 over nine years with the Dodgers.  Reuss actually finished his career with the 1990 Pirates, appearing in four games.

Rhoden, meanwhile, had won 38 games over the previous three seasons, but he pitched only once for the Pirates in ’79 and then had shoulder surgery.  According to his SABR bio, the Pirates knew he had arm trouble when they acquired him, but it turned out to be worse than expected.  Still, he eventually won 79 games for them and had several impressive seasons as a hitter.  He had a .915 OPS in 1980 and hit three homers in 1982.

Back to the game . . . .  The Pirates got a strong start from Don Robinson and jumped on Expos’ starter Ross Grimsley with three bombs in the first three innings.  Against the lefty Grimsley, Chuck Tanner characteristically juggled his lineup:

1.  Frank Taveras, SS
2.  Phil Garner, 3B
3.  Dave Parker, RF
4.  Bill Robinson, LF
5.  Willie Stargell, 1B
6.  Rennie Stennett, 2B
7.  Steve Nicosia, C
8.  Omar Moreno, CF
9.  Don Robinson, P

As for the dingerz, Dave Parker connected with two out and nobody on (Frank Taveras had been caught stealing) in the first.  In the second, Steve Nicosia hit his first career bomb.  In the third, Bill Robinson followed a single by Parker with his first longball of the year, making it 4-0.

Robinson cruised through the first five innings, allowing just two hits.  One of those was erased when Robinson picked him off, the other on a double play.  (It should be pretty clear from the first two games that there were a lot more TOOTBLANs in those days; the Pirates lost a scoring chance in the first after Parker’s homer when Bill Robinson got picked off second.)

The Expos finally got to Robinson with an unearned run in the sixth.  Jerry White hit a one-out triple.  Robinson got the next hitter on a popup.  He then picked White off third, but an error by Phil Garner let the run score.  Garner was hurt on the play and replaced by Dale Berra.  (Scrap Iron was back the next day.)

Montreal got another one in the seventh, but it could have been worse.  Two singles and an error by Berra loaded the bases with nobody out.  Robinson came through to get Gary Carter and Larry Parrish with no damage, but he walked Tony Solaita to force in an unearned run.

The Bucs got that back off former Pirate Woodie Fryman in the bottom of the seventh to make it 5-2.  Taveras singled and stole second, then scored on a two-out single by Willie Stargell.

With the count still 5-2, things unraveled in the top of the ninth.  Robinson, still on the mound, allowed a walk and hit batsman to two of the first three hitters.  The bad guys then got to Kent Tekulve.  After a walk, lefty Jim Mason drove in a run with a single.  Another scored on a grounder.  With two out, lefty Grant Jackson replaced Teke to face switch-hitter Rodney Scott, who doubled to score two and put the Expos up, 6-5.

Montreal, though, gave the game away in the bottom of the ninth.  A single by John Milner and a walk to Parker put two on with two out.  Pops then reached when reliever Elias Sosa muffed his grounder, scoring Milner’s pinch runner Matt Alexander, and Parker came all the way in from first on an error by the catcher, Carter.  The walkoff double error gave the Bucs a 7-6 win.

Don Robinson deserved better than a no-decision.  He went eight and a third, giving up two unearned runs and two other runs that scored with Teke on the mound.  Robinson allowed five hits and walked three.  The Pirates had 13 hits, two each by Taveras, Parker (who scored three times), Bill Robinson and Rennie Stennett.  They were hampered, though, by having two runners (Taveras and Omar Moreno) caught stealing and one picked off.  Not one Pirate batter struck out in the game.