By Wilbur Miller
John Candelaria went the distance and Phil Garner drove in three runs as the Pirates pummeled Houston, 9-3. The win was their fifth straight, and third straight to start their four-game home series with the NL West Division leaders.
The Candy Man didn’t dominate, but he avoided any big rallies while allowing eight hits and three walks. Art Howe, who’s hammered his former team this season, got one of Houston’s runs with a leadoff home run in the top of the third. The Astros’ other runs came in the fourth and sixth. The former was unearned, scoring on an error by second baseman Rennie Stennett. The other came on a single by Enos Cabell.
Candelaria had an easy time in teh seventh and eighth. He ran into trouble in the ninth, giving up a walk and a single to start the inning. With the Pirates up 9-3, Chuck Tanner kept his start in and the lefty retired the next three hitters.
Houston starter J.R. Richard had a much rougher time with the Pirates’ lineup, giving up eight runs and ten hits over five and a third innings. The Bucs got to Richard quickly, scoring three in the first. After singles by Tim Foli and Dave Parker, Willie Stargell drove in one run with a grounder. Ed Ott later brought home two more with a double.
The Pirates added on in the third, as Garner drove in a pair with a bases-loaded single. At the time, that made it 5-1.
After Houston closed the gap to 5-3 in the top of the sixth, the Pirates put the game away with three runs in the bottom half. Garner led off the inning with his fifth home run and second in two days. Omar Moreno later singled home Stennett, who’d doubled, then stole second and scored on a double by Parker. The final run came when Stennett drove in Ed Ott in the seventh.
The win improved Candelaria’s record to 9-7. The Pirates had a dozen hits, three by Parker and at least one by everybody except the pitcher.
With the Expos losing again, the Bucs pulled to within a game and a half of first. They remain tied with the Cubs and half a game ahead of the Phillies.