August 5, 1979: Pirates Sweep Five-Game Series From Phillies and Take Over First

By Wilbur Miller

The Pirates swept a doubleheader from Philadelphia, giving them all five games of the teams’ series.  Montreal split a doubleheader with the Mets, leaving the Pirates on top of the NL East by half a game.

Game one was a wild one that required the Bucs to come back from a five-run deficit.  It was also much more high-scoring than you’d expect when Steve Carlton and Bert Blyleven are matching up.  The Pirates got a dozen runs despite Dave Parker, Bill Madlock and Phil Garner all going hitless, and won by pinch hitting for a guy who was having a career game.

The Phillies got on top in the second.  With the bases loaded and one out, Tim Foli booted a grounder to short.  That let in one run and a fly ball by Carlton made it 2-0.

The Phillies returned the favor with some bad defense in the bottom of the third.  After a Steve Nicosia single, Blyleven reached second when Carlton threw away his bunt, with Nicosia going to third.  Omar Moreno singled in both runners and took second on an error by catcher Tim McCarver.  Two outs later, Bill Robinson singled in Moreno to put the Pirates up, 3-2.  Robinson took second on a third error, this one by Greg Luzinski, but the inning ended after that.

Blyleven’s game unraveled in the top of the fifth.  A leadoff single by Carlton, followed by two walks and another single, brought in a run and left the bases loaded.  A Luzinski grand slam ended the Dutchman’s day.  Del Unser then greeted reliever Joe Coleman with another home run, putting the Phillies up by five, 8-3.  Blyleven finished with seven runs allowed, five earned, over four-plus innings.

The Bucs got on the comeback trail quickly, getting three in the bottom of the fifth.  Foli doubled and Robinson singled to drive him in.  Lee Lacy then hammered his fourth home run of the year to close the gap to 8-6.  In the sixth, Nicosia led off with his fourth longball, cutting the gap to one.  Carlton departed one batter later.

After the Unser homer, Coleman got through two innings, facing only six batters with the help of a double play.  Kevin Saucier kept the Phillies up, 8-7, until two outs in the bottom of the eighth.  With Nicosia on third via a double and ground out, Foli singled to tie the game.  Foli was thrown out trying to advance, but it was 8-8.

Enrique Romo and Kent Tekulve followed Coleman with three scoreless innings combined, not allowing a runner past first.  That brought the Pirates up in the bottom of the ninth with the game still tied.

Saucier got one out to start the ninth and, with a string of right-handed batters due up, the lefty gave way to righthander Rawly Eastwick.  He got the first batter he faced, but a single and steal by Lacy, an intentional walk to Bill Madlock and an unintentional one to Phil Garner loaded the bases.

That brought up Nicosia, who was 4-for-4 in the game with the homer and three runs scored.  Nicosia’s big game didn’t stop Chuck Tanner from sending up John Milner to pinch hit.  The Phillies countered with lefty Tug McGraw.  The move failed in spectacular fashion, as Milner blasted a walkoff grand slam, his 12th home run of the season, ending the game as a 12-8 Pirates win.  Teke got the victory, making him 5-6.

Game two brought less drama but the same result, this time by 5-2.  The bullpen, specifically Romo, keyed the win.

Both pitchers, Dickie Noles and Don Robinson, got off to shaky starts.  Robinson gave up three straight hits to begin the game, bringing in a run.  He then walked Luzinski to load the bases with nobody out.  A fly to shallow center and a line-drive double play got him out of trouble with no further damage.

The Pirates tied the game in the bottom half because Noles couldn’t throw strikes.  After Parker singled with two out, Noles walked Stargell, Robinson and Madlock to force in a run.

Both pitchers settled in for a couple innings, but ran into trouble again in the fourth.  In the top half, the Phillies loaded the bases with two singles, and a hit batsman in between.  Manny Trillo got a run in with a fly ball, then Robinson retired Noles to leave the score 2-1.

Noles helped the Pirates again in the bottom half.  An error and two walks, the second one to Robinson, loaded the bases.  Moreno doubled in a pair of runs and Garner singled in two more.  That put the Bucs up, 5-2, and finished Noles.

Robinson got a popup to start the top of the fifth, but left with what may be a minor injury.  His line was two runs on six hits in four and a third innings.

Romo followed and retired the first six batters he faced.  A one-out single in the seventh broke that streak, but Romo got McCarver to hit into a double play.  In the eighth, a single and a balk put the leadoff runner on second, but Romo got the next three hitters.  He finished with three and two-thirds scoreless innings, allowing two hits and no walks.

Tanner went with Teke in the ninth.  After a leadoff bunt single by Unser, a double play and fly out ended the game.  Romo got the win to go 8-3 and Teke got his 20th save.

The Bucs finished their nine-game homestand with seven wins.  After a day off, they’ll be in Chicago for three games against the Cubs.