September 24, 1979: Pirates Split Twinbill With Expos, Still Trail by Half a Game

The Pirates opened a crucial four-game series with Montreal at TRS by playing a doubleheader.  They won the first game, 5-2, to take a half-game lead in the NL East.  It didn’t last long, though, as the Bucs dropped the second game, 7-6, when the bullpen struggled in the late innings.  That left them still half a game out of first.

Bert Blyleven took the mound in game one and had a shaky start.  After retiring the game’s first batter, the Dutchman gave up four straight singles.  The last one, by Gary Carter, drove in two runs.  Blyleven finally got Ellis Valentine to bounce into a double play to end the inning.

After the first, though, Blyleven settled in.  He struck out the side in the second, then allowed just three hits and two walks through the sixth.  One of those runners was wiped out on a caught stealing and two others by double plays.

The Pirates took until the sixth to get going against Expos’ lefty Dan Schatzeder.  They stranded two runners each in the first and the second.

In the bottom of the sixth, the Bucs got on the board.  With one out, Dave Parker walked and Bill Robinson followed with his 24th home run of the season.  It was his first since August 15.  A walk to Willie Stargell brought Stan Bahnsen on in relief.  Bill Madlock forced Stargell, then stole second and took third on a wild throw by the catcher Carter.  Madlock scored when Bahnsen couldn’t handle Steve Nicosia’s grounder.  The Pirates led, 3-2.

Blyleven left for a pinch hitter in the sixth and Kent Tekulve replaced him.  Teke breezed through the game’s final three innings, facing the minimum of nine batters.  He was helped by the Pirates’ fourth double play of the game, which erased the only runner he allowed.

The Pirates added a couple insurance runs to make Teke’s job easier.  Robinson tripled in Parker in the seventh to pick up his third RBI.  In the eighth, Madlock scored on another error by Carter.

The win moved Blyleven to 12-5.  Teke got his 30th save.

The bullpen wasn’t nearly as effective in game two, as the Pirates failed to hold a late, four-run lead.  The game featured Dock Ellis’ return to the Pirates after an absence of five years.  He started in place of John Candelaria, who’s out with an injury.

Ellis pitched decently, going four innings.  The teams traded single runs in the first and fourth.  Ellis gave up a double to Warren Cromartie to start the game, and two grounders brought him in.  In the bottom of the inning, Robinson doubled off Expos’ starter Rudy May to drive in Tim Foli and make it 1-1.

The Pirates had a chance to take the lead in the third.  Dave Parker led off by reaching second on a double error by former Pirate Dave Cash.  The next two batters struck out, but an intentional walk and a single by Nicosia loaded the bases.  Phil Garner, though, flied out to end the threat.

In the fourth, Montreal took a 2-1 lead when Carter led off with a home run off Ellis.  The Pirates got that back in the bottom half.  Manny Sanguillen, batting for Ellis, doubled.  His pinch runner, Alberto Lois, came around on a bunt by Omar Moreno and a ground out by Foli.

Enrique Romo threw a scoreless top of the fifth and the Pirates seemingly took charge with four runs in the bottom half.  They loaded the bases with one out on singles by Stargell and Madlock, a ground out and an intentional walk.  Cash’ third error of the game let in one run.  A ground out by Moreno brought in one run and a single by Foli scored two.  That put the Bucs up, 6-2.

From there, the Expos’ bullpen shut the Pirates down, allowing just one baserunner over the last four innings.  The Pirates, meanwhile, tried four different relievers, each of whom gave up at least one run.

Romo left for a pinch hitter in the fifth, so Chuck Tanner brought in Dave Roberts in the sixth.  Roberts retired nobody, giving up a single, a walk, and an Andre Dawson single to make it 6-3.  Joe Coleman came on to get out of the inning, thanks in part to a double play ball.

Coleman got through a scoreless seventh, but he walked two batters with one out in the eighth.  Tanner turned to Teke, who didn’t have it this time.  He got a force out, but allowed an RBI infield single to Larry Parrish and a two-run double to John Tamargo.  That tied the game, 6-6.  After a walk, Grant Jackson got the last out of the inning.

In the ninth, Jackson gave up a leadoff single to Cash, but Jackson fanned Dawson and Nicosia threw Cash out stealing.  With two out, Jackson gave up a walk and a single, and then Valentine singled to put the Expos up, 7-6.

The Pirates got a leadoff walk in the ninth, their first runner since the fifth.  Stargell, however, grounded into a double play and Madlock grounded out to end it.

The loss went to Jackson, who’s now 8-5.  The Pirates will have two more shots at the Expos in the series, the last two games between the teams this year.