September 29, 1979: Pirates Lose, Expos Win, Division Still in Play

The Pirates could have clinched the NL East title today with a win and a Montreal loss.  Neither happened, though, and the division will remain unsettled at least until tomorrow.  The Pirates’ end of things was especially painful, as they lost to the Cubs, 7-6, in 13 innings.

Things looked good early, as the Pirates jumped on Cubs’ starter Dennis Lamp for three runs in the first.  After an error, a walk and a single loaded the bases with nobody out, Willie Stargell drove in two runs with a single and Bill Madlock brought in a third with a sacrifice fly.

Bert Blyleven kept Chicago scoreless and hitless until the fifth.  He gave up a run to make it 3-1 Bucs on two singles and a sacrifice fly.

Things came unglued, though, in the top of the sixth.  A walk, double and single got the Cubs on the board, then a two-out double scored two more, putting Chicago up, 4-3.  Enrique Romo replaced Blyleven and struggled to get the third out.  A single, a walk and another single brought in two more to stretch the Cubs’ lead to 6-3.  The final line on Blyleven was five runs in five and two-thirds innings.

The Pirates battled back.  They got one run in the bottom of the sixth.  Bill Madlock led off with a double, went to third on a single and scored when Phil Garner hit into an unusual 9-6 force at second.  The Bucs tied the game in the seventh off Bruce Sutter, on a John Milner sacrifice fly and another Madlock double.

The score stayed 6-6 for a long time.  After the sixth, the Pirates got two scoreless innings apiece from Grant Jackson and Kent Tekulve, with the Cubs getting only one runner past first.  The Bucs then got one scoreless inning each from Dock Ellis and Don Robinson.  The Pirates got two runners each in the tenth and eleventh, all four on walks, but didn’t score, either.

Robinson finally gave up a run in the top of the 13th.  Mick Kelleher singled, moved up on a sacrifice, then scored on a ground out when Willie Stargell tried to catch him off third after a ground out and threw the ball away.  The Cubs led, 7-6.

The Pirates got a pair of two-out singles in the bottom of the 13th, but couldn’t capitalize.  Robinson took the loss to even his record at 8-8.  Parker went 5-for-6 to raise his average to .307.

The Expos beat Philadelphia, 3-2, on a walkoff single off Tug McGraw in the bottom of the ninth.  The Pirates’ lead in the NL East is now one game, with one day left in the regular season.  Montreal, though, has two unplayed games left against Atlanta.  The Pirates can win the division if they beat the Cubs tomorrow and the Expos lose to the Phillies.  If both outcomes don’t occur, the Expos will have to play at least one of the games against the Braves.  The Bucs will rely on Bruce Kison, who so far is 3-0 in September with an ERA of 2.14.