The Pirates came into today needing a win against the Cubs and an Expos loss against Philadelphia to clinch the NL East without the Expos having to make up one or both of their two unplayed games against Atlanta. The Bucs came through on their end with a 5-3 win. Meanwhile, after a brief controversy, Phillies’ ace Steve Carlton shut out Montreal to give the Pirates their first division title in four years.
The Pirates got an early lead against Cubs starter Lynn McGlothen. In the bottom of the first, Willie Stargell hit a sacrifice fly to bring in Tim Foli, who’d walked and gone to third on a single by Dave Parker.
With Bruce Kison shutting down the Cubs, the Bucs stretched their lead to 3-0 with runs in the fourth and fifth. In the fourth, John Milner beat out a bunt and came around on singles by Bill Madlock and Phil Garner. Pops added a run in the fifth by bashing his 32nd home run of the season. That shot gave him the all-time franchise lead in RBIs with 1,476, one more than Honus Wagner.
Kison threw scoreless ball through five innings with the help of a string of double plays. The Cubs got a pair of one-out singles in the top of the first, but Dave Kingman bounced into an around-the-horn twin killing. The same sequence happened in the third, except this time Bill Buckner hit into a 4-6-3 DP. In the fourth, Chicago got two more singles sandwiched around a fly out. This time Mick Kelleher fell victim to another 5-4-3 DP.
The Cubs finally found a way to avoid GIDPs in the sixth. With two out and nobody on, Kingman went deep to cut the Pirates’ lead to 3-1.
With Kison troubled by blisters, the Pirates brought on Kent Tekulve for the seventh. A walk, a single and a sacrifice fly brought in a run to cut the lead to one. In the bottom of the inning, though, a big hit by Bill Robinson provided some insurance. A hit batsman and two walks loaded the bases with two out. Robinson singled to right to drive in two runs and put the Pirates up, 5-2.
Robinson’s hit proved critical, as Teke gave up a double and a single with two outs in the eighth to cut the lead to 5-3. In the ninth, though, he retired the side in order. By the time the last hitter popped up to Madlock at third, the Pirates had known for 15 minutes that the Expos had lost, so they knew they’d won the division. Kison got the win to finish the season 13-7. Teke got his 31st save second most in the league. Parker had three hits to lead the team in batting at .310. Omar Moreno finished the season with 77 steals, the most in the NL by 19.
The Expos’ loss came with some off-field drama. The Phillies had announced the day before that their ace, Steve Carlton, would skip his scheduled start on the season’s final day. After some uproar, they relented and sent Carlton against Expos ace Steve Rogers. Carlton responded with a three-hit shutout, striking out 12. Rogers allowed just six hits, but the Phillies scratched out a pair of runs.
The Reds clinched the Western Division several days ago and finished a game and a half ahead of Houston. In the AL, Baltimore won the East by eight games and the Angels took the West by three.