The NL East champion Pirates will take on the West champion Cincinnati Reds tomorrow in the first game of their best-of-five series at Riverfront Stadium. The Pirates finished with baseball’s second-best record (behind Baltimore) at 98-64. The Reds went 90-71. Ominously, though, the Reds were the only team against which the Pirates failed to win the season series. Cincinnati won eight of 12. The Reds outscored the Pirates in those games, 55-46.
The Reds’ hasn’t changed much since they won the World Series in 1975-76. Tony Perez and Pete Rose are gone, but they’ve been ably replaced by Dan Driessen and Ray Knight. Otherwise, the cast is the same, although older.
Left fielder George Foster (302/386/561) remains the team’s biggest power bat. Despite missing a quarter of the season, he led the Reds in homers and RBIs with 30 and 98. Catcher Johnny Bench (276/364/459, 22 HR) and second baseman Joe Morgan (250/379/376, 28 SB) remain outstanding players, but they don’t put up the gaudy stats that they used to post.
Third baseman Knight (318/360/454) and right fielder Ken Griffey (316/374/471) both had excellent seasons as did fourth outfielder Dave Collins (318/364/402). Driessen (250/330/414) was more solid at first. The lineup is rounded out by defensive wizards Dave Concepcion (281/348/415) at short and Cesar Geronimo (239/312/343) in center.
The Reds’ undoubted ace, and scheduled first-game starter, is Tom Seaver (16-6, 3.14). His team-best win total left him with 235 for his career. The #2 starter, Mike LaCoss (14-8, 3.50) is expected to start game three, which will be in Pittsburgh.
In between, John McNamara is expected to go with rookie Frank Pastore (6-7, 4.29) in game two. The 22-year-old pitched mostly in relief, although he was much better as a starter. He’ll start ahead of Fred Norman (11-13, 3.64) and Bill Bonham (9-7, 3.79).
The Reds’ key reliever is Tom Hume (10-9-17, 2.76). He started the season in the rotation, but moved to the bullpen and became the team’s relief ace. Doug Bair (11-7-16, 4.29) also played a big role in the late innings. Dave Tomlin (2-2-1, 2.62), 22-year-old Mario Soto (3-2-0, 5.30) and Charlie Leibrandt, a late callup who got into only three games, are also available.
The Pirates on paper appear to be a little stronger. They led the NL in runs, with 4.75 per game, while the Reds were third at 4.54. The Pirates were third in staff ERA at 3.41 and the Reds fourth at 3.58.
Like the Reds, the Pirates’ lineup is tough throughout. The two big bats are right fielder Dave Parker (310/380/526, 45 2B, 25 HR, 109 R, 94 RBI) and first baseman Willie Stargell (281/352/552, 32 HR). The other two power bats, who’ve split time with each other and with the 39-year-old Stargell, are Bill Robinson (264/302/504, 24 HR) and John Milner (276/373/475, 16 HR). Both can play either left field or first.
The Pirates got a huge boost when they acquired third baseman Bill Madlock at the end of June. For the season, Madlock hit 298/355/438 with 14 HRs, but with the Pirates he hit 328/390/469. That trade pushed Phil Garner (293/359/441, 11 HR) from third to second; he was one of the team’s best hitters in the second half. The former starting second baseman, Rennie Stennett (238/289/292), had a rough year and is mostly a reserve now.
The rest of the lineup is a threat, too. Leadoff hitter and center fielder Omar Moreno (282/333/381) led the team with 110 runs. Shortstop Tim Foli (291/335/345), an early-season trade acquisition, had a great season defensively. The catching platoon of lefty Ed Ott (273/314/385) and righty Steve Nicosia (288/364/435) are capable hitters, too. The bench features Lee Lacy (247/327/412), Mike Easler (278/371/444) and the veteran Manny Sanguillen (230/247/351). Speed is a big feature of the Pirates’ offensive game: Moreno led the NL in steals with 77, while Madlock (32 steals), Parker (20), and Garner (17) are threats to run, as is pinch running specialist Matt Alexander (13).
The Pirates’ rotation is headed by two aces. John Candelaria (14-9, 3.22) was bothered by back problems late in the season, but he led the team in wins and will start the opener. Bert Blyleven (12-5, 3.60) led the team in innings and will start game three.
The Pirates’ two best starters late in the season were Jim Bibby (12-4, 2.81) and Bruce Kison (13-7, 3.19). Both spent part of the season in the bullpen. Bibby will start game two. The other available starters are Don Robinson (8-8, 3.87) and veteran Jim Rooker (4-7, 4.60). Robinson didn’t have quite the big year that he did as a rookie in 1978 and pitched a little in relief late in the year. Rooker was plagued by injuries.
The Pirates’ strength, and possibly the biggest difference between the two teams, is the bullpen. The Bucs’ ‘pen is headed by Kent Tekulve (10-8-31, 2.75), Enrique Romo (10-5-5, 2.99) and Grant Jackson (8-5-14, 2.96). The trio finished 1-2-3 in the NL in games pitched, with 94, 84 and 72, respectively. The Pirates also got help in the second half from veteran lefty Dave Roberts, who went 5-2-1, 3.26 after coming over in the same trade as Madlock.