With a 2-0 lead, the Pirates headed into game three of the NL Championship Series against Cincinnati needing just one win in the final three games to move on to the World Series. Any chance of drama evaporated quickly, though, as the Pirates scored in each of the first four innings and coasted to a 7-1 win. Bert Blyleven threw a complete game and Willie Stargell provided the fireworks on offense.
The Bucs had some help from the start as the Reds’ Mike LaCoss had trouble throwing strikes. Omar Moreno led off the bottom of the first with a walk, then stole second and went to third when Tim Foli reached on a fielder’s choice. Dave Parker put the Pirates on top with a sacrifice fly. Two more walks eventually loaded the bases, but LaCoss got Ed Ott on a fly ball.
Phil Garner led off the second with a triple and, after an out and another walk to Moreno, scored on a fly by Foli. That was enough for Reds’ manager John McNamara, who brought in lefty Fred Norman.
Going with Norman so early made some sense; he’s normally a starter and the Bucs’ lineup was loaded with left-handed hitters. It didn’t work out that way. Pops led off the third inning with a ‘tater into the second deck in right. One out later, Bill Madlock lined a home run to left, putting the Pirates up, 4-0.
The scoring didn’t stop there. With Norman still in, Bert Blyleven started the bottom of the fourth with a single and, two outs later, Parker walked. Stargell then ripped a double past Dan Driessen at first, driving in both runners to make it 6-0.
While the Pirates were adding on, Blyleven was shutting the Reds down. He gave up some hits, but most came with two out. The Reds got one hit in each of the first, second and fourth, all with two out and all for naught. In the third, a two-out single put runners at the corners, but the Dutchman fanned George Foster.
After the fourth, the Reds had only three more baserunners. The only one to make it past first was Johnny Bench, who hit a one-out home run in the sixth. Blyleven ended the game with eight hits and a walk allowed, and nine strikeouts.
The Pirates added a final run in the eighth when Garner scored on a fly ball dropped by Cesar Geronimo. By the end of the game, the Pirates’ wives were dancing to Sister Sledge.
Pops was named series MVP after piling up a batting line of 455/571/1.182, with two home runs and six RBIs in the three games. Garner also had big series, batting 417/462/833. The win in game three was Blyleven’s first post-season victory, after 148 regular season wins.
The Pirates will have to wait to find out their World Series opponent. California extended their series with Baltimore with a 4-3, leaving the Orioles with a 2-1 edge. The two teams meet again tomorrow. The World Series will begin October 9 in the AL city.