October 10, 1979: Bad Start in Frigid, Wet Weather Dooms Pirates in Series Opener

The Pirates battled both the Orioles and the Baltimore weather, and at least in the first inning, the weather won in a big way.  The Orioles took a big early lead and then hung on for a 5-4 win to take a lead of one game to none.

After considerable rain during the day, the temperature by game time was barely above 40, quickly dropping into the 30s.  Pirates’ starter Bruce Kison came into the game with a 4-0, 0.41 record in post-season games.  Tonight, though, he struggled with numbness in his arm and his defense struggled with wet baseballs, leading to five first-inning runs.

Kison had trouble finding the plate at the start, and Baltimore loaded the bases with one out on a single and two walks.  Ken Singleton hit a potential double play grounder to Phil Garner at second.  Garner, who later described his fingers as numb and the ball as very wet, flung his throw toward second into left field.  That let in two runs and Kison wild-pitched in another.  Doug DeCinces then blasted a home run to left, making it 5-0.  After one more hit, Chuck Tanner came to get Kison, sending in Jim Rooker.

That was pretty much the end of the Orioles’ offense.  Rooker went three and two-thirds innings, allowing just two singles and a walk.  The hits both came with two outs in the second and Rooker fanned John Lowenstein to end the inning.  He faced only three batters in the third and four in the fourth.

The rest of the Pirates’ relievers were just as effective.  Enrique Romo walked two, one intentionally, in a scoreless fifth, and Don Robinson walked one in two scoreless innings.  Grant Jackson gave up a leadoff hit in the eighth, but the runner didn’t get past first.

The Pirates’ hitters took their shots at 23-game winner Mike Flanagan, getting 11 hits.  They undermined their own efforts, though, going 1-for-16 with runners in scoring position.

The Bucs had only one hit in the first three innings, but Tim Foli and Dave Parker led off the fourth with singles.  A ground out by Willie Stargell brought in one run, but after a walk the Pirates stranded two.

After the Pirates wasted a leadoff double by Garner in the fifth, they threatened again in the sixth.  This time Parker and Bill Robinson led off with singles, but Stargell and Bill Madlock were both retired.  An error on third baseman DeCinces loaded the bases and Garner singled to drive in a pair.  Another error by DeCinces loaded the bases again, but Omar Moreno flied out.

In the top of the eighth, the Pirates had yet another chance.  Pops led off the inning with a home run.  With two outs, Garner and pinch hitter Rennie Stennett singled to put runners at the corners.  Garner’s hit was his third of the game.  Moreno, though, struck out.

In the ninth, another chance went for naught.  With one out, Parker singled for his fourth hit of the game.  He then got picked off first when he started for second too soon, but shortstop Mark Belanger dropped the throw.  Parker went to third on a ground out by Bill Robinson, then Flanagan picked up a complete game win by getting Stargell on a popup.

Tomorrow, the Pirates send Bert Blyleven against Jim Palmer.