October 14, 1979: Pirates Stave Off Elimination Behind Rooker and Blyleven

Down three games to one, the Pirates stayed alive in the World Series thanks to two surprise pitching performances.  Jim Rooker, who endured an injury-plagued regular season, gave the Bucs a strong start and Bert Blyleven, pitching in relief for the first time in seven years, threw four scoreless innings.  They led the team to a 7-1 win, sending the Series back to Baltimore.

The game looked like a mismatch, with Rooker, who’d gone 4-7, facing Mike Flanagan, who went 23-9 for the Orioles.  Rooker, though, allowed just three hits over five innings.  He retired the first ten batters he faced and didn’t give up a hit until the fifth.  Gary Roenicke got the first Baltimore hit, leading off with a double and going to third on a single by Doug DeCinces.  Rooker got Rich Dauer to hit into a double play, giving the Orioles a 1-0 lead.

Flanagan got a complete-game win in the Series opener and he was in top form for five innings.  A two-out single in the second and a two-out double in the fourth were the only Pirates hits until the fifth.  With a runner on first, two outs and the Orioles ahead, Chuck Tanner — whose mother had died that morning — sent Lee Lacy in to hit for Rooker.  Lacy singled, but Omar Moreno struck out to end the inning.

With the Pirates facing elimination and the bullpen having had a meltdown the previous game, Tanner turned to Blyleven, who was scheduled to start game six.  The Dutchman responded with a big effort, allowing just one hit and one walk in the sixth through the eighth.

In the bottom of the sixth, the Pirates finally solved Flanagan.  A walk to Tim Foli and a single by Dave Parker put the first two batters on.  Cleanup hitter Bill Robinson bunted them up and Willie Stargell plated Foli with a sacrifice fly to tie the game.  Madlock followed with a single, his third of four hits in the game, to bring Parker in and put the Bucs ahead, 2-1.

With a runner on second and two out in the top of the seventh, it was Earl Weaver’s turn to hit for his starter.  Blyleven fanned the pinch hitter, Pat Kelly, and Weaver brought in Tim Stoddard, who’d shut the Pirates down in game four.  This time was different.  In the bottom of the seventh, Phil Garner led off with an infield hit.  Blyleven botched a bunt attempt, hitting into a force play, and Moreno forced Blyleven in turn.  Stoddard had Moreno picked off first, but hit Moreno with the throw.  Moreno went to second, then came around to score on a triple by Foli.  Weaver went with lefty Tippy Martinez to face Parker, but the Cobra foiled the strategy with an RBI single.  The Pirates’ lead was 4-1.

The Bucs put the game away with three more runs in the bottom of the eighth.  Pops led off against Martinez with a single, prompting Weaver to bring in Don Stanhouse.  After Madlock’s fourth hit and a popup, Garner singled in Stargell.  Blyleven bunted successfully this time, moving the runners to second and third, and the righty Stanhouse intentionally walked the left-handed hitting Moreno to get to Foli.  The move again failed, as Foli singled up the middle, driving in two.  That gave him three RBIs on the day.  Oddly, Stanhouse then picked off Foli but also threw the ball away.  It didn’t cost the Orioles as the inning ended with the Pirates up, 7-1.

Blyleven finally got in a little trouble in the ninth, allowing two singles with two outs.  He got Terry Crowley on a fly ball, though, to end the game.

Blyleven got the win.  The Pirates finished with 13 hits to the Orioles’ six.  After an off-day, the Series resumes in Baltimore.