Game Rewind: Pirates vs Astros, September 3, 1980

Dave Parker had an All-Star season for the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1980, his third appearance in the mid-season classic. That season wasn’t quite as special as his 1978-79 campaigns when he won two batting titles, two Gold Gloves and an MVP award, but he still produced some solid offense. His biggest day that season happened on Wednesday, September 3rd in a night game at Three Rivers Stadium against the Houston Astros.

Coming off of their fifth World Series title in 1979, the 1980 Pirates had a 71-62 record going into this game. They were in third place, but only a 1/2 game out of first place. The Astros were on their way to a first place finish in the NL West, their first title in franchise history. They had a 75-57 record going into this contest. Joaquin Andujar got the start for the Astros. He had a 2-4 record, mostly pitching in relief. He would finish the season with a 3-8 record for a 90-win team, though he didn’t exactly pitch poorly that year with a 3.91 ERA. The Pirates had John Candelaria on the mound. He had a 9-13 record at the time. His 4.01 ERA was his highest ERA during his time (12 seasons total) with the Pirates until he came back for one last season in 1993. This game on paper seemed to favor the hitters and it played out that way early on.

In the top of the first inning, the Astros went down in order. The Pirates got a one-out single by Tim Foli, who moved up to second base on a throwing error. Cleanup hitter Dave Parker came up with two outs and stroked a single into center field to make it 1-0. Mike Easler, who had an outstanding 1980 season, made it 3-0 with a home run to deep center. The Astros got one back in the top of the second with a solo homer by former Pirate Art Howe.

The Pirates started the second off with back-to-back singles by Ed Ott and Phil Garner, but Ott ran into an out and the next two batters couldn’t get the ball out of the infield.

In the third inning. Candelaria gave up a single to his mound opponent, though it didn’t come back to haunt him. In the bottom of the frame, the Pirates got a one-out walk by Bill Madlock, followed by Parker’s 15th home run of the season.

In the fourth, the Astros got a lead-off double by Gary Woods, followed two batters later by a double from Howe that made it a 5-2 game.

The fourth inning had the feel of the second inning when Ott and Garner connected on back-to-back hits again, with Ott running into an out. This time it was a single, caught stealing and a triple. Luckily for the Pirates, Omar Moreno came through and singled home Garner to make it 6-2. Moreno would then pick up his 81st stolen base of the season. He was on his way to a Pirates single-season record of 96 steals.

The Pirates knocked Andujar out of this game in four innings, but it was far from over. In the fifth, the Astros collected three consecutive singles to start the inning. The third one by Rafael Landestroy made it 6-3. The next batter was Enos Cabell and his sacrifice fly made it a 6-4 game. Candelaria retired the next two batters to keep the Pirates up by two runs.

The Pirates got those two runs back quickly in the bottom of the fifth when Bill Madlock reached on an infield single and Dave Parker smacked his second home run of the game. It was the 138th home run of his career, tying him for fifth place on the Pirates all-time list with Bill Mazeroski.

In the sixth, Candelaria allowed a lead-off single to Art Howe and then Chuck Tanner decided to give the ball to Enrique Romo. The next two Astros made outs, before Julio Gonzalez singled to put runners on the corners. Houston went to Jose Cruz to pinch-hit. He was normally a starter, and he actually finished third in the 1980 NL MVP voting, but as a lefty hitter, he was out of the lineup with Candelaria on the mound. Cruz flew out to center field to end any scoring threat.

The next eight batters in the game went down in order, with Parker breaking that string with a two-out single in the bottom of the seventh. He got the rest of the night off when Lee Lacy ran for him. Lacy didn’t go anywhere though, as Easler struck out to end the inning.

The Astros picked up a one-out single in the eighth off of the bat of Art Howe. It was his fourth hit of the game.

The Pirates loaded the bases with one out in the eighth on a walk to John Milner, a single by Phil Garner and a walk to pitcher Enrique Romo. It was an interesting choice to leave Romo in the game. He already pitched three innings and the Pirates had a chance to add to their lead. The decision didn’t backfire on Tanner. Not only did Romo walk, but Tim Foli came through with a two-out single that scored two runs. On the play, Romo was thrown out trying to go to third base. That made it 10-4 and they headed to the ninth just three outs away from victory.

There were no real dramatics in the ninth. Denny Walling singled to start the inning, but he never left first base. Two fly balls and a foul out to the catcher, and the Pirates won their 72nd game of the season. Romo pitched four scoreless innings for his ninth save of the season. Candelaria didn’t pitch well, just doing enough to get his tenth victory. He didn’t allow a walk or pick up a strikeout in the game. Parker finished the game 4-for-4 with five RBIs, his high for the season.

This game ended up being just a blip on the positive news radar for the Pirates. They lost their next five games as part of a 2-13 stretch. On August 24th, they had a two-game lead in the NL East. After play on September 3rd, they trailed by a 1/2 game. A week later, they were 3.5 games out, which was as close as they would get from that point on.

Here’s the boxscore and play-by-play courtesy of Baseball-Reference.