A balk by relief pitcher Warren Brusstar forced in the winning run in the ninth inning and gave the Pittsburgh Pirates a 2-1 victory over the Philadelphia Phillies Friday night and a doubleheader sweep in their last-ditch fight for survival in the National League East.
The Pirates, who must sweep the fourgame weekend set with the Phils to clinch at least a tie for the title, ran their home winning streak to 24 games.
They took the opener 5-4, getting the winning run in the ninth inning. Two Philadelphia outfielders got their signals crossed and let a ball drop for a triple. Then center fielder Garry Maddox committed a throwing error to permit the run to score.
The sweep, which left the Pirates just two games shy of the all-time major league home winning streak set by the New York Giants in 1918, came before a crowd of 45,134, the biggest and loudest home crowd in a Pirate season marked by sparse attendance.
Dave Parker led off the Pirate's ninth in the nightcap with a double to right off Phillies starter Steve Carlton. Parker took third as the ball was bobbled on the warning track by Maddox.
After Bill Robinson and Willie Stargell were intentionally walked to load the bases, Brusstar came in to pitch. He balked before delivering his second pitch to Phil Garner and Parker trotted home with the winning run as the stunned Phillies walked toward the dugout.
"The future ain't certain but the end is always near," Bill Lee quoted Jim Morrison after last night's 11-0 tirade over the terrible Toronto Blue Jays.
"Cleveland came close tonight," he said, "But as long as the Yanks keep going it's like water under the bridge for us." Reggie Jackson's eighth-inning single keyed a come-from-behind 3-1 victory and bailed the Yankees out of a first place tie with the Sox.
Boston is now one game out of first place in the American League East, with only two games remaining in the season. But excellent Red Sox hitting, fielding and intense desire--coupled with a Cleveland lead through seven-and-a-half innings--turned routine Fenway cheers into standing ovations; hopes began to fly, and even Don Zimmer managed an airy smile.
Undoubtedly, the Red Sox are playing the best baseball even Clif and Claf could expect them to play. They shelled Clancy and Mark Wiley in the first three innings, picking up eight of their 11 runs.
Fred Lynn singled across a run in the first and two more in the second inning before he tripled home another pair in the eighth. The infield came up with some sparkling acrodynamics, and bullpen ace Bob Stanley (15-2) and reliever Dick Drago allowed only three hits in the shutout. Stanley picked up the win.
Butch Hobson contributed to the onpour with two doubles and a single. Scott, Burleson, Remy and Fisk combined their singles for two runs. And it all came down with a grunt in the eighth, when Fisk walked, Yaz singled, and Lynn tripled off the left field wall for two runs. Hobson's long single off the center field wall in that inning brought in two more. All told, the Sox banged out 16 hits.
As the possibility of a Yankee defeat became more and more imminent, the spirits of the Sox and their fans were revived. And when Jim Rice knocked his first pitch of the game into left field for a base hit--becoming the American League's first slugger to reach 400 total bases since Joe DiMaggio in 1937--the hope was there.
"I ain't thinking about nothin'," Don Zimmer said after the game.
But for Zimmer's soldiers, feelings of anxiety came to a crying peak during the clubhouse aftermath of the game.
"That's a stick up our ass," Stanley grimaced after hearing the final score in New York.
Jim Wright, former Sox starter, smiled, "Maybe we should call Bernie down in Cleveland and promise him a full playoff salary if he can pinch hit a home run against New York."
"We could sure use ol' Bernie pumpin' 'em now," Boomer argued.