Reprinted from yesterday's late editions
The skull-and-crossbones banner in Veterans Stadium Monday night said, "The Bucs Stop Here."
It was correct, as the revived Philadelphia Phillies sent the Pittsburgh Pirates to their fifth straight defeat, 10-3, driving the Bucs five games deep into second place.
"This was a must game for us," said plucky Pirate second baseman Phil Garner, "so we come in here and get shattered again. This has been one tough ball park for us over the years. So now tomorrow is a 'double-must' game for us."
Just five days ago, the Pirates were the hottest item in baseball - winners of 21 of 24 games in a determined drive that cut their deficit from 11 1/2 games to one-half game.
Now, the gutty but undermanned Bucs once more are cold as ice and bitten by bad luck to boot.
"They got every break in the book, and like a good team they used 'em to jump all over us," said the Bucs' Dave Parker, who began the day by receiving a telephone death threat, then saw matters go downhill from there.
The Phillies assigned two special security guards to the Pirate dugout to protect Parker and Willie Stargell, who was also threatened. Somebody should have been assigned to protect the Pirates from themselves.
Pirate shortstop Frank Taveras ignited a three-run Phil third inning by booting a liner hit directly at his nose for his 30th error of the year. The next batter hit a liner straight at Parker that the right fielder lost in the lights at the last instant for an RBI double.
"If I hadn't ducked, I think it would have hit me right between the eyes," said Parker.
That was just the first taste of misery for the Pirates' rookie starter, Don Robinson, who was tagged for all 10 runs, committed to balks and even gave up a two-run single to opposing pitcher Steve Carlton.
Perhaps no pitcher ever gave up 10 runs on such puny hits. In their three-run third and six-run sixth combined, the Phils hit only one ball out of the infield on the fly.
"I wish they'd hit him harder," said Buc Manager Chuck Tanner. "Maybe he'd have won. When I went out to relieve him, I told him just two words, 'Good job.'"
That may also be a first for a hurler who has just been tattooed for double figures.
The Phils produced runs with a hit batsman, a balk and an infield dribbler that might have ended the disastrous sixth without a run if only Garner had not bobbled the hurry-up play.
Seeing that tiny bases-loaded crawler by Ted Sizemore fall from Garner's hand seemed to unnerve the young Robinson and open the door.
Robinson promptly balked with Carlton at the plate, then gave up a soft two-run single on the next pitch. Three pitches later, Bake McBride lofted a 335-foot fly down the leftfield line, just fair and far enough for a two-run homer that ended the night's scoring and gave the Phils their seventh win the last eight games.
The Pirates homers off eight-hit pitcher Carlton were more robustly swatted. Dale Berra, son of Yogi, blistered a 400-footer to tie the score, 1-1, and Willie Stargell laced an opposite field liner for a two-run homer and a short-lived 3-1 Pirate lead.
The Pirates are one of those hustling, heady, well-managed teams that can win 10 games in a row while the luck and the one-run magic holds. But when the breaks go sour, as they did last night, the Pirates don't have the artillery to fire back at the fates.