Dec 26, 2016

Remembering Mets History (1973): The Hammer Has Back to Back Walk Off Hits

On Tuesday August 21st, 1973 the last place New York Mets (56-67) hosted the first place Los Angeles Dodgers (77-48). 26,351 fans came to either root on their Mets or their old beloved Dodgers from Brooklyn. Veteran Mets pitcher; Ray Sadecki (2-2) went up against future Hall of Famer; Don Sutton (15-8).

The 33 year old Sadecki pitched his best game of the season, going the distance, allowing just one run on four hits. He struck out four & walked no one. The only run came on short stop Bill Russell's solo HR. He only hit four HRs all season. Sadecki had been a starter most of the year, but was put in the rotation in mid July.

Sutton was almost as good, going the distance as well, only allowing five hits. In the Mets 8th, John Milner walked & was moved over to second on Ed Kranepool's bunt base hit. Jerry Grote then sacrificed both runners over & center fielder Don Hahn followed with a sac fly, scoring Milner to tie the game.

In the 9th with the score still tied, Wayne Garrett drew a one out walk. Felix Millan grounded out advancing Garrett to second. Rusty Staub was intentionally walked & John Milner "the hammer" came to the plate. Milner drove a single to center field, scoring Garrett with the games winning run. The Mets won it 2-1.

At the time it didn't seem like much of a big game, as the last place Mets hosted the first place Los Angeles Dodgers. One of the best pitchers of the early seventies; Andy Messersmith (11-8) took on the Mets George Stone (7-3) in front of 25,442 fans, many old Brooklyn Dodger fans.

The Dodgers scored first on a Joe Ferguson sac fly in the 1st inning. The Mets got a break, when Messersmith made an error with the bases loaded on a Teddy Martinez ground ball. The error scored John Milner who had walked & Ed Kranepool who had singled. The Dodgers tied it up in the 7th on another sac fly, this one by Willie Davis.

In the top of the 8th inning Tug McGraw came in to relieve Stone. He would pitch two scoreless, hitless innings, striking out two Dodgers.

In the bottom of the 9th inning, Jim Brewer was trying to close out the game with the 3-2 lead. Cleon Jones led off with a base hit to left field, he was moved over to second on Tug McGraw's sac bunt. Wayne Garrett flew out for out number two. Then Felix Millan singled ,scoring Jones with the tying run. Rusty Staub then singled as well, sending Millan to second & Jim Brewer to the showers.

"the hammer' john milner
Pitcher Pete Richert then came in to face "the Hammer" John Milner. Milner who won the game the night before with a walk off hit, delivered once again. He drove a base hit to centerfield, scoring Millan to win the game.

Another big thing was, that this was the first win credited to Tug McGraw all season. At this point Tug was 0-6 had an ERA of 5.31 and was struggling with control issues as well as getting people out. At one point he said he felt like he had no idea how to throw a baseball. It was as if he had never played baseball in his life.

From this point on, Tug McGraw would be perfect, he would be the best relief pitcher in the National League the rest of the way. He would get credit for four more victories & 12 saves, lowering his ERA by almost two runs, over the next five weeks of the 1973 regular season.

At the end of this day no one was really taking the Mets serious, they were dead last in the NL East, ten games under .500 (57-67) but still just six games behind the St. Louis Cardinals in a tight division.

They would fall to six and one half games back by August 30th, before an incredible September run. The Dodgers would lose the division to the Big Red Machine, as Cincinnati would also have a big September run.

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