Tuesday August 21st, 1973: At this point in time, Yogi Berra's Mets were in last place (56-67) but ready to make their move to capture the NL East a just a bit more than a month later. Today they hosted Walt Alston's first place Los Angeles Dodgers (77-48) who would soon lose the NL West to the Reds. 26,351 fans came to Shea Stadium to watch veteran Mets pitcher; Ray Sadecki (2-2) go up against future Hall of Famer; Don Sutton (15-8).
Sutton was good too, he had himself a three shut out going into the 8th inning. John Milner walked & was moved over to second on Ed Kranepool's bunt base hit. Jerry Grote then sacrificed both runners over. Next 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.
The Dodgers scored first on a Joe Ferguson sac fly in the 1st inning. In the 4th, John Milner walked, Ed Kranepool & Jerry Grote both singled. The Mets got a break, when the pitcher, Messersmith made an error on Teddy Martinez ground ball, two runs scored on the play for 2-1 Mets lead. The Dodgers tied it up in the 7th on a sac fly from 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, the Dodgers' 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. Then Wayne Garrett flew out for out number two. Felix Millan then 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|
Another big footnote to the game 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.