Remembering the 1973 N.L. Champion Mets: Mets Move Within One & 1/2 Games of First Place

Tuesday September 18th NL East Standings:
Pittsburgh Pirates -
Montreal Expos 1.0 games back
St. Louis Cardinals 1.5 games back
New York Mets 2.5 games back
Chicago Cubs 5.0 games back
Philadelphia Phillies 10.5 games back

Jon Matlack
Being that this was such an important game, it's amazing that just 12,000 fans showed up at Three Rivers Stadium as Pirate pitcher Bob Moose went up against the Mets Jon Matlack.

Matlack was pitching the best he had been all year, he had won his last four decisions, six of seven. Moose was also pitching well enough to win his last four decisions.

In the 3rd inning, the Mets scored first when Rusty Staub singled home Wayne Garrett. The Pirates came right back, as Richie Zizk singled home two runs & Many Sangillen doubled in two more. The game stayed that way until the 9th inning, when the Mets came back.

With one out pinch hitter Jim Beauchamp got a base hit off Pirate reliever, Ramon Hernandez. Then Wayne Garrett doubled, putting men on second & third. Felix Millan, the Mets best contact hitter (batting .291) came through again, with a triple to deep center field, bringing in both runners.

It was Millan's fourth triple of the year. The next batter Rusty Staub drew a walk.

The manager wheels started turning, as Mets skipper Yogi Berra sent Duffy Dyer to pinch hit for Tug McGraw. But Pirates Manager Danny Murtaugh changed pitchers bringing in the righty Dave Guisti. Berra then counteracted & sent up third string rookie catcher; Ron Hodges.

Hodges had come up in June & remained on the club, handling the star studded pitching staff well for a rookie, he was also batting .250. Hodges delivered, with a base hit scoring Millan to tie the game. The Mets continued to rally, Teddy Martinez was brought in to run for Hodges, another move that would make Berra look like a genius.

Buzz Capra
Cleon Jones also walked, as Gusti was really having a tough night. Centerfielder Don Hahn then drove a base hit to center field scoring Martinez & Rusty Staub, making it a 6-4 Mets lead.

In the bottom of the inning, Bob Apodaca started out pitching, but he walked the first two batters & was yanked for Buzz Capra. After Dave Cash sacrificed the runners over, Al Oliver grounded out to first base but a run scored, bringing the Pirates to within a run.

Capra then gave Willie Stargell an intentional pass & walked Richie Zisk loading the bases. A rookie named Dave Parker was brought in to pinch run, as tension mounted. Capra then got catcher Manny Sanguillen to fly out to Cleon Jones to end the game.

Yogi Berra's Mets used 21 players in the game, including five pitchers. Tug McGraw got the win, his fifth straight since August 22nd. The win brought the Mets to within 2 1/2 games of the Pirates. That day the Cardinals beat the Expos & Cubs split a twin bill. ___________

On Wednesday September 19th the Mets / Pirates Series moved to New York. The Mets went up against the first place Pirates two games back. Now there was a buzz in the way the Mets were playing & a large crowd of just under 30,000 came to Shea to root on the Mets.

It was the Pirates Nelson Briles (13-12) going up against Mets '1973 surprise pitcher George Stone (11-3). Since July 14th, Stone had gone 7-0 mixing in a strong rotation of Seaver, Koosman & Matlack.

The Pirates led off hitter Rennie Stennett started the game with a HR. In the bottom of the 2nd, Cleon Jones hit a two run HR putting the Mets in front 2-1. It was to be Cleon's night as he started a hitting streak that would go eight of the last ten games.

He would also drive in 14 runs in the next ten games, starting out with his biggest run production game of the '73 season, as he hit two HRs & drove in five runs in tonight's game. His second HR came in the bottom of the 8th with the Mets ahead 4-3.

With one out, Pirates pitcher Dave Guisti walked John Milner after Rusty Staub had singled. Jones then blasted a long HR bringing the Shea crowd to its feat, as they were "believing". Felix Millan added an RBI single earlier & Stone helped his cause by grounding out on a force play that scored Jerry Grote.

George Stone wins his 12th
Stone went on to win his 12th & final game of the regular season (12-3) & Tug McGraw who pitched three shut out innings, continued to be spectacular earning his 22nd save of the year.

In the 8th Al Oliver had singled to right field & with one out McGraw got Richie Zisk to ground into a double play ending any threat the Pirates had. The Mets were now just 1 1/2 games out of first place.


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