Remembering Mets History (1973) Seaver Win 18th as Mets Take Over First Place

Friday September 21st, 1973:
Yogi Berra's Mets (76-77) were now red hot. They had won three straight & seven of their last nine games. Going back further, they had won fourteen of their last twenty coming from 6.5 games out of first place to within a half game of the first place Pittsburgh Pirates.

 After last night's exciting walk off win in "the Ball on the Wall Game", the Mets were now tasting first place, as it was withing their grasp, a half game away. 

The largest crowd of the year at Shea Stadium up to that point, some 51,381 paid fans waited on the same day ticket lines & packed in to see their "franchise" the 1973 Cy Young Award Winner, Tom Sever (17-10) go up against the Pirates Steve Blass (3-8). You Gotta Believe was alive & well all around the city as Pennant Fever took over New York.

Steve Blass had been a hero of the 1971 World Series & a 19 games winner in 1972 but he was having a rough season and would end his career after just one game the next year.

In the top of the 1st, Tom Seaver started out getting Dave Cash to line out. He then struck out rookie Dave Parker & Al Oliver, exciting the crowd as they rose to their feet.

In the bottom of the 1st, Wayne Garrett led off with a base hit, after Felix Millan popped up, Rusty Staub singled up the middle. Steve Blass got John Milner to pop up the second out, but then it all fell apart for him. 

The red-hot hitting Cleon Jones doubled to right field bringing in both Staub & Garrett for a 2-0 Mets lead. Rookie Dave Schneck (a power hitting prospect) was given an intentional walk. 

Next catcher: Jerry Grote doubled to the left center field alley scoring both Cleon & Schneck quickly making it a 4-0 New York lead. Blass was gone & Chris Zachary came into pitch.

In the 2nd, the Pirates answered, Willie Stargell drew a walk, then with one out Richie Zisk tripled to right field, he then scored on Milt May's sac fly, bringing the Pirates to within two runs. But that would be it for the night, as Seaver shut the Pirate offense down.

Seaver would go the distance, maybe not his most dominant performance but certainly a good one. He allowed two runs on five hits walking two. He struck out eight on the night to earn his 18th win of the year & lower his ERA to 1.88 on the season. He would lead the NL with a 2.08 ERA that season 251 strike outs & 18 complete games.

In the Mets 3rd inning, "the hammer" John Milner blasted a Chris Zachary pitch over the fence for his team leading 23rd HR of the year. Then Cleon Jones beat out an infield single & Jerry Grote reached on a high hop over short stop Dal Maxvill's head. Then Bud Harrelson delivered an RBI base hit thru the pitchers' legs & up the middle, making it 6-2 Mets.

In the bottom of the 6th, the Pirates were on their fourth pitcher, former Met, Bob Johnson. After Tom Seaver made the first out, Wayne Garrett this his 16th HR of the year, giving the Mets a 7-2 lead.  

John Milner Congratulates Rusty Staub
In the 8th the Mets added three more runs, Tom Seaver walked & advanced on when the Pirates fifth pitcher of the night, Jack Lamb threw a wild pitch.

 Felix Millan singled to score Seaver, then Rusty Staub hit his 15th HR of the year, bringing him over the 70 RBI mark. The Mets sealed their big 10-2 win.

Trivia: Rusty Staub, Cleon Jones & Jerry Grote all had two hits on the night. Cleon Jones had now driven in eight runs in his last three games & eleven in his last seven games. Rusty was on an eight-game hit streak that would last thru the regular season.

Seaver closed out the 9th retiring the side in order. All of a sudden, the Amazing Mets of 1973 were on top of the N.L. East at .500. (77-77) "You Gotta Believe" indeed.

The fans were dancing in the aisles & jumping on top of the dugout chanting "we're number one- we're number one!!". The Mets locker room was just as wild, with smiles on everyone's faces. 

Quotes- Jerry Koosman: "It brings back memories of 1969 but it's as though it's the first time all over again. I get my joy out of watching these younger guys, they don't know what it was like in 1969".

Quotes- Yogi Berra: "We have been hot since the 17th of August, but I have to say it's still wide open. Our pitching is set though. Seaver will work again Wednesday & Sunday, both times with four days' rest. Koosman has been the workhorse, but he'll have four days rest & Jon Matlack will have five".

The Mets had now won 24 of their last 35 games & went over the .500 mark. But there were still seven games left to play & four teams right behind the Mets. In a year where the Mets won the division with 83 wins, it seemed either the NL East was that tough or no one wanted to win it until the end!

The NL East Standings on September 21st, 1973:


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