Remembering Mets History (1968) Jerry Koosman Sets NL Record With Seven Shut outs

Jerry Koosman had made five appearances in relief for the 1967 Mets, debuting in April 1967 getting sent back down to AAA in May. He returned in September getting his first starts & ending the year at 0-2. In 1968 he was ready for the majors & was an eligible Rookie.

Koosman had a phenomenal rookie year, coming in second to Johnny Bench in the Rookie of the Year voting. 

Koosman went 19-12 (4th most wins in the NL) with a 2.08 ERA (also 4th best). He had 178 strike outs with 69 walks in 263 innings pitched (7th most in the NL). He made 35 starts pitching 17 complete games. That year he set a Rookie record with seven shut outs.

In the second game of the 1968 season, Koosman made his first start & shut out the Los Angeles in a 4-0 win over Bill Singer at Dodger Stadium. He struck out only three & walked four , allowing just four hits. 

His next start was at home in Shea Stadium, where he beat another old National League New York team, the now San Francisco Giants. In this game he struck out ten Giants, walking only two in the seven-hit shut out. His opponent was Mike McCormick who had led the NL with 22 wins the previous season. Cleon Jones first HR of the year led the way for the Mets.

Kooz won his next two starts as well, allowing just one run in a complete game victory over the Astros where he struck out 11 batters on April 23rd. He then beat the Reds to close out April 4-0 with a 1.04 ERA.

On May 5th, he gave up three runs to the Cubs in the first game of a twin bill taking his first loss. He then beat the Cubs at Wrigley Field on May 10th, pitching six innings allowing just an earned run.

On May 15th he took a loss allowing just two runs to the Cincinatti Reds, but George Culver shut out the Mets that day 3-0. Inn his next two starts, the Amazing Koosman allowed just one earned run both times, pitching eight innings or more. He closed out the month with a win at Pittsburgh to get to 8-2 on a Mets team that was 20-23.

By June 4th, Koosman was 8-2 with one of league's best ERAs at 1.43. That day he earned his 9th win, blanking the Cub sat Wrigley Field 5-0. It was a low strike out game, fanning three, with just two walks. Cleon Jones HR led the way as J.C. Martin & Jerry Grote also drove in runs in the 5-0 win.

On July 12th, Kooz shut out those Cubs again, this time at Shea Stadium, allowing just six hits & striking out six. It was his fourth shutout of the year to get to 12-4. His ERA was still under two at 1.83. A Jerry Grote two run HR off Ken Holtzman & RBI single led the Mets to a 4-0 win.

In his next start he took a loss to the Pirates, allowing three runs. 

On July 21st, in the second game of a double header in St. Louis, Koosman earned his fifth shutout of the year. In this 1-0 pitcher's duel against Nelson Briles, Koosman struck out a season high 12 batters, allowing just four hits & one walk. He was now 13-5 with a 1.87 ERA. J.C. Martin's base hit drove in Cleon Jones with the game's only run.

His next start came at Shea Stadium on July 26th. Koosman made it back-to-back shut outs as he pitched another four hitter this time striking out eight Reds. The Mets won it 2-0 beating Tony Cloninger, as Ron Swoboda had two RBI singles, driving in Ed Kranepool both times.

On August 5th he gave up six runs but only four of them earned in a 6-5 loss to the Astros in the Astrodome. Koosman beat Gaylord Perry & the Giants in San Francisco allowing just one run in a complete game win then beat the Dodgers at Shea to earn his 16th win of the year (16-7). His ERA was just 1.87. 

He then lost three straight decisions, starting with a poor performance on August 24th where he gave up three HRs to the Reds, pitching just four innings. On August 28th he was gone in the 4th inning again, after giving up four runs (but just one earned) on nine hits to the Reds again, this time at Shea.

0n September 7th he broke his personal three game losing streak & win his 17th game. 

On September 13th, 1968, Koosman took the mound at Shea Stadium to face the Pittsburgh Pirates. In this the last season before Divisional play began, the Mets were in last place at 67-82. 

A Shea crowd of 17,245 came out to see Jerry Koosman set an NL Rookie record with his seventh shutout of the season. This was another great pitcher's duel, this time with Bob Moose. Moose would not hit the Mets the next year in their 1969 Championship season.

In this record setting game, Koosman pitched his seventh shutout, a three hitter as he won his 18th game of the year. He struck out five batters, walked just three & kept his ERA under two at 1.91. Koosman would not see his ERA go above two until the last two games of the season. Koosman won his 18th game of the year as well.

In the 2nd inning, Art Shamsky homered off Bob Moose, giving the Mets a 1-0 lead. In the 5th, Shamsky tripled to right field. He scored when catcher Jerry May tried to pick him off third base. It was all Koosman needed for the 2-0 win.

The only thing that kept Koosman from winning the Rookie of the Year Award was a guy named Johnny Bench in Cincinatti. 


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