Remembering Mets History (1973) Cleon Jones Hits Two HRs & Drives in Five Runs as Mets Get Within 1.5 Games of First Place

Wednesday September 19th, 1973: The Mets / Pirates matchups moved to New York's Shea Stadium for a three-game series.  The opener attracted 29.240 fans who were very quickly becoming interested in the Mets pulling off another Miracle, just four years after the Championship of 1969. 

Tonight, the Mets sent George Stone (11-3) to the mound, Stone was on a personal seven game win streak going back to July 8th. He was a pleasant surprise for the 1973 NL Champs going 12-3 with a save & a 2.80 ERA. The Pirates had veteran Nelson Briles (13-12) start the game.

Trivia: Briles an accomplished singer would sing the National Anthem at Game #4 of the World Series at Dhea Stadium a month later.

The Pirates jumped out in front as Rennie Stennett led off with a HR.

In the bottom of the home 2nd, John Milner led off with a base hit. Next Cleon Jones ripped a two run HR into the left field bullpen putting the Mets up 2-0. Cleon would not be done yet.

In the top of the 3rd, Stennett struck again this time with a triple, he then scored on Dave Cash's base bit tying up the game.

In the bottom of the 3rd, pitcher George Stone reached on an infield hit. He advanced on a force play & was brought in on Felix Millan's RBI single, Millan's 175th hit of the season, putting the Mets ahead 3-2. Stone was a good hitting pitcher who batted .271 that season with 13 hits in 48 at bats. 

Later in the 5th inning, he grounded to second base with Jerry Grote (who had doubled) now on third base & was credited with his 5th RBI of the season. New York had a 4-2 lead.


But in the top of the 6th, the NL's leading HR hitter Willie Stargell connected for his 41st HR of
the season, tying up the game.

Trivia: Willie Stargell has hit the most HRs against the Mets than any other opponent by far. Stargell hit 60 HRs against the Mets with 26 coming in Shea Stadium.

George Stone would pitch six innings allowing three runs on eight hits, striking out just one while not issuing a walk. Tug McGraw came on for his sixth appearance in eight days. 

In the 7th he issued a walk & a base hit but got out of the inning getting Stennett to pop up & Dave Cash to ground out. After a lead off hit in the 8th he got the last five batters he faced including a double-play ground ball from Richie Zisk. 

Tug would pitch three scoreless innings, earning his 22nd save of the year. In the past week in those six appearances, he earned two wins going 2-0 with four saves, not allowing an earned run. 

He had not allowed an earned run in the past ten innings.

In the bottom of the 8th, with the Mets facing Dave Giusti, Rusty Staub collected a single & John Milner drew a walk. Cleon Jones then hit his second HR of the game, a three-run shot giving the Mets a 7-3 lead that would hold.

The HRs was Cleon's second of the night as he drove in season high five runs. The HRs were his first since August 15th, in a year where injuries kept nagging him, he was finally healthy. He would hit six HRs in the Mets final ten games of the regular season.

The win put the Mets (75-77) at 1.5 games behind the Pirates in the NL East with two more games to play head-to-head. Strangely the Mets were tied with the Cardinals & had the Montreal Expos a half game ahead of them in the crowded NL East.

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