Remembering Mets History (1973) Mets Take Two of Three from Cubs & 2.5 Games Out of First Place
The Mets came back home after winning five of seven on a short road trip. Since August 27th they turned things around going 13-5. They had also gained four games in the standing & were now just 2.5 games back of the first place Pirates.
They were starting a three game weekend series with former New York Giants slugger, Whitey Lockman's Chicago Cubs (69-76). The Cubs were 1.5 games behind the Mets so this was (as was every remaining game) a big series. Friday's game was rained out, so a double header was played on Saturday in front of 25,553 at Shea Stadium.
In the bottom of the 1st inning, Rusty Staub drew a two out walk & John Milner doubled, although the slow footed Staub could not score. Rusty a great all-around ball player was always one of the slowest runners in the league. But next up Cleon Jones singled into left field bringing in both runners for a 2-0 lead.
Trivia: Cleon Jones would be a key factor to the Mets success in the coming weeks driving in 17 runs in the final 14 regular season games.
Harrelson, then Mets George Stone bunted for a base hit that catcher Randy Hundley couldn't handle. With two on, Wayne Garret's sac fly scored Harrelson to make it 3-0.
George Stone held the Cubs scoreless into the 7th inning. After getting the first two outs he walked Carmen Fanzone, then Paul Popovich singled & Randy Hundley singled bringing in Fanzone with the Cubs first run. Mets manager went to his bullpen, bringing in Tug McGraw who had been pitching real well as of late.
Former Met Jim Hickman came in to pinch hit & popped up in foul territory to end the inning.
In the bottom of the 7th, Bob Locker came on to pitch with Jenkins having gone six, allowing three runs on six hits, with three walks & two strike outs. Locker hit the leadoff batter Bud Harrelson with a pitch, after striking out Tug McGraw, he walked Wayne Garrett & hit Felix Millan with a pitch to load the bases. It was the fifth hit by pitch on the season for Millan. Cubs' manager Whitey Lockman saw enough & pulled Locker, bringing in Mike Paul.
Rusty Staub then doubled to left field, bringing in two more Mets runs for a 5-1 lead. The slow footed Staub was thrown out at third trying to stretch it into a triple.
Trivia: For Staub it was his 35th double of the season & his two RBIs gave him 68 on the season both Mets bests. Staub would now hit safely in his last 14 regular season games & drive in ten runs as well.
Tug McGraw retired the side in order in the 9th to earn his 21st save of the year. George Stone earned the win to get to 11-3 with a 2.64 ERA. Stone had now won eight straight decisions dating back to July 14th.
The Mets were now 72-76 just 3.5 games out of first place. In the second game of the twin bill, Chicago's Rick Reuschel shut out the Mets in a 10-0 debacle. The Mets Ray Sadecki gave up five runs taking the loss to fall to 4-4.
Today was also the start of the NFL season, as across town, the Giants still playing in the Bronx, beat the Oilers 34-14.
The Giants would lose 12 of their next 13 games going a dismal 2-11 on the season. Joe Namath & the Jets opened up the Monday Night Football season getting crushed by the Packers in Green Bay 23-7. The Jets would go 4-10 on the year themselves.
John Milner then drove a base hit to right scoring Millan. Staub advanced to third on Jose Cardenal's error. Cleon Jones added a sac fly to give the Mets a 2-0 lead.
In the top of the 2nd, the Cubs Ron Santo hit his 19th HR of the year, a two-run shot to tie the game up a two.In the bottom of the 2nd, Bud Harrelson delivered a one out line drive single to right field, he was moved over by Jerry Koosman's sacrifice bunt. Wayne Garrett then doubled to right scoring Harrelson to make it 3-2.
Koosman would go five innings allowing three runs on six hits, with three K's & three walks. Harry Parker would give the Mets 2.2 scoreless innings, allowing a single then retiring eight in a row leading to closer (fireman) Tug McGraw.
The Cubs Burt Hooton entered the 8th inning but after he gave John Milner a leadoff walk, he was removed for Bob Locker.
Locker fanned Cleon Jones, but Don Hahn singled & Jerry Grote followed with another single that scored Milner in what was to be the games winning run. Grote collected three hits in the game. He would have eight multi-hit games in the month of September.
Trivia: For Tug it was his second victory since September 1st to go along with six saves in eight appearances. In that time he allowed just one earned run in 17.2 innings.
By taking the series with the Cubs, the Mets (73-76) took a 2.5 game lead over them in the standings. They were now in fourth place but just a half game behind the Cardinals & just 2.5 games behind the first place Pirates.