Remembering Mets History (1973) Mets Sweep Cards For Six Strait Win & Remain atop the NL East

Saturday September 22nd, 1973: By this point pennant fever had taken over New York City, as the Mets who were just four years past the Miracle of 1969 were looking to repeat with another Miracle run, this time there was a slogan to go with the excitement as "You Gotta Believe" was at its peak. 

On this cold cloudy September afternoon, 24,251 Mets fans came to Shea Stadium on fan Appreciation Day, to see the first place Mets take on the St. Louis Cardinals. The Mets fans received a ceramic Mets white coffee mug upon their entrance today's big game. 

The Mets were now in first place but clinging to a half game lead over the Pirates & a one game lead over today's opponent, Red Schoendienst St. Louis Cardinals. Yogi Berra sent Jon Matlack (13-15) to the mound to face Reggie Cleveland (13-9).

Jon Matlack would start the game out by striking out the side of Lou Brock, Ted Sizemore & Tommie Agee. Matlack retired the first six batters. After a 3rd inning double to Ken Reitz, he would not allow another hit until the 7th inning. By then the Mets had a two-run lead.

In the bottom of the 3rd, Jerry Grote was robbed of a sure double when third baseman Ken Reitz snagged his shot behind third base. Next Bud Harrelson singled & stole second base. Wayne Garrett then hit his 15th HR of the year; a two-run shot down the right field line. It was all the Mets needed behind Matlack's gem on the mound. 

Trivia: Wayne Garrett was one of the clubs' hottest hitters in the month, in the month of September he batted .323 with 31 hits, 5 doubles, 2 triples 6 HRs & 17 RBIs with 23 runs scored posting a .411 on base % & 1.015 OPS in 25 games.

In the 7th inning, the Cards had two base runners for the only time in the game, as they got two of
their four hits of the game. In the 8th Matlack struck out two more batters & in the 9th got Joe Toree to fly out to end the game with Tommie Agee on first base. 

Jon Matlack pitched a four-hit shutout, striking out nine batters, walking one while earning his 14th victory of the season. The win was his fifth in a row, seventh of his last eight decisions & the shut out his third of the year.

The Mets ended the day with a one game lead over the Pirates in first place, as the Pirates were rained out in Montreal. The Cards & Expos were tied at two games back with the Cubs just 2.5 games out. It was quite a race.

Note: After the game the Mets acquired veteran Bob Miller who had been a member of the 1962 Mets, to add to their bullpen.


Sunday September 23rd, 1973: Pennant fever was running rampart on this Sunday afternoon, as with sunny skies & temperatures in the 70's, a good 54,701 paid, came out to Shea to cheer on their first place Mets, as they got closer to clinching a division title. 

An estimated ten thousand of those fans bought same day tickets, arriving early & waiting on the long ticket lines. 

It was reported in the press at that time, that after the game sold out, some fans used ladders to scale the walls, while others were perched in trees to get a glimpse of the game. Even politicians couldn't use their power to get into the game. These final exciting weeks is what made 1973 a memorable season.

Trivia: On this day across the city, the NFL football New York Giants played the Philadelphia Eagles in what was the final game ever played at the old AL New Yorks team Stadium. Ironically, a young centerfieldmaz was at that game with his father. Of all places to be for a little Met fan on that day! 

The Giants who were heavily favored managed just a 23-23 tie when Pete Gogolak kicked a field goal with no time remaining on the clock.

In the top of the 1st inning, former Met-1969 World Series hero Tommie Agee stepped in with Ted Sizemore aboard & hit a two run HR. Agee had been traded by the Mets to Houston after the 1972 season, in exchange for outfielder Rich Chiles & pitcher Buddy Harris. 

In mid-August he was traded to the Cardinals for Dave Campbell, no doubt to boost their offense for the pennant race. This was Agee's third trip back to Shea that season as a visiting player & today would be the last game he played there as well.

Rich Chiles began the year, with the Mets playing in just eight games before spending the rest of the season in the Pacific Coast League. He was released by the Mets in April 1974, moving on to the Minesota Twins. Buddy Harris went 8-12 at AAA Tidewater never getting to the big leagues.

In the bottom of the 1st inning, Mike Thompson walked Wayne Garrett & gave up a single to Felix Millan. Cardinal manager Red Schoendienst saw a problem & quickly replaced Thompson with former Met, Rich Folkers. Folkers got the first two outs then walked Cleon Jones to load the bases. But pinch hitter Don Hahn grounded out to end the inning with the bases full.

As early as the 1st inning, Mets skipper Yogi Berra & pitching coach Rube Walker had action going in the Mets bullpen. Both managers were taking this big game very seriously. 

George Stone was removed for a pinch hitter in the bottom of the 2nd inning, after two innings he allowed two runs on five hits with a strike out. Harry Parker came on for an extended relief outing.

In the 3rd, Folkers lost control & walked three straight Mets batters to start the inning. Cards manager Red Schoendienst went to his bullpen bringing in his third pitcher of the day, Orlando Pena. Cleon Jones greeted him with a sac fly which gave the Mets their first run, but it was all they could get, still trailing 2-1. 

In the bottom of the 5th, Wayne Garrett led off with a base hit, Felix Millan sacrificed him over to second. Rusty Staub then tied the game with a single to centerfield for his 72nd RBI of the year.

In the bottom of the 6th, Jery Grote singled with one out, he was then forced at second on Bud Harrelson's bunt which landed if front of the pitcher's mound. With the managers wheels constantly turning in this game, Ken Boswell came in to pinch hit & singled to right field. 

Cards manager Red Schoendienst then sent his pitching coach, Barney Schultz to the mound to yank Pena & bring in Hal Hrabosky "the mad Hungarian" known for his big moustache & long mutton chops.

Wayne Garrett then blasted a shot bouncing off the right centerfield wall over the head of Luis Melendez, scoring Harrelson & Boswell giving the Mets a 4-2 lead as Garrett slid safely into third base with his third triple of the year & his 54th & 55th RBI.

Trivia: Garrett now had seven hits in his last four games, with 23 hits & 14 RBIs in his last 19 games. He would hit safely in every regular season game thru the end of the season.

In the bottom of the 7th, another hot Mets hitter, Cleon Jones hit his 8th HR of the year & a solo shot off Hrabosky driving in his tenth run in his last five games.

Harry Parker pitched four scoreless innings limiting the Cardinals to one hit earning the victory, his eighth of the year to get to 8-3. 

Tug McGraw who had become lights out over the past few weeks, pitched three scoreless innings, allowing two hits & two walks earning his 23rd save of the season. 

In September, thru this game McGraw had gone 3-0 with seven saves, having allowed one earned run in 25 innings over 12 appearances.

On this day the Pirates took a doubleheader from the Montreal Expos, leaving them just a half game behind the Mets with nine left to play. The Mets had just six games left to play as they gained ground on the rest of the Eastern division.


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