The 1976 New York Mets
, though out of it early, are a winning ball club. Weathering a stretch that leaves them at 33-37, The Mets win 5 games in a row going into an afternoon affair at Shea on Tuesday, June 29.On the mound is a pitcher Joe Torre
has concluded is snake-bit. Staring at a 3-9 record with a low ERA, Mickey Lolich
, a 35-year-old southpaw, spent his 1st 13 years with the Detroit Tigers before being traded to the Mets with outfielder Billy Baldwin
for Rusty Staub
and pitcher Bill Laxton
. Torre even went so far as to buy a $1 golden, red-eyed cobra statue and give it to the pitcher. They skipped Lolich’s last start to keep Tom Seaver
and Jon Matlack
on a 5-day schedule and he hasn’t pitched in 10 days. As long as his control isn’t an issue, Lolich knows he should keep the Mets in the game.16, 232 New Yorkers sit in the stands as Lolich gets ready to pitch. Lolich looks into Jerry Grote
. The Cards’ center fielder, Jerry Mumphrey
, steps up to the plate. Lolich looks in, winds up, throws, and gets the batter to ground out to Bud Harrelson
at short for the 1st out of the ball game. The RedBird’s shortstop, Don Kessinger
, steps up to the plate and unfortunately doubles to left field. Up to the plate walks Lou Brock
, and Lolich knows he has to lock this inning down. Lolich is so tense that he throws a wild pitch, sending Kessinger down to 3rd. Mickey takes a breath, zones in, and strikes out Brock. Lolich then walks Ted Simmons
, the 1st baseman, but gets Joe Ferguson
, the catcher, to ground to Bud for the force out at 2nd.Pete Falcone
stands on the mound for those Redbirds. The 1st two batters for the Mets, Bud Harrelson and 2nd Baseman Felix Millan
(the original ‘stached 17),
go down quietly with a popup to 2nd and a groundout to 3rd, respectively. Joe Torre walks to the plate, having himself a comeback season after only hitting .247 in his 1st season with the Mets. With 2 out, Torre drives one to the gap in left-center which gets down for a double. Dave Kingman
, the greatest home run hitter the Mets have ever had, walks up to the plate looking to do what he does best. He sees the pitch he wants, and before Pete Falcone knows it, what appeared to be a quick inning is now flying over the right field wall for a 2-run home run, Kingman’s 27th of the year. Mike Vail
, the right fielder, bails Falcone out by grounding to short to end the inning.
Meanwhile, Mickey Lolich is absolutely crusing. Aside from a single in the top of the 2nd and a single in the top of the 3rd, Lolich is setting down every Redbird that comes his way. Groundout. Groundout. Fly ball. Groundout. Strikeout. The same thing is happening to the Mets batters, as the only blip on Pete Falcone’s starting map is the damage the Mets did with 2 out in the 1st.
So, onto the top of the 9th we go. Lolich, pitching a gem, is heading out to the mound to polish the shutout off. The 16,232 are on their feet, looking for the Mets to lock their 6th straight win down. Ted Simmons walks to the plate…and wiffs for the 1st out. Joe Ferguson walks on up…and grounds out to 3rd. The last hope for St. Louis lies in Mike Anderson, the right fielder, but Lolich has been in too fine of a zone for the Redbirds to stand any chance. The batter carbon copies another ground out to 3rd base, and the long throw gets him at 1st for the final out of the ball game, The Mets winning 2-0. Lolich’s line reads 9 innings, 3 hits, 3 walks and 9 strikeouts. The win is his 4th of the year and now has a 2.96 ERA. As for the snake, it makes its way to Bud Harrelson, who gets bitten after going hitless and stumbling a bit in the field.
The streak grows to 10 games, but the Cubs break it up with a 4-2 win in the 2nd game of a July 4th Doubleheader. During that streak, they only make up 2 games in the standings to the scalding hot Phillies, who are running away with the division with 52 wins and 22 losses. The Mets finish the year with an 86-76 record, 15 games behind the 101-win Fightin’s. They lose their last 5…after winning 6 straight. Lolich ends the year with an 8-13 record and a 3.22 ERA.
And unbeknownst to most Metropolitan Baseball Fans, the wheels are about to fall off the wagon.
The 1976 New York Mets.
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