The 1974 New York Mets have been rather lackluster from the get-go. A 7-game losing streak after beginning the year 2-1 has them coasting at roughly 10 games under for most of the season. They are 51-63 entering the first game of a 3-game set in Cincinnati.
On the mound for the Reds is Tom Carroll, the 21-year-old, 6’3″ rookie right-hander from North Allegheny HS in Pittsburgh, PA. He will first face the veteran shortstop Bud Harrelson, 2nd baseman Felix Millan, and 1st baseman John Milner. Harrelson and Millan unfortunately ground out and fly out, respectively, but Milner works out a walk. “Le Grand Orange”, right fielder Rusty Staub, walks to the plate, looking to get something going early against the Machine. Alas, it is not meant to be, as the orange-haired gentleman grounds out to 3rd.
On the mound for the Mets is Jerry Koosman, the 31-year-old, 6’2″ southpaw from West Central School of Agriculture in Morris, MN. He is having a good year, if not dominant, entering action with an 11-8 record and a 3.46 ERA. He has the task of facing the intimidating first 3 of the Big Red Machine: left fielder Pete Rose, 2nd baseman Joe Morgan, and the 3rd baseman for the day, Johnny Bench. There may be loads of future Hall of Famers in this lineup, but being intimidated by them is not in Koos’ nature. He gets Rose to ground to short and Morgan to strikeout. While Bench produces a single through the right side hole, 1st baseman Tony Perez grounds into a forceout at 2nd, and the Reds are done in the 1st.
That’s pretty much indicative of how each pitcher fares on this day. The Mets are given ample opportunity to score with 2 hits and 7 walks through 7 innings off Carroll, but never get a man across the plate. It stays scoreless till the 6th, when Koos gives up a 2-out single to right fielder Merv Rettenmund, plating Bench for the 1st run of the day. He goes 8 innings, gives up that 1 run on 8 hits and 3 walks, while striking out 6.
The top of the 8th arrives with Carroll still on the mound for the Reds. Milner greets him, though, with a single to right field. Manager Sparky Anderson believes he’s had enough, and opts for southpaw Tom Hall to take the charge. The Mets immediately put pressure on the new reliever when Milner steals 2nd base. Now with a runner in scoring position, Staub unfortunately strikes out. Cleon Jones pinch-hits for left fielder Ed Kranepool, but he strikes out as well. That leaves it up to pinch-hitter Duffy Dyer, who manager Yogi Berra would rather have up there than 3rd baseman Ken Boswell. The move pays off as Dyer singles to center, plating Milner with the 1st Mets run of the day. Catcher Jerry Grote flies out to left, but the Orange and Blue have tied the game at 1.
Though each team threatens to grab the lead, the pitching corps keeps it knotted up until the top of the 12th, when Bud Harrelson gets things started with a single to left off new pitcher Will McEnaney. Millan bunts him over to 2nd for the 1st out. Milner has a productive out, moving Harrelson over to 3rd with an unassisted out at 1st. That brings up Rusty Staub, who will not let himself be the last out of the inning. He singles to left-center, plating Bud for the team’s first lead of the day. Mr. Jones, who stayed in the game after pinch-hitting in the 8th, flies out to center, but the Mets are now up 2-1.
Tug McGraw, who arrived to the mound in the 11th, has a chance to seal the win for himself and the Metsies. He’ll have to get through a myriad of Big Red, though, to do so. Johnny Bench starts things off by doubling to left field. Darrel Chaney, who pinch ran for Tony Perez back in the 8th, hits a comebacker to Tug. Bench thinks he can get to 3rd, but McGraw has other plans. He guns it over and Johnny is out. Tug gets shortstop Dave Concepcion to pop to short for the 2nd out, but walks right fielder George Foster to put the winning run on base. Cesar Geronimo, however, who entered the game in the 7th, grounds back to the pitcher, and the Mets hang on for the 2-1 victory. Koos takes the no-decsion, though he lowers his ERA to 3.36. It is their 4th victory in a row.
The losing, however, does not dissipate, as they drop 4 in a row immediately thereafter. Other than a 7-game winning streak taking August into September, the losses continue to pile up as the season dwindles to a close. The Mets play 7 more extra-inning games the remainder of the year and lose every single one of them, including a 25-inning classic with St. Louis. They finish the year 71-91, good for 5th in the National League East.
The 1974 New York Mets.
Topics: 1974 New York Mets, Big Red Machine, Bud Harrelson, Duffy Dyer, Ed Kranepool, Felix Millan, Jerry Grote, Jerry Koosman, Joe Morgan, John Milner, Johnny Bench, Pete Rose, Reds, Rusty Staub, Sparky Anderson, Tony Perez, Tug McGraw, Yogi Berra