After an off day, the Mets were in Chicago today for a one game showdown against the first place Cubs. April’s Pitcher of the Month, Jerry Koosman took the mound this afternoon against Burt Hooton with a chance to get the Mets within 1 1/2 games of the division lead, but ran into trouble right away. Koosman allowed a lead-off single to Rick Monday, then promptly surrendered a two run home run to Billy Williams, as the Cubs took an early 2-0 lead in the first inning. Chicago scored another pair in the bottom of the fourth when third baseman Ron Santo doubled to right, then scored on Jim Hickman‘s single. After an intentional walk to shortstop Don Kessinger put runners on first and second with two outs, pitcher Burt Hooton bounced to Bud Harrelson at short who threw errantly to Ed Kranepool playing first, allowing Hickman to score, and giving the Cubs a 4-0 lead.
The Mets finally got on the board against Hooton in the sixth inning when Wayne Garrett launched a two out home run; his second of the season, both within the last three games. After next batter Cleon Jones drew a walk, Rusty Staub followed with a double to center, driving Jones home with the Mets second run.
Jerry Koosman exited on the losing side after seven innings pitched, allowing three earned runs on seven hits. Phil Hennigan took over in the eighth. Koosman walked three and struck out three, while his ERA climbed to a 2.04 mark. His counterpart, Burt Hooton completed eight innings, then ran into trouble in the top of the ninth. Cleon Jones and Rusty Staub opened with back to back singles. With runners on first and third and no outs, Cubs manager Whitey Lockman relieved Hooton of his duties, and summoned Jack Aker from the bullpen. Eddie Kranepool immediately greeted Chicago’s reliever by smacking a single to left, plating Jones, and advancing Staub to second. Still with no outs and the tying run in scoring position, Jim Gosger grounded to first baseman Jim Hickman who threw across the diamond to third base for the force play on Staub. Chicago then dodged a bullet when Duffy Dyer followed with a shallow fly to left that was misplayed by Billy Williams, but which only loaded the bases. Buddy Harrelson, who’s earlier error now loomed large, stepped in, and lined sharply to second baseman Glenn Beckert, who gunned down lead runner Kranepool at home for the second out. Coach Yogi then pinch-hit for the pitcher Phil Hennigan, sending up lefty John Milner to face the right handed Jack Aker. John Milner, who was making his first appearance after being sidelined since April 25th with an injury, lined sharply to second baseman Glenn Beckert to end the threat, and the game.
Jerry Koosman suffered his first loss of the season. Burt Hooton pitched eight full, allowed three earned runs, walked one and struck out five in matching Koosman with his fifth victory of the season. Jack Aker earned his seventh save.
The Mets loss drops them to 17-15, 3 1/2 games back of the Cubs. Tomorrow, the Mets will be in Montreal for another single game affair before returning home to face Pittsburgh. The Mets will send Harry Parker up the Jarry Parc mound tomorrow to face-off against the Expos Mike Torrez.
In his four games since returning from a leg injury, Cleon Jones is batting .313, on five hits in sixteen at-bats. He has scored seven runs, and driven in two. With Cleon back, Jim Gosger moved over to center field, where Willie Mays has been out of action since May 5th. Usually reliable Felix Millan also missed his second consecutive game today. It is feared he may miss a few more.
With two hits in four times up today, Rusty’s batting average is finally up to .209, after hitting .200 or below since April 14th, six games into the season.