The New York Mets capped this most miraculous week with a resounding 5-2 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals, extending their winning streak to six games and keeping themselves in front of Pittsburgh Pirates with a week to go in the season. Harry Parker picked up the W for the home team, while Orlando Pena was stuck with the loss, and the blistering Tug McGraw earned his 23rd save of the season.
The Redbirds got some offense early off George Stone when former Met hero Tommy Agee launched a two-run homer in the first inning. It didn’t get much better for Stone, who gave up five early hits and needed double plays in each of the first two innings to escape even more trouble. Sensing Stone wasn’t on his game, Yogi Berra pinch-hit for him in the bottom of the second and turned the ball over to Harry Parker for the next four frames.
The Mets took advantage of Rich Folkers’s wildness in the bottom of the third, drawing three straight walks to load the bases. Cleon Jones’s sac fly put the team on the board but New York would get no more in the inning. The tying run came in the fifth, as Rusty Staub singled home Wayne Garrett after Garrett’s single and Felix Millan’s sac bunt.
Jerry Grote started a rally in the sixth with a one-out single, and Bud Harrelson took his place at first on a fielder’s choice. After Ken Boswell’s single put runners on first and third, Garrett came through once again with a big triple to right. Both runs scored, and the Mets were suddenly up 4-2.
The runs came just in time for Parker, who exited after four spectacular one-hit shutout innings. On came Tug McGraw for the seventh – the way Tug’s been pitching he didn’t need more than a one-run cushion, but Jones’s solo home run in the bottom of the seventh gave him an unbeatable lead. McGraw made fans sweat a bit in the top of the ninth when Ted Simmons and Matty Alou got on with singles, but Mike Tyson’s fly out to left assured the victory and sent the 51,926 Shea faithful into an even greater frenzy. Six in a row, a half game up in first place. All on the back of Tug McGraw, who has allowed but a single earned run in the month of September. The Mets are undefeated in September when McGraw pitches.
The starting lineups for this afternoon game looked like this:
St. Louis Cardinals
New York Mets
|1||Lou Brock||LF||1||Wayne Garrett||3B|
|2||Ted Sizemore||2B||2||Felix Millan||2B|
|3||Tommie Agee||CF||3||Rusty Staub||RF|
|4||Ted Simmons||C||4||John Milner||1B|
|5||Joe Torre||1B||5||Cleon Jones||LF|
|6||Luis Melendez||RF||6||Dave Schneck||CF|
|7||Ken Reitz||3B||7||Jerry Grote||C|
|8||Mike Tyson||SS||8||Bud Harrelson||SS|
|9||Mike Thompson||P||9||George Stone||P|
The Mets are riding higher than they have in four years, but the miracle is far from complete. They are in first place, but the Pirates are just a half game out, and astonishingly, three other teams remain within three and a half. One of those teams is the Montreal Expos, who New York will host on Tuesday as they fight to the finish.