April 5, 2012; Chicago, IL, USA; A general view of Wrigley Field before the game between the Chicago Cubs and the Washington Nationals on opening day. Mandatory Credit: Rob Grabowski-USA TODAY Sports

Amazin’ Look Back, September 30, 1973: Mets Split Cubs, On Cusp of NL East Crown


After an Amazin’-ly agonizing three-day layoff, the New Mets split a twin bill with the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field, losing the first game 1-0 and dominating the second 9-2. The Cubs’ Bob Locker earned the win in game one, while Jon Matlack took the tough loss. Jerry Koosman went the distance for the W in the second game, which was lost by Fergie Jenkins.

Up a game and a half coming into the Sunday doubleheader, the Mets offense slogged through the first game with only eight hits, all singles, and couldn’t convert in eight at-bats with runners in scoring position. In the bottom of the eighth inning, the Cubs finally broke Matlack when Ron Santo’s two-out single plated Dave Rosello for the game’s only run.

Coupled with St. Louis Cardinals’ 3-1 win over the Phillies, the Met lead in the NL East was down to a mere half game. That’s when Jerry Koosman’s arm and the New York bats came alive, and just in time for another game.

The Mets took advantage of a sloppy start by the Cubs and put three unearned runs on the board in the top of the first. Chicago got close in the bottom of the second with two unearned runs of their own, but that was as close as Koosman would let them get. Jerry finished the day with a clutch complete-game victory, allowing only the unearned pair on six hits, walking two and striking out seven. He was rewarded with a strong boost of offense, as the Mets put up their last six runs in the sixth inning or later. Cleon Jones (two-run homer in the sixth) and Rusty Staub (3-5, two runs, three RBIs) were the heroes of the day at the plate for New York.

The starting lineups for Game 1 looked like this:

New York Mets

       

Chicago Cubs

1 Wayne Garrett 3B 1 Don Kessinger SS
2 Felix Millan 2B 2 Rick Monday CF
3 Rusty Staub RF 3 Billy Williams LF
4 John Milner 1B 4 Ron Santo 3B
5 Cleon Jones LF 5 Jose Cardenal RF
6 Dave Schneck CF 6 Carmen Fanzone 1B
7 Jerry Grote C 7 Paul Popovich 2B
8 Bud Harrelson SS 8 Ken Rudolph C
9 Jon Matlack P 9 Rick Reuschel P

 

These are the squads Yogi Berra and Whitey Lockman sent out for Game 2:

New York Mets

       

Chicago Cubs

1 Wayne Garrett 3B 1 Don Kessinger SS
2 Felix Millan 2B 2 Rick Monday CF
3 Rusty Staub RF 3 Billy Williams LF
4 John Milner 1B 4 Ron Santo 3B
5 Cleon Jones LF 5 Jose Cardenal RF
6 Jerry Grote C 6 Carmen Fanzone 1B
7 Don Hahn CF 7 Paul Popovich 2B
8 Bud Harrelson SS 8 Ken Rudolph C
9 Jerry Koosman P 9 Fergie Jenkins P

 

The Mets’ record now stands at 81-79 and they sport a one-game lead over the second-place Cardinals, who have finished the regular season an even .500 at 81-81. New York now has two chances to clinch the National League East, the first of which is tomorrow afternoon against the Cubs at Wrigley Field. Tom Seaver will take the hill opposite Burt Hooton.

Should the Mets win either of the next two games, they will advance to the National League Championship Series to face the Cincinnati Reds, who edged out the L.A. Dodgers to win the NL West. But if the Mets lose both of their games, they will finish 81-81, tied with the Cardinals, and will have to face them in a Game 163. And that’s not even counting the 80-81 Pittsburgh Pirates, who could create a three-way tie by beating San Diego tomorrow afternoon.

These are the stakes. Tom, you could make it so much easier for us by just winning tomorrow. Go get ‘em, Terrific.

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Tags: 1973 Mets Tribute Jerry Koosman Jon Matlack New York Mets Rusty Staub