Amazin’ Look Back: September 18, 1973 – Yogi Berra Out-Duels Bucs Skipper; Mets Five Run 9th Sinks Pirates

By Michael Lecolant

Yogi’s old saying, “It’s never over till it’s over.” – never rang more true.  In fact, seasons like this, finishes like this one, make it genius.  Old baseball guys like Yogi know things – like Casey, and Gil knew things.  They’ve been through it all.  In Yogi and Casey’s case, you’re not exactly sure what they know, and you understand less after they explain it to you.  But they know – they sense things on a baseball field.

Jul 2, 2012; Los Angeles, CA, USA; General view of Rawlings major league baseballs on the field before the game between the Cincinnati Reds and the Los Angeles Dodgers at Dodger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee/Image of Sport-USA TODAY Sports

When a championship caliber nose such as Yogi Berra‘s smells playoffs, you had damn well better follow.  Yogi doesn’t have ten rings as a player for nothing.  Yogi knew, after tonight’s game there would only be ten games left in the regular season, and that his team would be returning to Shea Stadium for a final seven game home stand that would either make or break the Mets bid for a second ever division flag.

The schedule makers presented the Mets with a perfect opportunity to gain ground against the current N.L. East leading Pirates, with two games in Pittsburgh and three at Shea.  And I do mean current – it seems as if every team in the N.L. East has tasted first place this season, all except the Mets that is.  After dropping yesterday’s contest, the Mets entered tonight’s game with a 73-77 record, but a mere 3.5 games out of first place.  That’s not the only reason Yogi is feeling optimistic about his team.  The Mets were 10-5 in their last fifteen games heading into tonight, and more importantly, everyone is now healthy and contributing.

Yogi Berra smells something alright, and it’s not the occasional stench coming off Flushing Bay.  Just as he was two games ago when Yogi asked Jerry Grote to lay down a squeeze bunt for a win, this evening Yogi again was the master tactician, claiming a ninth inning comeback triumph over Bucs skipper Danny Murtaugh.  Chalk this game up for Yogi indeed.  After starter Jon Matlack and the Mets fell behind 4-1 after just three innings, Yogi went through six pinch-hitters; three in the ninth inning; one pinch-runner and four relief pitchers to keep the Mets alive and kicking.

Still trialing 4-1, the Mets entered the top of the ninth facing reliever Ramon Hernandez.  After Bud Harrelson flied out in foul territory, Yogi Berra and the Mets got busy.  Pinch-hitter Jim Beauchamp singled.  Back to the top of the order, Wayne Garrett doubled.  Felix Millan then cleared the bases with a triple.  After Rusty Staub drew a walk, a game of cat and mouse ensued between Yogi and Murtaugh.  Once Duffy Dyer was announced as the pinch-hitter for Tug McGraw, Danny Murtaugh brought in Dave Giusti from the bullpen.  Yogi then countered again with Ron Hodges, who rewarded his manager with a single to drive in Millan.  After Cleon Jones drew a walk to load the bases, Don Hahn singled up the middle to drive home pinch-runner Ted Martinez and Rusty Staub to give the Mets a 6-4 lead.

The Bucs scored once off reliever Buzz Capra in the home ninth, but nothing more.  The Mets pulled away from the Pirates by a 6-5 final score.  New York is once again just 2.5 games out of first place behind the Pirates.  With a huge bounce-back victory in the books, the Mets are coming home for the final home stand of the regular season.  Three more games against the Pittsburgh Pirates start tomorrow at Shea.

Starting Lineups

Tonight’s victory is every reason why, as Mets reliever Tug McGraw recently encouraged his team mates during a locker room meeting, You Gotta Believe!  Tug McGraw by the way, was credited with the win in relief after two innings of work.  Over his nine appearances in September, Tug has 0.47 ERA in nineteen innings pitched, allowing just one run on twelve hits, walking six and striking out twenty-one batters.

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