Forty years ago tonight, the Mets were visiting Pittsburgh, sitting in fourth place, 3½ games behind the front-running Pirates in the N.L. East with a record of 73-77…and they were about to post one of the 500 most Amazin’ wins of their first 50 years.
From The Happiest Recap (First Base: 1962-1973)…
Game two of their five-game series loomed as a turning point either way. For eight innings this Tuesday night, it appeared to be turning clearly in the direction of where the Allegheny and the Monongahela met to form the mighty Ohio. Pittsburgh took a 4-1 lead off Jon Matlack in the third inning, knocking out the talented lefty one night after having their way with Tom Seaver, and the score remained unchanged through the eighth. Ray Sadecki and Tug McGraw had pitched well to keep the Mets in the game, but New York hadn’t done anything with Pirate starter Bob Moose or his successor Ramon Hernandez, who stood two outs from saving a victory when he fouled out Bud Harrelson to start the Met ninth.
Ed Kranepool was due up next, but Yogi Berra pinch-hit with Jim Beauchamp, a righty batter versus lefty pitcher decision. It worked, as Jim singled. Then Wayne Garrett, in the midst of a career month (OPS 1.015) doubled. Felix Millan, who would establish a new franchise record for hits in 1973 with 185, got his most important hit to date: a two-run triple that cut the Mets’ deficit to 4-3. After Hernandez walked Rusty Staub, Danny Murtaugh pulled Hernandez in favor of his fireman, Dave Giusti.
But Giusti only inflamed the Mets’ rally, giving up a pinch-single to Ron Hodges to tie the game at four. Teddy Martinez ran for Hodges. Cleon Jones followed with a walk. And Don Hahn, who played more center field than any Met in 1973 despite never being fully entrusted with the full-time job by Berra, singled in Martinez and Jones.
The Mets led the Pirates, 6-4, heading to the bottom of the ninth. Clearly, the tide had turned away from the Three Rivers and toward Flushing Bay. But first, a little business would have to be taken care of. Three outs had to be nailed down, and this was where Tug and his Belief would come into play.
Except Berra had to pinch-hit for Tug in the eighth. So he went to as untested an arm as he had: 23-year-old Bob Apodaca, a righty being asked to make his major league debut in the makest-or-breakest situation imaginable.
What happened next?
You’ll find out when you read The Happiest Recap (First Base: 1962-1973).
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