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Random Game Callback, June 8, 1974
2006-06-08 03:59
by Bob Timmermann

After getting back-to-back shutouts from Larry Dierker and Don Wilson, the Houston Astros used six pitchers in a 14-inning marathon against the New York Mets, and lost 6-5 on a run-scoring RBI by Wayne Garrett.

Houston's manager, Preston Gomez, who took over for Leo Durocher in the offseason, started lefthander Dave Roberts (one of three Dave Roberts who would play for the Padres in his career and two of them would play for Houston). Mets manager Yogi Berra countered with a lefty of his own in Jon Matlack.

Looking at the Mets' lineup, it was hard to believe that this team had won the NLCS the previous year. They had won the NL East with an 83-79 record and then upset the Reds in the NLCS and pushed Oakland to seven games in the World Series. On this night, Berra started his weak-hitting shortstop, Bud Harrelson, in the leadoff spot. Harrelson actually drew 71 walks and his .227 batting average was accompanied by a .366 OBP. Felix Millan was in the #2 slot and he rarely walked (31) or struck out (14) in 136 games. George Theodore was in the #3 slot, who played in just 105 games in a brief two-year big league career.

Houston had one superstar on offense in Cesar Cedeno, who would lead Houston with 26 home runs and 57 stolen bases. First baseman Lee May hit 24 in 1974.

The Astros scored twice in the first. Greg Gross led off with a walk and went to third on a double by shortstop Roger Metzger. Cedeno hit a sacrifice fly to score Gross and May singled home Metzger.

The Mets tied the game in the second. First baseman John Milner walked and went to second on a single by center fielder Don Hahn. Catcher Duffy Dyer walked to load the bases. Garrett hit into a force play to score Milner and Matlack hit a sacrifice fly to score Hahn to tie the game.

Roberts helped his own cause in the third with a triple to right. Gross singled home to make it 3-2 Houston. That scored would up for three more innings.

In the seventh, Garrett led off with a double. Matlack singled him to third. Harrelson grounded into a 4-6-3 DP and Garrett scored to tie the game at 3-3.

Fred Scherman came into relieve Roberts in the eighth. Right fielder Rusty Staub drew a walk and one batter later, Hahn doubled and Staub scored to put the Mets ahead for the first time, 4-3. But in the bottom of the eighth, Houston catcher Cliff Johnson homered to tie the game at 4-4. Houston got two runners on base in the ninth against Mets reliever Bob Miller, but left fielder Bob Watson grounded out to end the threat and the game went to extra innings.

The Mets threatened in the tenth, getting runners on first and third with one out against Ken Forsch. However, Jerry Grote hit into a double play. In the bottom of the tenth, Johnson walked with one out. After third baseman Doug Rader struck out, Tommy Helms hit a single that Garrett was able to slow down as it headed into right. Johnson tried to make it to third and was thrown out to end the inning.

In the 12th, the Mets took the lead. With one out, Milner singled and Hahn singled him to third. Ed Kranepool pinch hit for reliever Bob Apodaca and hit a grounder to Metzger, who couldn't come up with the grounder and Milner scored to make it 5-4. But the Astros answered back in the bottom of the 12th after two were out. May doubled to center against Ray Sadecki. Larry Milbourne came in to run for him. Johnson hit a slow grounder to first that he beat out and Milbourne came around to score the tying run when Sadecki, trying to cover first, dropped the throw from Milner.

The game moved on and in the 14th, Milner doubled to right, his third hit of the game. Hahn drew an intentional walk from the Astros' sixth pitcher, Jim York. Sadecki, allowed to bat for himself, singled to load the bases. Garrett followed with a grounder to Metzger who was able to get a force at second, but nothing else and Milner scored to make it 6-5.

The Astros threatened once again in the bottom of the 14th when Watson drew a two-out walk. Gomez called on his 20th player of the game, rookie Mike Easler, to pinch hit for Milbourne. But Easler grounded out to Milner who ran the ball to first to end the game.

All of these machinations wouldn't mean much in the long run for either team. The Astros finished in fourth place in the NL West with an 81-81 record, 21 games behind the Dodgers. The Mets, dropped all the way to 71-91 and fifth place in the East, 17 games behind Pittsburgh. On September 11, 1974, the Mets would lose a 25-inning game to the Cardinals, 4-3, one inning shy of the major league record. Garrett would go 0 for 10 in that game.

While the Mets had three excellent starters in Matlack, Tom Seaver, and Jerry Koosman, they didn't receive much offensive support as the Mets scored just 572 runs, next to last in the NL. Houston's pitchers benefited from the spacious Astrodome and had a home ERA half a runner lower than on the road, but the offense was nearly identical both home and road and the team earned its .500 record.

Sources: New York Times, Baseball-Reference.Com, Retrosheet

2006-06-08 12:51:12
1.   das411
But Bob, how many degrees can you use to connect the 1973 Mets with the 2005 Padres, hm?

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