The Pittsburgh Pirates pounded Craig Swan early and got a big defensive play from center fielder Marvell Wynne in the ninth to hold on for a 6-2 win over the New York Mets before a crowd of 12,233 at Shea Stadium.
The Mets at this point were managed by Frank Howard, who had taken over for George Bamberger on June 3. Pittsburgh was managed by Chuck Tanner and were finishing up a red-hot July where they would go 22-10 and take over first place in the NL East, despite being outscored on the season to that point. The Pirates started lefty Larry McWilliams.
Swan, who had led the NL in ERA in 1978, was bad from the outset. He walked Wynne to lead off the game. Wynne had been acquired out of the Mets minor league system on June 14 and put into the Pirates leadoff spot. Second baseman Johnny Ray singled Wynne to third. Third baseman Bill Madlock bounced into a 5-4-3 DP that let Wynne score. First baseman Jason Thompson singled and right fielder Dave Parker doubled Thompson to third. Left fielder Mike Easler hit another double to score Thompson and Parker to make it 3-0 Pirates.
In the second, McWiliams had a one-out single and Wynne doubled to right and McWilliams scored when Mets first baseman Keith Hernandez, acquired in a controversial trade from St. Louis on June 15, dropped a relay throw. Howard sent Swan to the showers and brought in lefty Carlos Diaz, who gave up another run on a single by Madlock.
The Mets scored a run in the third when third baseman Hubie Brooks singled in shortstop Jose Oquendo. But McWilliams struck out Hernandez and left fielder George Forster with a runner on third to end the inning. The Mets got another run in the fifth when Brooks hit into a double play that let pinch hitter Tucker Ashford score from third.
Pittsburgh stretched its lead to 6-2 in the seventh when Thompson singled to score Wynne who had singled and stolen second.
The Mets mounted a rally in the ninth. Right fielder Dave Kingman singled to lead off and McWilliams was replaced by Kent Tekulve. Second baseman Bob Bailor bounced to Ray, who booted the ball for an error to put runners on first and second. Danny Heep came up to pinch hit for catcher Junior Ortiz (part of the Wynne deal). Heep hit a deep drive to left-center that Wynne made a spectacular running catch on to retire Heep. Rusty Staub pinch hit for Oquendo and walked to load the bases. This brought up the pitcher's spot and Howard called on rookie Darryl Strawberry to pinch hit. Tanner countered with lefty reliever Rod Scurry, who got Strawberry to strike out and then center fielder Mookie Wilson to hit into a force play to end the game.
The Pirates lack of run scoring caught up with them and they finished second in the NL East with an 84-78 record, six games behind the Phillies. The Mets finished in last place at 68-94.
In 1984, the two franchises would see their fortunes reverse as the Pirates would fall to last place and the Mets, under new manager Davey Johnson, would move up to second.
Strawberry, a much heralded prospect out of Los Angeles, would be named Rookie of the Year in the NL in 1983 by hitting 26 home runs in 122 games. Strawberry took over for Kingman in right field in August and September. Kingman was released in the offseason.