St. Louis Cardinals at New York Mets, Thursday evening.
With both teams depleted from the marathon the previous night, starters Bob Gibson and John Matlack knew they had to go deep into this game. Unfortunately neither would do so and the difference in the game would be the bullpens, although both starters would end up getting decisions in the game.
For Cardinal fans, we knew that Bob Gibson’s games were numbered. His knees were giving out and it was often painful watching him pitch, knowing the discomfort he must be in. The 38 year old was still a ferocious competitor and we savored every inning. After the conclusion of the game, Gibson would only record 4 more wins before retiring in 1975.
The first three innings went fairly quickly, although the Mets were beginning to get to Gibson. They would break through with 4 runs in the bottom of the fourth when they sent 9 men to the plate against Gibby. First baseman John Milner would lead off the inning with a home run, but the remaining three runs came off of little ball – only one being hit hard after the Milner homer.
The Cardinals would get those runs back, and two more in the top of the sixth. Ted Sizemore would lead off with a single and Reggie Smith would hit a home run. With one out, Ted Simmons and Ken Reitz would single. Danny Godby would walk to load the bases. Godby would only play one season in the majors and record half of his career hits and runs scored in this game – 1 each. Matlack would throw an errant pitch, credited as a passed ball, and all the runners would move up with Simmons scoring. Ron Hunt would walk to load the bases again. After some managerial gamesmanship, right hander Harry Parker has to face pinch hitter Lou Brock, and he strikes out. Keith Hernandez pinch hits for Luis Melendez and hits the ball to center. It is misplayed into a 3 base error, clearing the bases and giving the Cardinals a 6-4 lead.
Gibson is now in line for a win, if the bullpen can hold. The first to try is John Denny. The 21 year old would go on to have a pretty good career, mostly as a starter. He would lead the National League in ERA in 1976, going 11-9 with the Cardinals. His career best would be 1983 with the Phillies where he would lead the league with 19 wins. Denny was a pitch to contact hurler – Dave Duncan would love him. This was his major league debut and he would not go long. After an error and a single, the Mets had runners at first and third with nobody out. Red was not going to let Gibby’s victory chances end with the youngster and he goes to his closer, Al Hrabosky. The Mad Hungarian was a bit wild in the beginning, allowing a sacrifice fly and throwing a wild pitch. The inning would end with a slim Cardinals lead, 6-5. Hrabosky would only allow one more base runner in the game, a 2 out walk in the bottom of the seventh inning.
Meanwhile the Cardinals would unload on Mets reliever Bob Miller scoring three runs in the 8th. Miller’s woes would continue in the 9th as the Cardinals jumped on him again. Even closer Tug McGraw could not stop the Cardinals as bad defensive plays by the Mets infield and a single from Hrabosky plated another three runs, giving the Cardinals a massive 12-5 lead. This would be the final score as Hrabosky shuts the Mets down in order for nice 4 inning save. Gibson would get his 247th win.
These two would combine again in Gibson’s next two starts with Hrabosky earning the win in both games. The extra inning game on Sept 17 may be Hrabosky’s best career performance. He would go 4 innings, not allowing a hit and striking out 6 along the way. The only base runners would be a walk and an error in the bottom of the 13th inning. It might have been Gibson’s last great performance as well, as the Hall of Famer went 9 strong innings allowing only 5 hits, one being a home run for the Pirates only run in the game.