MLB: The Pittsburgh Pirates First Great Triumph in Their Rivalry with the Mets

by on November 10th, 2014
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The Pittsburgh Pirates and New York Mets once had a fierce rivalry, which may be difficult to believe today. It started in 1970 and carried over in the 1990s.

The Pirates and Mets were members of the National League’s Eastern Division. After the Mets won the 1969 World Series, they were strong favorites to repeat, but something happened on their way to the 1970 title.

At the close of play on Sept. 24, the Pirates led the division by two and one-half games over both the Mets and Chicago Cubs, who were tied for second place.

The Pirates and Mets opened a crucial three game series at Pittsburgh on Sept. 25.

The surprising Bucs won the first two games by identical 4-3 scores. Jim “Mudcat” Grant won both games in relief.

Amazingly, neither Jerry Koosman, who started the first game for the Mets nor Tom Seaver, who started the second, got past the fifth inning.

The Pirates were now in a position to clinch the division title if they beat the Mets to sweep the series since the Philadelphia Phillies had beaten the Cubs in the first two games of their series.

Before a crowd of 50,469 fans on a cool, cloudy day, the Pirates sent Dock Ellis to the mound to face Jim McAndrew. Ellis got into immediate trouble.

He walked Tommy Agee leading off the game. Wayne Garret singled and then Ellis walked Cleon Jones. The Mets scored only one run. It would be the only run they would score.

The New Yorkers loaded the bases two more times, one of them once again with no outs, but they failed to score each time.

The Pirates tied the game with a run in the third when David Cash singled, Roberto Clemente doubled him to third and Bob Robertson brought him home with a sacrifice fly to Agee in center.

In the fourth inning, the Pirates scored what turned out to be the winning run when Cash’s bases loaded sacrifice fly scored Gene Alley.

Dave Giusti, who finished with 26 saves, took over for Ellis after the Mets put two on with one out in the eighth inning. Giusti was a fireman whose job was to squelch rallies. In those days, a team’s best relief pitcher rarely started an inning.

The victory was only the Pirates 87th of the season. They were solid offensively but their top winner was Luke Walker with 15 wins.

Their starting staff was similar to the 2011 Mets starters. Each team had five adequate starters, but the difference was that the 1970 Pirates had a great bullpen.

After the Pirates clinched the division, manager Danny Murtaugh spoke.

“If anybody was the key, it was Giusti. It was poetic justice that he was in at the finish.”

Tommy Agee summed up the Mets season succinctly.

“Cleon (Jones) didn’t hit early, and he could have carried us. Jerry Koosman won 17 games last year even though he was out a month and a half, but this year he had trouble. And the bullpen this year couldn’t keep us in the close games.”

The Pirates repeated as division winners in 1972 with the Mets finishing third. Then, in 1973, despite winning only 82 games, the Mets won the division. The Pirates could win only 80 games to finish third, two and one-half games out.

Reference:

Pirates clinch division crown by topping mets, 2-1, for sweep of series. (1970, Sep 28). New York Times (1923-Current File), pp. 57-57. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/118670238?accountid=46260


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