Tuesday, December 18, 2012

#471 - NL Playoffs/'73 Playoff Statistics



So the NL playoffs were another tight series and since Bert Campaneris didn’t throw any bats at anyone in ’73 this one had most of the non-baseball drama. This series had mismatch all over it. The Mets, battling injuries to just about every starter all year, were in fifth place the second week of September and didn’t clinch things until the final game. Cincinnati, meanwhile, had a mid-year slump when their pitchers ran out of gas but went on a tear from then on – partly due to picking up Fred Norman – and finally threw off those upstarts from LA early in September to win 99 games, most in the NL. The Big Red Machine was running on all cylinders but NY had a nice little streak going of its own. But outside of that the Reds were heavy favorites and a second successive trip to the Series looked to be in the offing.

This card is an action shot of Jerry Koosman pitching at Shea. That is some NY crowd behind him and with the banners there seems no doubt that this photo is actually from the playoffs. Jerry only started one game in the series so placing this photo time-wise will be a piece of cake. Let’s get to the games.

Game 1 – Tom Seaver opened the playoffs with a gem in Cincinnati on a Saturday, giving up six hits and no walks while striking out 13, breaking the record set by Steve Blass for playoff game strikeouts. Despite a continued sore shoulder he also knocked in NY’s first run with a second-inning double to drive in Bud Harrelson. The big problem though was that was the only Mets run as Jack Billingham pretty much matched Tom Terrific in his eight innings of work: three hits, three walks, and six strikeouts. He left the game in the bottom of the inning for pinch-hitter Hal King, who struck out. But then Pete Rose took an inside pitch deep to right to tie the score. After Tom Hall and Pedro Borbon held NY scoreless in the ninth Seaver got Tony Perez to ground out in the bottom half. Up came Johnny Bench and when Seaver threw him a fat one with “nothing on it” (his words) Bench jumped on it for solo shot number two. Borbon got the 2-1 win and Seaver the loss and the Mets seemed all used up from their late-season emotional rally.

Game 2 – If Tom Seaver and his 13 K’s couldn’t beat Cincinnati, what shot did Jon Matlack have. Five months earlier the poor guy almost lost his life after he was nailed in the forehead by a Marty Perez line drive. But he did go 6-0 down the stretch and he did a pretty good job emulating Tom by throwing his own gem. Jon and Don Gullett both threw excellent ball until Gullett left the game for a pinch-hitter in the bottom of the fifth which was too bad since that batter – Phil Gagliano – struck out. In the first five Matlack gave up a single and a walk to Andy Kosco and two walks to Darrell Chaney while throwing shutout ball. He also nailed Dan Driessen when he attempted to steal second on a cool 1-3-6 take-out. Gullett – who was sometimes the NL’s answer to Catfish – liked to make things dramatic and had eight balls hit to the outfield. The one that counted was the fourth-inning solo shot by Rusty Staub to put NY up 1-0. But everything else was pretty good for Don as he left the game after giving up only two hits - Don Hahn singled in the fifth – and two walks. Then Clay Carroll took over and for three innings pitched no-hit ball until Sparky pulled him for a pinch-hitter. Oof! Sparky’s pinch hitters that day all struck out and Clay’s replacements Tom Hall and Pedro Borbon got smacked around pretty good in the top of the ninth as seven successive walks and singles produced four NY runs. But all that really didn’t matter: Matlack was ice, finishing with a two-hit, three-walk, nine-strikeout shutout to even things up. Just to keep the records flowing, it was the first two-hit shutout thrown in the playoffs. If Andy Kosco had stayed home – he had both Reds hits – it might have been the playoffs’ first no-no.

Game 3 – The first game of the series in NY was a Monday – it wasn’t raining in the east – and was not a terribly great game. The match-up on the mound was Jerry Koosman – so this is the game from which the photo was taken – and Ross Grimsley. The scoring started pretty early when Rusty Staub hit a solo homer in the bottom of the first and continued the next inning in what was a hot mess if you were a Reds fan: Jerry Grote walked, followed by a Don Hahn single, a Bud Harrelson liner for an out to right, and a Koosman single. Bases loaded and Wayne Garrett flied to center, scoring Grote. Felix Millan singled, scoring Hahn and in came Tom Hall, who was having a nasty series. That continued when he gave up a three-run homer to Staub, giving the Mets a 6-0 lead. Cincinnati took two back in the top of the third on a Denis Menke solo shot and a Joe Morgan single that scored Larry Stahl, who had pinch hit for Hall and was the first successful Red in that role. In the bottom of the inning Dave Tomlin came in and Koosman knocked in Grote with a single: 7-2. In the bottom of the fourth Millan walked, Cleon Jones doubled him in, and John Milner singled in Jones, making it 9-2. That was it for the scoring, but not the drama. In the fifth inning Harrelson was turning a double play when lead runner Pete Rose came at him hard and away from the base. Bud took exception and said something to Pete who shoved him. Bud went at Pete and they were rolling around in the infield dirt when both benches emptied. Bud gave up about 40 pounds in that one so he gets some credit. Mets reliever Buzz Capra hooked up with Pedro Borbon a bit and Borbon bit a hole in Capra’s cap. After everything settled down and the Reds came on the field for the bottom half – the DP ended the inning – some idiot threw a bottle at Rose’s head and the game had to be called while Yogi Berra and Willie Mays – two NY sports icons if there ever were any – went to talk some sense to the clowns in the bleachers. When the game resumed Koosman gave up a couple hits: a Hal King pinch single and a Johnny Bench double, but stayed out of serious trouble the rest of the way. In the end he threw the series’ third straight NY complete game, giving up eight hits, the two runs, zero walks, and striking out nine. Ed Armbrister, who would go on to be Carlton Fisk’s best friend, started the game in center, which sort of surprised me. And Bud and Pete became buddies again.

Game 4 – By now the AL series had seen a pitcher’s duel go into extra innings so the NL may have felt it was time for one of its own. The starters for the game had very similar seasons, coming out of nowhere – well, San Diego and Atlanta which that year were both pretty close baseball-wise – to rescue their respective teams. Fred Norman and George Stone went a combined 18-9 at crucial times to help propel the Reds and Mets to the spot they were now in. It was a good spot to be and both did awfully good jobs. Norman flew through the NY order until the third when two walks, a groundout, and fly out all got Don Hahn to third base before a Felix Millan single got him home. It was the only hit and run Fred would give up before he got pulled by Captain Hook/Sparky Anderson for a pinch hitter. Meanwhile Stone was more than matching him until the seventh when Tony Perez hit one out to tie things. After a walk George was gone, giving up just three hits and two walks in nearly seven innings. He was relieved by Tug McGraw and Norman by surprise reliever Don Gullett, both of whom provided shutout ball for four innings. Gullet only gave up two hits over his span before he left in the tenth for – guess what? – a pinch hitter. Tug, really working that “Ya Gotta Believe” thing, somehow kept zeroes in the runs column even though he put seven guys on. But he was clutch, stranding Pete Rose and Joe Morgan in scoring position in the ninth with a strikeout and pop-up. In the tenth he loaded the bases with two outs when he got Tony Perez on another pop-up. In the 11th things got really scary when with two on and two out Dan Driessen hit one to deep right that Rusty Staub grabbed before crashing into the wall, banging up his shoulder. Tug came out in the top of the 12th for a pinch hitter but Clay Carroll mowed down NY just as he had in the 11th. In the bottom half with other pitching surprise Harry Parker in the Reds re-asserted themselves with NY’s two least-favorite – from the fight the day before – players. Pete Rose hit another solo shot to put Cincy up 2-1 and Pedro Borbon shut NY down in the bottom half to keep it there. Borbon got the win and Parker the loss and another Game 5 was on the way.

Game 5 – A rematch of Game 1 on the mound saw Tom Seaver and Jack Billingham there for the right to go to the Series. Their first game was pretty smooth for both of them, this one a lot less so. In the top of the first Seaver gave up a walk, a single, and a wild pitch to put runners on second and third and then went 3-0 on Tony Perez. But he got Perez to fan and after walking Johnny Bench intentionally got Ken Griffey to fly out. Billingham didn’t fare as well, giving up a couple runs on a two-run single by Ed Kranepool, the last original Met, who was making his first appearance of the post-season. After trading groundouts the next couple frames a Joe Morgan double in the third was misplayed by Cleon Jones in right – he had to start there because Rusty Staub was still banged up – allowing Dan Driessen to sacrifice him home. Billingham outpitched Seaver the next inning-plus and Cincy evened things up in the top of the fifth on a Pete Rose double and a Tony Perez single. Then the Mets broke things up: Wayne Garrett led off with a double followed by a bunt single by Felix Millan putting runners at the corners. Another double by Jones scored Garrett and Jack was done. In came Don Gullett who walked John Milner and Don was gone. Then came Clay Carroll who’d been pitching super ball and so Yogi pinch hit for Kranepool. Some guy named Willie Mays came off the bench and his 42-year old wheels beat out a Texas Leaguer to score Millan. After a Jerry Grote grounder got Jones at the plate a Don Hahn grounder scored Milner and a Bud Harrelson single scored Willie before Hahn got nailed at third. Four hits on four runs went a long way. In the sixth Seaver stroked his second double of the series and scored on a Jones single. Things didn’t get sticky until the top of the ninth when Larry Stahl got his second pinch hit of the series and successive walks by Hal King and Pete Rose loaded the bases and took Tom out of the game. In came Tug McGraw who this time left the theatrics home and two quick outs later the Mets had a 7-2 win, evening Tom’s record, giving Billingham a loss and Tug a save, and nearly destroying Shea as the lovely NY fans demolished the place. For the second time in five years the once-lowly Mets were back in the World Series.


Since there was no DH in the NL series Topps leaves out both the Cincinnati series records and the NY pitchers’ offensive work. That’s a shame that needs to be rectified because the NY hurlers outdid their teammates. So here we go:

Batting
G
AB
R
H
2B
3B
HR
RBI
 AVG


Koosman
1
4
1
2
0
0
0
1
  0.500


Matlack
1
2
0
0
0
0
0
0
        -  


McGraw
2
1
0
0
0
0
0
0
        -  


Parker
1
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
        -  


Seaver
2
6
1
2
2
0
0
1
 0.333


Stone
1
1
0
0
0
0
0
0
        -  



5
14
2
4
2
0
0
2
  0.286


























Batting
G
AB
R
H
2B
3B
HR
RBI
 AVG


Armbrister
3
6
0
1
0
0
0
0
   0.167


Bench
5
19
1
5
2
0
1
1
  0.263


Billingham
2
3
0
0
0
0
0
0
        -  


Borbon
4
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
        -  


Caroll
3
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
        -  


Chaney
5
9
0
0
0
0
0
0
        -  


Crosby
3
2
0
1
0
0
0
0
  0.500


Driessen
4
12
0
2
1
0
0
1
   0.167


Gagliano
3
3
0
0
0
0
0
0
        -  


Geronimo
4
15
0
1
0
0
0
0
  0.067


Griffey
3
7
0
1
1
0
0
0
   0.143


Grimsley
2
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
        -  


Gullett
3
1
0
0
0
0
0
0
        -  


Hall
3
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
        -  


King
3
2
0
1
0
0
0
0
  0.500


Kosco
3
10
0
3
0
0
0
0
  0.300


Menke
3
9
1
2
0
0
1
1
  0.222


Morgan
5
20
1
2
1
0
0
1
   0.100


Nelson
1
1
0
0
0
0
0
0
        -  


Norman
1
1
0
0
0
0
0
0
        -  


Perez
5
22
1
2
0
0
1
2
   0.091


Rose
5
21
3
8
1
0
2
2
   0.381


Stahl
4
4
1
2
0
0
0
0
  0.500


Tomlin
1
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
        -  



5
167
8
31
6
0
5
8
   0.186














Pitching
G
ST
CG
W
L
IP
R
ER
 BB
SO
 ERA
Billingham
2
2
0
0
1
  12.0
6
6
         4
9
    4.50
Borbon
4
0
0
1
0
   4.2
1
1
          1
3
     1.93
Carroll
3
0
0
1
0
   7.0
1
1
          1
2
     1.29
Grimsley
2
1
0
0
1
   3.2
5
5
         2
3
   12.27
Gullett
3
1
0
0
1
   9.0
2
2
         3
6
    2.00
Hall
3
0
0
0
0
   0.2
4
4
         3
1
  54.00
Nelson
1
0
0
0
0
    2.1
0
0
          1
0
        -  
Norman
1
1
0
0
0
   5.0
1
1
         3
3
     1.80
Tomlin
1
0
0
0
0
    1.2
3
3
          1
1
   16.20

5
5
0
2
3
 46.0
23
23
        19
28
    4.50
 

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