In 1976, the Mets compiled their second-best winning percentage up to that time. They played to a .531 mark with an 86-76 won-lost record under rookie manager Joe Frazier. The team finished the season in third place in the National League East Division.
The ’76 season got off to a good start for the Mets. The team won 13 times in 20 games played. In the season opener at Shea Stadium on April 9, the Mets recorded a 3-2 win over the Expos. Jon Matlack pitched a four-hit shutout for a 1-0 victory over Montreal the next day. The team knocked out 21 hits in a 17-1 romp at Pittsburgh on April 17. In a nationally televised game two days later, the Mets came away with a 4-3 win in 17 innings at St. Louis. The team won its final seven games of the month between April 24 and April 30. The Mets ended April at the top of the N. L. East standings, two games ahead of the second-place Phillies.
The Mets slumped in May. For the month, they had an 11-17 record and fell back in the division. In a three-game series against the World Champion Reds at Shea, the Mets chalked up 5-3 and 4-2 wins on May 4 and May 6, respectively. They won two of three against the Padres and went 2-4 on an ensuing road trip to Atlanta and Cincinnati. At Montreal on May 22, the Mets recorded their 1,000th regular season win with a 4-1 victory over the Expos. The team ended a four-game losing streak with a 5-2 comeback win at Philadelphia on May 27. The Mets split a Memorial Day doubleheader with the Pirates on May 31 at Shea to close out the month. They stood in third place, nine and one-half games behind the division-leading Phillies at the end of May.
In June, the Mets returned to a winning monthly record. The team went 15-13 to stay above the .500 mark for the season. At Los Angeles on June 4, a three-homer game by Dave Kingman highlighted an 11-0 Mets win over the Dodgers. Matlack’s five-hit shutout for a 6-0 Mets win over the Padres at San Diego on June 10 snapped the team’s four-game losing streak. The Mets concluded their west coast trip with 4-2 and 4-1 victories for a doubleheader sweep at San Francisco on June 13. At Chicago on June 25, Mike Phillips hit for the cycle in a 7-4 Mets win over the Cubs. At the end of the month, the Mets stood third in the East and were 14 games behind Philadelphia.
July was a tough month for the Mets. They won only 13 of 28 games and dropped to an even .500 record on the season. The team began the month with a 13-0 rout over the Cardinals on July 1 at Shea. In a doubleheader opener at Shea on July 4, the Mets won their tenth game in a row with a 9-4 victory over the Cubs. In a 4-2 win at Atlanta on July 10, Kingman hit two home runs to give him 30 on the year. The Mets lost three of five against the Astros and Braves on a home stand following the All-Star Break. They went 3-4 on a road trip and dropped a pair of extra-inning games to the Pirates on July 28 and July 29 at Shea. The Mets concluded July at 52-52 and seventeen and one-half games in back of the first-place Phils.
The Mets managed to stay above the break-even point in August. The team chalked up 14 wins in 26 games to maintain a winning record for the season. After losing their first three games of the month, the Mets returned to .500 with three straight wins. At Shea on August 15, Jerry Koosman pitched a shutout with 11 strikeouts for a 1-0 Mets win over the Reds that gave the team six wins in their last eight. The Mets won three of seven on the west coast before dropping two of three to the Dodgers in a weekend series at Shea. They ended the month with a 6-2 victory over the Giants at Shea on August 31.
In September, the Mets were on fire. They won 20 games and posted a .690 winning percentage for the month. Koosman pitched a three-hitter for a 1-0 Mets victory over the Giants at Shea on September 1. Two days later, Tom Seaver shut out the Phillies on four hits and reached 200 strikeouts for the ninth straight year in a 1-0 Mets victory at Shea. The Mets went 7-1 on an ensuing road trip to Chicago, St. Louis and Pittsburgh. Koosman became a 20-game winner for the first time in a 4-1 Mets triumph over the Cardinals at Shea on September 16. The Mets won six games in a row between September 22 and September 28. On the first three days of October, they concluded the season at Philadelphia with three straight losses to the division-champion Phillies.