April 16, 1977: Espinosa's First Complete Game

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Date: April 16, 1977
Mets starter: Nino Espinosa
Mets: 4
Cubs: 1
Winning pitcher: Nino Espinosa
Key player(s): Nino Espinosa, Ed Kranepool, Jerry Grote
Key play: Kranepool’s and Grote’s singles

The Mets faced the Cubs on a Saturday afternoon at Shea Stadium. The teams played the second of three games in a weekend series. Nino Espinosa recorded the first complete game of his career in a 4-1 Mets win over Chicago.

Espinosa and the Cubs’ Rick Reuschel each started the game with three scoreless innings pitched. Leading off the top of the fourth, Larry Biittner hit a double to left field. Bobby Murcer singled to drive home Biittner for a 1-0 Chicago lead. Jerry Morales hit a force play ground ball to shortstop Bud Harrelson and a line drive by Steve Ontiveros was caught by right fielder Ed Kranepool. With George Mitterwald at bat, Morales was caught stealing on catcher Ron Hodges’ throw to second baseman Felix Millan for the inning’s final out. Reuschel then set down the Mets on three consecutive infield grounders in the bottom half.

Espinosa and Reuschel each allowed one hit in pitching scoreless fifth and sixth innings. Nino hurled a perfect top of the seventh and Millan reached on an error by first baseman Biittner to open the bottom of the inning. Bruce Boisclair got a bunt single and Dave Kingman singled to score Millan. Kranepool followed with a single to bring home Boisclair and put the Mets ahead, 2-1. Roy Staiger drew a walk to load the bases and Reuschel was replaced on the mound by Cubs’ reliever Ramon Hernandez. Pinch-hitter Jerry Grote greeted Hernandez with a single that plated both Kingman and pinch-runner Mike Vail with the third and fourth New York runs. Harrelson grounded back to Hernandez and a walk to Espinosa followed. Hernandez then struck out Lee Mazzilli to end the inning.

Manny Trillo singled with one out in the top of the eighth. Pinch-hitter Greg Gross followed with a single to left field. Espinosa got Ivan DeJesus to hit a double play ground ball to Millan that ended the inning and Chicago reliever Jim Todd pitched a perfect bottom half. With one out in the top of the ninth, Biittner singled to right field. Espinosa then got Murcer on a grounder to back to the mound for a game-ending double play. The Mets had a victory as Nino chalked up a complete game for the first time as a major leaguer.