April 25, 1976: Two Runs in 8th Beat Astros

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Date: April 25, 1976
Mets starter: Jon Matlack
Mets: 4
Astros: 2
Winning pitcher: Ken Sanders
Key player(s): Del Unser, Ken Sanders, Ron Hodges
Key play: Unser’s and Hodges’ singles, Niekro’s wild pitch

The Mets faced the Astros on a Sunday afternoon in Houston. The teams played the finale of a three-game series. The Mets scored twice in the eighth inning for a 4-2 win.

Jon Matlack and the Astros’ Joe Niekro each started the game with two scoreless innings pitched. Bud Harrelson drew a walk to lead off the top of the third. Matlack’s sacrifice bunt advanced Harrelson to second base and Del Unser popped out to shortstop Roger Metzger. Felix Millan hit a single to drive home Harrelson for a 1-0 Mets lead. Niekro retired John Milner on a ground ball to first baseman Bob Watson for the inning’s third out. Matlack then set down the side in order in the bottom half.

Niekro yielded only a single to Wayne Garrett in the top of the fourth. Larry Milbourne singled to begin the bottom of the inning. A balk moved Milbourne to second base and Enos Cabell grounded out to third baseman Garrett. Cesar Cedeno hit a home run to put the Astros ahead, 2-1. Watson singled and Leon Roberts followed with a force play grounder to second baseman Millan. Matlack then got Skip Jutze to pop out to Millan and finish off the inning.

Niekro shut down the Mets in the top of the fifth. Matlack hurled a scoreless bottom half and Millan hit a single to open the top of the sixth. Milner singled and Ed Kranepool reached on an error by Watson to load the bases. Dave Kingman hit a grounder on which third baseman Cabell recorded a force out on Milner. Cabell followed up with a throw to catcher Jutze for an out at home on Millan and a double play. Niekro retired Garrett on an inning-ending fly ball to center fielder Cedeno. Matlack then pitched a scoreless bottom half.

Ron Hodges singled to open the top of the seventh. Hodges moved to second base on Harrelson’s sacrifice bunt and to third on Jutze’s passed ball. Pinch-hitter Joe Torre was retired on a fly ball to right fielder Wilbur Howard. Unser hit a single to score Hodges and tie the game. Millan grounded out to Watson to end the inning. Mets’ reliever Ken Sanders then gave up only a double to Niekro in the bottom half.

Kranepool and Kingman got back-to-back singles with one out in the top of the eighth. Garrett grounded out to second baseman Milbourne to advance the runners to second and third. With Hodges at bat, Niekro threw a wild pitch that plated Kranepool for a 3-2 Mets lead. Hodges singled to score Kingman with the fourth New York run of the game. Houston reliever Ken Forsch got Harrelson on a fly ball to left fielder Roberts to close out the inning. Sanders then hurled a perfect bottom half.

Forsch set down the Mets on three straight infield grounders in the top of the ninth. Pinch-hitter Greg Gross grounded out to first baseman Kranepool to begin the bottom of the inning. Pinch-hitter Ken Boswell was retired on a ground ball to Millan. Sanders then got Howard to ground out to shortstop Harrelson and bring the game to an end. The Mets had a series-closing victory.