April 9, 1977: Torre's Pinch-Hit Double Beats Cubs

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Date: April 9, 1977
Mets starter: Jerry Koosman
Mets: 8
Cubs: 6
Winning pitcher: Nino Espinosa
Key player(s): Dave Kingman, Roy Staiger, Joe Torre
Key play: Kingman’s and Staiger’s home runs, Torre’s double

The Mets faced the Cubs on a Saturday afternoon in Chicago. The teams played the second of three games in a weekend series to open the season. Joe Torre hit a two-run double as a pinch-hitter in the ninth inning to give the Mets an 8-6 win.

Lee Mazzilli drew a walk to lead off the top of the first. Felix Millan doubled to drive home Mazzilli and advanced to third base on John Milner’s ground out to first baseman Larry Biittner. Dave Kingman singled to score Millan with the Mets’ second run and stole second. Ed Kranepool hit a single and John Stearns fouled out to third baseman Steve Ontiveros. Cubs’ starter Mike Krukow retired Roy Staiger on an inning-ending ground ball to shortstop Ivan DeJesus. For the Mets, Jerry Koosman pitched a perfect bottom half.

Following a scoreless second inning, Millan singled to begin the top of the third. Milner flied out to left fielder Jose Cardenal and a home run by Kingman ensued. Kranepool singled and stole second base. Stearns grounded out to Ontiveros and a homer by Staiger increased the Mets’ lead to 6-0. Krukow was replaced on the mound by Chicago reliever Paul Reuschel, who retired Bud Harrelson on a grounder to DeJesus to end the inning. Koosman then held the Cubs to a single by Manny Trillo in the bottom half.

After a scoreless fourth, Reuschel yielded just a single to Kranepool in the top of the fifth. Jerry Morales singled to begin the bottom half. Ontiveros lined out to shortstop Harrelson and consecutive walks to George Mitterwald and Trillo loaded the bases. Pinch-hitter Gene Clines hit a single to bring home Morales and Mitterwald for the Cubs’ first runs of the game. Koosman then got Cardenal on a grounder to second baseman Millan to close out the inning.

Staiger doubled against Chicago’s Steve Renko to lead off the top of the sixth. Harrelson drew a walk and Koosman popped out to Renko on a bunt attempt. Mazzilli was called out on strikes and Millan hit a single to load the bases. Willie Hernandez (in his major league debut) came in to pitch for the Cubs and retired Milner on an inning-ending ground ball to Biittner. Koosman hurled a scoreless bottom half and Hernandez set down the Mets in order in the top of the seventh. Jerry then retired all three Chicago batters in the bottom of the inning.

Hernandez limited the Mets to a single by Harrelson in the top of the eighth. Koosman issued a walk to pinch-hitter Dave Rosello to begin the bottom half. Mets’ reliever Bob Apodaca surrendered a single to DeJesus and got Cardenal to hit a force play grounder to third baseman Staiger. Cardenal stole second base and came home (with Rosello) on an ensuing single by Biittner. Bobby Murcer followed with a home run against the Mets’ Ray Sadecki to tie the game at 6-6. Nino Espinosa came in to pitch for New York and retired Morales on a ground ball to catcher Stearns. Espinosa then struck out Ontiveros to finish off the inning.

Millan singled against Cubs’ reliever Jim Todd for his fourth hit of the game to open the top of the ninth. Bruce Boisclair reached on a force play bunt and moved to third base on a single by Kingman. Torre came up to pinch-hit for Kranepool and delivered a double against Chicago’s Ramon Hernandez that plated Boisclair and Kingman for a two-run Mets lead. Bruce Sutter then came in to pitch for the Cubs and retired both Stearns and Staiger on consecutive grounders to Ontiveros that ended the inning.

Mitterwald grounded out to Staiger to begin the bottom of the ninth. Trillo was retired on a foul pop-up to first baseman Torre. Espinosa then struck out Joe Wallis to bring the game to and end. The Mets had their second straight victory to start the season.

Notes

  • Kranepool’s stolen base was the fifteenth and final one of his career.