August 21 and August 22, 1979: The Two-Day Ninth Inning
|Date: August 21 and August 22, 1979|
|Mets starter: Pete Falcone|
|Winning pitcher: Pete Falcone|
|Key player(s): Doug Flynn, Pete Falcone|
|Key play: Flynn's single in 2nd & double in 4th, Leonard's at-bats in 9th|
The Mets and Astros played each other on a Tuesday night at Shea Stadium. The game featured outstanding pitching by Pete Falcone and timely hitting from Doug Flynn. However, due to a very unusual ninth inning, it took another day before the Mets could officially close out their 5-0 win over Houston.
Falcone held the Astros without a hit through the first three innings of the game. He struck out four batters while yielding only a walk to Craig Reynolds in the top of the first. Meanwhile, the Mets took a 1-0 lead on Flynn's single off Houston's Frank LaCorte that brought home Joel Youngblood in the bottom of the second. Pete then retired three straight Astro hitters after a single by Reynolds in the top of the fourth.
LaCorte walked Ed Kranepool to open the bottom half of the fourth inning. With one out, Dan Norman singled and went to second base on an error by Houston left fielder Jose Cruz. Flynn followed with a double to score Kranepool and Norman, extending the Mets' lead to 3-0. LaCorte fanned Falcone and got Frank Taveras on a fly ball to right fielder Jeffrey Leonard for the third out. The Astros then failed to score against Falcone in the top of the fifth.
Houston reliever George Throop walked Lee Mazzilli with one out in the bottom of the fifth inning. Mazzilli stole second base and went to third on catcher Bruce Bochy's wild throw. Lee scored on John Stearns' ensuing single for the Mets' fourth run of the game. Stearns moved to second on Kranepool's grounder and came home on a double by Youngblood. Throop then retired Norman to end the inning.
Over the next three innings, Falcone shut down the Astros on one hit. Pete allowed a double to Terry Puhl in the sixth and faced the minimum six batters in the seventh and eighth. For Houston, Throop pitched a scoreless sixth despite a double by Taveras. Pete Ladd then shut down the Mets on one hit in the seventh and eighth innings.
Falcone retired the first two Astro batters in the top of the ninth inning. He then got Leonard on a fly ball to center fielder Mazzilli which apparently ended the game. However, time was called by third base umpire Doug Harvey before the pitch to nullify the out. Given a reprieve, Leonard singled to keep Houston's chances alive.
Mets' manager Joe Torre protested Leonard's single. Seeing that first baseman Kranpool was not at his position (Ed had left the field thinking the game was over), Torre claimed the hit was not legal with only eight Met players on the field. The umpires agreed with Joe and called Leonard back to the plate. With his player forced to bat again, Astros' manager Bill Virdon wanted the count to revert to 0-0 since Kranepool was not on the field for any of the pitches to Leonard. Virdon's plea was denied and he protested the game. Falcone then got Leonard to fly out to left fielder Youngblood.
National League president Chub Feeney (who was in attendance) upheld the Houston protest one hour after the game. Feeney ruled that Leonard's single was legal and the game had to continue. The next afternoon, reliever Kevin Kobel took the mound for the Mets with Leonard on first base. Kobel got Cruz to ground out to second baseman Flynn and finally end the game. The Mets had a victory after finishing a ninth inning that began the previous night.