July 12, 1977: Henderson Hits Winning Homer in 8th

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Date: July 12, 1977
Mets starter: Jon Matlack
Mets: 4
Cubs: 2
Winning pitcher: Jon Matlack
Key player(s): Jon Matlack, Lee Mazzilli, Steve Henderson
Key play: Mazzilli’s double and single, Henderson’s home run

The Mets and Cubs faced each other on a Tuesday night at Shea Stadium. The teams began a mid-week series with a two-hour and fifteen-minute game. Steve Henderson hit a two-run homer in the bottom of the eighth inning to give the Mets a 4-2 win over Chicago.

Jon Matlack and the Cubs’ Rick Reuschel each pitched scoreless ball from the first inning to the fourth. In the top of the fifth, Matlack issued only a walk to Reuschel in shutting down Chicago once again. John Stearns drew a walk to open the bottom half. Bruce Boisclair and Mike Vail followed with consecutive force play grounders and Lee Mazzilli doubled to drive home Vail with the first run of the game. Doug Flynn went down on strikes to end the inning and Matlack hurled a perfect top of the sixth. Reuschel then struck out the side in pitching a scoreless bottom of the inning.

Steve Ontiveros drew a one-out walk in the top of the seventh. Manny Trillo popped out to second baseman Flynn and an ensuing home run by George Mitterwald put the Cubs ahead, 2-1. Reuschel was called out on strikes to finish off the inning and Vail doubled with two outs in the bottom half. Mazzilli hit a single to drive home Vail with the tying run and advanced to third base on a single by Flynn. Reuschel then retired Matlack on a grounder back to the mound for the inning’s final out.

Matlack set down the Cubs in order in the top of the eighth. Lenny Randle singled against Reuschel to lead off the bottom half. Bobby Valentine’s sacrifice bunt against Chicago reliever Bruce Sutter moved Randle to second base. Henderson homered to give the Mets a two-run lead and Stearns flied out to right fielder Bobby Murcer. Sutter then struck out Boisclair to end the inning.

Murcer opened the top of the ninth with a single to right field. Matlack retired Jerry Morales on a line drive to shortstop Flynn (who had shifted from second) and gave up a single to Ontiveros. With Mets’ reliever Skip Lockwood on the mound, a passed ball by catcher Stearns advanced the runners to second and third base. Lockwood then struck out Trillo and got pinch-hitter Bill Buckner on a ground ball back to the mound to end the game. The Mets had a victory to start the series.