July 15, 1977: Espinosa Hurls Four-Hitter for Split

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Date: July 15, 1977
Mets starter: Nino Espinosa
Mets: 6
Pirates: 1
Winning pitcher: Nino Espinosa
Key player(s): Nino Espinosa, Mike Vail, Felix Millan
Key play: Mets’ three runs in 3rd

The Mets faced the Pirates in a doubleheader on a Friday evening. After losing the opener of the twinbill at Shea Stadium, the Mets aimed for a split in the nightcap. Nino Espinosa pitched a four-hitter in a 6-1 Mets win over Pittsburgh.

After a scoreless first inning, Espinosa yielded just a single to Al Oliver in the top of the second. Bucs’ starter Jerry Reuss hurled a scoreless bottom half and Nino retired the side in order in the top of the third. With one out in the bottom of the inning, Felix Millan homered against Reuss for the first run of the game. Steve Henderson hit a single and advanced to second base on a wild pitch. Mike Vail singled and John Stearns hit a single that scored Henderson. Lee Mazzilli followed with a force play ground ball to third baseman Phil Garner. Bobby Valentine singled to drive home Vail for a 3-0 Mets lead. Pittsburgh reliever Odell Jones then got Doug Flynn on a force play grounder to shortstop Mario Mendoza for the inning’s final out.

Espinosa gave up only a single to Rennie Stennett in the top of the fourth. Jones pitched a scoreless bottom half and Nino shut down the Pirates again in the top of the fifth. Vail hit a home run with one out in the bottom of the inning to increase the Mets’ lead to 4-0. Jones struck out Stearns and retired Mazzilli on an inning-ending pop-up to second baseman Stennett. Espinosa set down the Bucs 1-2-3 in the top of the sixth. Pittsburgh’s Larry Demery then pitched a perfect bottom half.

Espinosa hurled a scoreless top of the seventh. Lenny Randle drew a walk to begin the bottom of the inning. Randle moved to second base on a wild pitch and came around to score as Millan reached second on Demery’s error. Henderson singled to bring home Millan for a 6-0 Mets lead. Vail hit a single and Stearns walked to load the bases. Bucs’ reliever Grant Jackson then struck out Mazzilli and got Valentine to hit a ground ball to third baseman Fernando Gonzalez for an inning-ending double play.

With one out in the top of the eighth, Duffy Dyer reached third base on an error by right fielder Vail. Omar Moreno flied out to left fielder Bruce Boisclair and a single by Gonzalez plated Dyer with the Pirates’ first run of the game. Garner hit a force play grounder to shortstop Flynn to close out the inning and Jackson hurled a perfect bottom half. To begin the top of the ninth, Stennett was retired on a fly ball to Boisclair. Dave Parker doubled for the fourth Pittsburgh hit and Oliver popped out to first baseman Valentine. Espinosa then got pinch-hitter Ed Ott on a fly ball to center fielder Mazzilli to bring the game to an end. The Mets had a victory and a split of the doubleheader.