October 4, 1969: Game One of NLCS

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Date: October 4, 1969
Mets starter: Tom Seaver
Mets: 9
Braves: 5
Winning pitcher: Tom Seaver
Key player(s): Bud Harrelson, J. C. Martin
Key play: Harrelson's triple, Braves' 8th inning errors

The Mets and Braves opened the first ever National League Championship Series on a Saturday afternoon at Atlanta Stadium. The first game of the Series was the Mets’ post-season debut and the Braves’ first post-season game as an Atlanta-based team. The Mets scored five runs in the eighth inning for a 9-5 win and take a one-game-to-none series lead.

Following a scoreless first inning, Art Shamsky singled to begin the top of the second. Atlanta starter Phil Niekro walked Ken Boswell and struck out Ed Kranepool. A single by Jerry Grote brought home Shamsky and sent Boswell to third base. A passed ball by catcher Bob Didier allowed Boswell to score the Mets’ second run. Niekro fanned Bud Harrelson and retired Tom Seaver on a ground ball to third baseman Clete Boyer for the third out. Against Mets’ starter Seaver in the bottom half, Rico Carty led off with a double and advanced to third on second baseman Boswell’s error of Orlando Cepeda’s ground ball. Boyer hit a sacrifice fly to score Carty. Didier flied out to left fielder Cleon Jones and a single by Gil Garrido ensued. With Niekro at bat, Garrido was caught on a pickoff throw by catcher Grote to first baseman Kranepool to end the inning.

Niekro shut down the Mets in the top of the third. With one out in the bottom of the inning, Felix Millan doubled to right field. A double by Tony Gonzalez plated Millan with the tying run. Hank Aaron followed with the Braves’ third consecutive two-base hit to bring home Gonzalez for a 3-2 Atlanta lead. Carty was walked intentionally and a passed ball by Grote put runners at second and third. Cepeda flied out to Jones and an intentional walk to Boyer loaded the bases. Seaver then struck out Didier to finish off the inning.

Kranepool singled with two outs in the top of the fourth. Grote drew a walk and Harrelson hit a two-run triple that put the Mets ahead, 4-3. Seaver grounded out to shortstop Garrido to end the inning and set down the Braves in order in the bottom half. Niekro pitched a perfect top of the fifth and Gonzalez hit a game-tying homer to begin the bottom of the inning. Seaver completed the frame with no further scoring and the Mets failed to score after a leadoff single by Shamsky in the top of the sixth. Seaver hurled a 1-2-3 bottom half and Niekro set down the Mets in order in the top of the seventh. With one out in the bottom half, Aaron homered to put Atlanta ahead by a run. Carty flied out to right fielder Shamsky and a single by Cepeda ensued. Seaver then retired Boyer on an inning-ending fly ball to center fielder Tommie Agee.

Wayne Garrett doubled to begin the top of the eighth. Jones followed with a single to score Garrett and tie the game. Cleon moved to second on Shamsky’s single and stole third base. Boswell hit a grounder on which first baseman Cepeda made a throwing error that allowed Jones to score and put the Mets ahead, 6-5. Kranepool hit into a force play and Grote grounded out to Boyer. Harrelson was walked intentionally to load the bases. Pinch-hitter J. C. Martin singled to drive home pinch-runner Al Weis and Kranepool. On the play, center fielder Gonzalez made an error that enabled Harrelson to score the Mets’ fifth run of the inning. Martin was then caught in a rundown and tagged by Garrido for the third out.

Mets’ reliever Ron Taylor pitched a perfect bottom of the eighth inning. For the Braves, Cecil Upshaw hurled a scoreless top of the ninth. Millan singled to open the bottom of the inning. Gonzalez went down on strikes and Aaron flied out to Jones. Mike Lum hit a double on which Millan advanced to third base. Taylor then retired Cepeda on a game-ending pop-up to second baseman Weis. The Mets had a one-game lead in the best-of-five series.