September 16, 1981: Stearns' Homer Overcomes Carlton for Split

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Date: September 16, 1981
Mets starter: Greg Harris
Mets: 5
Phillies: 4
Winning pitcher: Mike Marshall
Key player(s): John Stearns, Bob Bailor
Key play: Stearns’ two-run homer

The Mets faced the Phillies in a doubleheader on a Wednesday evening. After dropping the opener of the twinbill at Shea Stadium, the Mets looked for a split in the nightcap. John Stearns’ only home run of the strike-shortened season trumped a 15-strikeout performance by Steve Carlton for a 5-4 Mets win over Philadelphia.

Mets’ starter Greg Harris pitched a scoreless top of the first inning. Leading off the bottom half, Mookie Wilson hit a single to right field. Bob Bailor doubled to drive home Wilson and scored on an ensuing double by Hubie Brooks for a 2-0 Mets lead. Dave Kingman and Lee Mazzilli were struck out and Stearns drew a walk. Carlton then fanned Alex Trevino to end the inning.

Mike Schmidt drew a leadoff walk in the top of the second. Keith Moreland hit a single and Garry Maddox flied out to center fielder Wilson to advance Schmidt to third base. Larry Bowa singled to score Schmidt and a strikeout of Manny Trillo followed. Harris got Carlton to hit a force play ground ball to shortstop Ron Gardenhire and close out the inning. The Phils’ starter then recorded two strikeouts in pitching a perfect bottom half.

Bake McBride hit a one-out double in the top of the third inning. Gary Matthews homered to put the Phillies ahead by a run and Schmidt popped out to Gardenhire. Moreland doubled and came home on a single by Maddox for a 4-2 Philadelphia lead. Charlie Puleo (in his major league debut) came in to pitch for the Mets and issued a walk to Bowa. Trillo flied out to Wilson to end the inning. Carlton then struck out two more New York batters in another perfect bottom half.

Puleo set down the Phils in order in the top of the fourth. Mazzilli went down on strikes to begin the bottom of the inning. Stearns hit a double and Trevino lined out to right fielder McBride, who threw to shortstop Bowa for an out on Stearns and an inning-ending double play. Matthews walked to open the top of the fifth. Schmidt flied out to left fielder Trevino and a fly ball by Moreland was caught by Wilson. Maddox hit a single to send Matthews to third base. On his own hit, Maddox was out at second via a throw by right fielder Mike Howard to Gardenhire to finish off the inning.

Gardenhire singled to lead off the bottom of the fifth. Pinch-hitter Brian Giles was struck out and Wilson followed with an infield single. Bailor grounded out to third baseman Schmidt and a walk to Brooks loaded the bases. Kingman drew a walk to force home Gardenhire with the Mets’ third run of the game. Howard flied out to McBride to end the inning and Mets’ reliever Jesse Orosco hurled a perfect top of the sixth. Carlton then fanned another two batters in setting down the Mets 1-2-3 in the bottom half.

Orosco held the Phils to a single by Matthews in the top of the seventh inning. Carlton struck out both pinch-hitter Frank Taveras and Wilson to open the bottom half. Bailor singled and Brooks hit a force play grounder to Bowa that closed out the inning. Mets’ reliever Mike Marshall pitched a perfect top of the eighth and Kingman drew a walk to begin the bottom half. Howard went down on strikes and Stearns came to bat. John slugged a two-run homer to put the Mets ahead by a run. Carlton fanned Trevino for his fifteenth strikeout of the game. Gardenhire then grounded out to Schmidt to finish off the inning.

Mets’ reliever Neil Allen retired pinch-hitter Greg Gross on a fly ball to left fielder Bailor to start the top of the ninth. Pinch-hitter George Vukovich singled and pinch-runner Bob Dernier stole second base. Allen then fanned Pete Rose and retired McBride on a ground ball to second baseman Doug Flynn for the game’s final out. The Mets had overcome fifteen Carlton strikeouts and emerged with a victory for a split of the doubleheader.

Notes

  • Stearns’ home run was the last one he ever hit at Shea Stadium.