September 20, 1976: Mazzilli's Homer Shocks Pirates
|Date: September 20, 1976|
|Mets starter: Mickey Lolich|
|Winning pitcher: Bob Apodaca|
|Key player(s): Lee Mazzilli|
|Key play: Mazzilli's home run in 9th|
The Mets and Pirates played on a Monday afternoon at Shea Stadium. The game moved quickly as it lasted two hours and fourteen minutes. It resulted in a stunning 5-4 win for the Mets on Lee Mazzilli's two-run homer in the ninth inning.
Mickey Lolich and Pittsburgh's John Candelaria started the game by pitching two scoreless innings apiece. Each allowed a single in the first and faced the minimum batters in the second. Lolich also retired the Pirates in order in the top of the third inning.
In the bottom of the third, Bud Harrelson got a leadoff single. Lolich struck out and Mazzilli singled to advance Harrelson to third base. Felix Millan also singled to score Harrelson for the Mets' first run of the game. Joe Torre and Dave Kingman followed with the Mets' fourth and fifth singles of the inning to bring home Mazzilli and Millan for a 3-0 lead. Candelaria struck out John Stearns and walked Roy Staiger to load the bases. He then got Pepe Mangual on a called third strike to end the inning.
After a scoreless fourth inning, Lolich retired the first two Pittsburgh batters on ground balls to second baseman Millan in the fifth. Frank Taveras followed with a triple and scored on a double by Rennie Stennett. Candelaria then set down the Mets 1-2-3 in the bottom of the inning and neither team scored in the sixth.
For the Pirates, Richie Hebner opened the top of the seventh inning with a single off Lolich. Mickey got Duffy Dyer to fly out before surrendering a double to Bob Robertson that scored Hebner. Taveras hit an ensuing single to bring home pinch-runner Miguel Dilone and tie the game at 3-3. Pittsburgh reliever Kent Tekulve then pitched a perfect bottom of the inning.
In the eighth, Willie Stargell homered with one out to give the Pirates a 4-3 lead. Lolich was replaced by Bob Apodaca, who completed the inning with no further scoring. In the bottom half, Torre and Kingman got one-out singles and Stearns flied out. Tekulve then got pinch-hitter Ed Kranepool to ground out to second baseman Stennett and stop the Mets' scoring chance.
Apodaca held Pittsburgh scoreless in the top of the ninth inning. Tekulve retired the first two Met batters in the bottom half. Pinch-hitting for Apodaca, John Milner singled to center field to keep the Mets' hopes alive. Leo Foster went in to run for Milner as Mazzilli came to bat. Lee clouted a pitch from Tekulve over the right field wall for a game-winning home run. It was Mazzilli's second major league homer, which gave the Mets a shocking victory over a Pirates team whose hopes for a third straight division title were fading.