September 7, 1978: Nine Runs Put Away Expos

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Date: September 7, 1978
Mets starter: Nino Espinosa
Mets: 9
Expos: 4
Winning pitcher: Nino Espinosa
Key player(s): Willie Montanez, Doug Flynn, Joel Youngblood, Nino Espinosa
Key play: Montanez’s single and homer, Flynn’s triple, Youngblood’s home run

The Mets faced the Expos on a Thursday night in Montreal. The teams played the latter half of a two-game series. The Mets scored nine runs in the first three innings and came away with a 9-4 win.

Lee Mazzilli drew a walk against Expos’ starter Bob James (in his major league debut) to lead off the top of the first. Mazzilli stole second base and Elliott Maddox drew a walk. Steve Henderson was retired on a fly ball to center fielder Andre Dawson, after which Mazzilli advanced to third base. Willie Montanez singled to score Mazzilli and send Maddox to third. John Stearns hit a force play ground ball to third baseman Larry Parrish to drive home Maddox for a 2-0 Mets lead. Stearns stole second and James threw a called third strike past Bruce Boisclair to end the inning. Mets’ starter Nino Espinosa then yielded only a triple to Ellis Valentine in the bottom half.

Joel Youngblood hit a home run to open the top of the second. Doug Flynn drew a walk and James was replaced on the mound by Montreal reliever Gerry Pirtle. Espinosa laid down a sacrifice bunt to move Flynn to second base. Mazzilli doubled to score Flynn and extend the Mets’ lead to 4-0. Maddox followed with a single on which Mazzilli got caught in a rundown and was tagged out by catcher Gary Carter. Henderson drew a walk and Montanez slugged a three-run homer for a 7-0 New York lead. Pirtle got Stearns on a called third strike to close out the inning. Espinosa then retired the side in order in the bottom half.

Boisclair singled against Pirtle to open the top of the third. Youngblood drew a walk and came around to score with Boisclair on a triple by Flynn, lengthening the Mets’ lead to nine runs. Espinosa was retired on a grounder to shortstop Chris Speier. Mazzilli hit a grounder on which first baseman Tony Perez threw to Carter for an out at home on Flynn. Maddox and Henderson drew consecutive walks that loaded the bases and Expos’ reliever Randy Miller struck out Montanez to finish off the inning. Espinosa then pitched a perfect bottom half.

Expos’ reliever Rudy May set down the side 1-2-3 in the top of the fourth. Valentine got a one-out double in the bottom of the inning. Perez singled to drive home Valentine and cut the Mets’ lead to 9-1. Warren Cromartie grounded to second baseman Youngblood for an inning-ending double play and May gave up only a single to Flynn in the top of the fifth. Espinosa yielded just a single to Parrish in the bottom half and May shut down the Mets in the top of the sixth. Pinch-hitter Tommy Hutton doubled to open the bottom of the inning. Dave Cash was called out on strikes and Dawson singled. Valentine hit a sacrifice fly to bring home Hutton with the Expos’ second run of the game. Espinosa then retired Perez on a grounder to third baseman Maddox to finish off the inning.

Montreal reliever Bill Atkinson hurled a perfect top of the seventh. Espinosa retired all three batters in the bottom half and Atkinson set down the side 1-2-3 in the top of the eighth. Speier hit a leadoff double in the bottom of the inning. Hutton doubled to drive home Speier and scored the Expos’ fourth run on a single by Cash. Dawson grounded to shortstop Flynn for a double play and Valentine drew a walk. Espinosa then retired pinch-hitter Ed Herrmann on a fly ball to left fielder Henderson for the innings’ final out.

The Expos’ Sam Mejias (an outfielder serving as a reliever) pitched a scoreless top of the ninth. Cromartie was retired on a fly ball to right fielder Dan Norman to begin the bottom half. Espinosa got Jerry Fry to ground out to Flynn and retired Parrish to end the game. The Mets had a victory to close out the two-game set.