Mets 7 Dodgers 4
The love-hate relationship between Ron Swoboda and the Shea faithful continues.
Swoboda swatted a screwball from the hand of Jim Brewer with the bases juiced in the seventh to send home three runners and give the Mets a 6-4 lead they wouldn’t relinquish — much to the delight of the 48,435 fans at Shea Stadium, who showered him with applause.
Initially the recipient of catcalls and boos, “Rocky” was in the middle of everything in this contest, or so it seemed. He walked with the bases loaded in the first to give the Mets and Gary Gentry a 1-0 lead, and in the sixth, with LA up by one, Swoboda threw out speedster Willie Crawford attempting to go from first to third on a single by Ted Sizemore.
Gentry was hit hard by the suddenly potent Dodgers lineup, and removed after allowing 4 runs on 7 hits in only 4 2/3 innings — an outburst highlighted by Wes Parker’s 13th homer of the year, a towering, 2-run blast in the third. Jack DiLauro put out the fire in the fifth and held the Dodgers scoreless in the sixth before yielding to Cal Koonce, who won his sixth straight game in relief.
Swoboda — who was 2-for-3 on the day with 4 RBI — started against a righthander (Don Sutton) for the third straight game, and I’m wondering how Gil Hodges comes up with these hunches. Sutton is a curveball specialist — the kind Swoboda has struggled against all year — and Rocky is only hitting .243. At least Hodges isn’t taking at-bats away from Art Shamsky, who started at 1B and went 2-for-5 in the cleanup spot. Though, getting Swoboda and Shamsky in the lineup does mean that Eddie Kranepool rides the bench. Kranepool was starting to get it going last week but went cold again — he’s 0 for his last 9. It’s been that kind of year for the 24-year-old, and one wonders if he’ll ever hit enough to play first base in the big leagues.
Jerry Grote struck three singles, scored twice, and drove in a run — but was victimized by the base thefts of Maury Wills and Willie Davis. Cleon Jones also had three hits.
Davis had two hits, extending his hitting streak to 22 games.
Nolan Ryan is pulling extra duty on his reserve hitch so he can be available for the entire month of September, weekends included. Something tells me the Mets will be happy to have the young fireballer available down the stretch.
The Mets closed a wildly successful homestand with nine wins against one loss, and now head to the West Coast — against whom they are 21-5.
The Cubs split a doubleheader with the Astros. In the opener, Ernie Banks hit his 492nd and 493rd career homers, tying him for ninth place with Lou Gehrig.
The Cubs are now 79-49, eight wins better than the Mets’ 71-52, but the key number is in the loss column. The Mets can always win more games but the Cubs can’t lose less. It’s only taken a week to see Chicago’s season-high, 9-game lead shrink to 5. If the Mets can keep up this pace they may pull off a miracle comparable to Neil Armstrong’s walk on the moon.