Tug McGraw - New York Mets - Amazin' Mets

Amazin' Mets

The Mets used McGraw as a starter again in 1966, and he was 2–9 with a 5.52 ERA in that role. Though he also made four starts with the Mets in 1967, McGraw spent most of the season, and all of 1968 in the minor leagues with the Jacksonville Suns. By the time he returned to the Mets in 1969, manager Gil Hodges had a very capable young pitching rotation that included Tom Seaver, Jerry Koosman and Gary Gentry and had no need for McGraw as a starter until Koosman went down with an injury in May. McGraw went 1–1 with a 5.23 ERA filling in for Koosman.

Koosman returned to the rotation at the end of the month and on May 28, after a five-game losing streak that saw the Mets fall into fourth place in the newly aligned National League East, Koosman and the San Diego Padres' Clay Kirby engaged in a pitchers' duel at Shea. After nine scoreless innings by Kirby and ten by Koosman, the game was turned over to the bullpens for extra innings. The game finally ended after eleven innings when Bud Harrelson hit a single to drive in Cleon Jones. McGraw pitched the eleventh inning to earn the win.

This began an 11-game winning streak that brought them into second place, seven games behind the Chicago Cubs. McGraw earned two saves during that stretch, and 12 for the season. His record as a reliever was 8–2 with a 1.47 ERA.

The Chicago Cubs had been in first place in the NL East for 156 days of the season, and they seemed likely to win the division when they came to New York to open a crucial two game series with the Mets on September 8. The Mets won both games to close within a half game of the Cubs. The following day, the Mets swept a double header from the Montreal Expos. Coupled with a Cubs loss (who had slumped to a 9–17 record in their final 26 games), the Mets moved into first place for the first time ever during the 1969 season.

On September 15, the St. Louis Cardinals' Steve Carlton struck out a record 19 Mets batters in a losing effort, as the Mets defeated the Cards 4–3 at Busch Stadium on a pair of two run home runs by Ron Swoboda. McGraw pitched the final three innings without giving up a run to earn the win in this game. On September 24, facing Carlton and the Cardinals, again — only this time at Shea Stadium, the New York Mets clinched the NL East as Donn Clendenon hit two home runs in a 6–0 Mets victory. The Mets won 39 of their last 50 games, and finished the season with 100 wins against 62 losses, eight games over the second place Cubs.

McGraw's first post-season experience (and only in 1969) came in game two of the 1969 National League Championship Series. After the Atlanta Braves lit up Koosman for six runs in 4 ⅔ innings, Ron Taylor and McGraw held the Braves scoreless the remainder of the way to secure the Mets' 11–6 victory. He did not appear in the 1969 World Series against the Baltimore Orioles.

Read more about this topic:  Tug McGraw, New York Mets

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