The Cinderella New York Mets took another step toward the World Series as the clock is beginning to toll on the Atlanta Braves. The Mets took the second game in Atlanta, 4-2, as the series now moves to Shea Stadium and the Mets needing only one more win for the National League pennant. Jerry Koosman tamed the Atlanta lineup running only into trouble in the ninth. Cleon Jones gave the Mets an early 1-0 first-inning lead with a single scoring Tommie Agee who had been hit by a pitch from Braves’ starter Ron Reed. Jones tripled in the sixth and scored on Art Shamsky’s single over third base. Reed was replaced by a pinch-hitter in the sixth, and Milt Pappas took the hill for the home team in the top of the seventh. The Mets doubled their lead once again as Pappas fell in trouble quickly. Ed Kranepool singled on Pappas’ first offering, and then stole second base on the next pitch. The typical starter seemed uncomfortable in the role of a reliever, and the Mets tightened the collar quickly. Jerry Grote hit a bleeder up the middle that advanced Kranepool to third base. Pappas and the Braves seemed to snap out of it as Felix Millan threw out Kranepool at home on a grounder by Bud Harrelson. Koosman sacrificed Grote and Harrelson to second and third for the inning’s second out. Pappas appeared to be working his way out of the fire when Tommie Agee hit a liner to left that Rico Carty could not chase down. Grote and Harrelson scored and the Mets led 4-0.
The decision to send Pappas to the mound in the seventh was not questioned in the press box until the ninth inning. The Braves took advantage of an error by Harrelson to open the final frame. A single and hit batsman later, the bases were loaded with nobody out. Mets’ manager Gil Hodges paid a visit to his southpaw, and with his bull pen fully operational, Hodges decided to stay with Koosman to face the left-handed Tony Gonzalez. Koosman struck out Gonzalez for the first out. Hank Aaron stepped up to bat, and Hodges stayed in the dugout. Aaron grounded sharply to Wayne Garrett who took the sure out at first allowing Bob Aspromonte to score Atlanta’s first run. Koosman intentionally walked Rico Carty, one of the hottest batters in baseball and recently named National League Batter of the Month for September, to load the bases. But Carty also represented the winning run, now on base. Sonny Jackson was summoned to run for Carty, and Koosman looked in to face Orlando Cepeda. A 1-1 curve ball eluded Grote, and Felipe Alou scored on the wild pitch as the winning run, Jackson, was now in scoring position. But the unflappable Koosman delivered a called strike to Cepeda with a 2-2 fastball to end the threat and the game.
The Braves are now faced with the unenviable task of winning three straight in the Mets’ home park in front of guaranteed 58,000 screaming, hysterical fans. Jerry Koosman sat in front of his locker after the game and summed up his opinion of the Braves chances, “I wonder what they’re going to do with all those World Series tickets they printed?”
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