The New York Mets defeated the Chicago Cubs, 2-0, to maintain their slim one-game lead over the Pittsburgh Pirates in the National League East. The Cubs marooned fourteen baserunners in the shutout loss and may be wondering if supernatural forces are working against them. In the top of the seventh inning, Chicago loaded the bases against Mets’ starter, Tom Seaver. Down by a run and one out recorded, Don Kessinger lined a single up the middle. Glen Beckert extended his 13-game hitting streak with a double down the third base line, and third base coach Pete Reiser threw up the stop sign for Kessinger at third. Seaver issued an intentional pass to Billy Williams and exited for the showers. Mets’ manager Gil Hodges summoned Cal Koonce who has struggled this season, but the previous night, Koonce had enticed the next batter, Ron Santo, to bounce into an inning-ending double play in an eventual 12-6 loss. In the event that Hodges needed verification of his decision, as Koonce threw his warm-up pitches, a black cat escaped from the grandstand and raced toward the Cubs’ dugout. The cat circled Santo standing dumbstruck in the on-deck circle, darted toward the dugout and disappeared.
Santo jumped on Koonce’s first offering and grounded the ball toward second baseman Ken Boswell who began an inning-ending double play to end the threat. It was the second time in the game that the Cubs had left the bases loaded. In the bottom of the frame, the Mets doubled their lead on Tommie Agee’s RBI single scoring Bud Harrelson who walked to lead off the inning. Despite the black cats and stranded runners, the Cubs mounted a final rally in the ninth inning. Kessinger opened with a single past Boswell off reliever Ron Taylor. Beckert flied harmlessly to center, and Williams drew a free pass. Santo, with a chance at redemption, hit a slow roller beyond Harrelson at short to load the bases. Hodges brought in southpaw Tug McGraw which, in turn, brought in Ernie Banks to pinch-hit for Willie Smith. But, like Santo, Banks also bounced into a 4-6-3 double play to end the game. The Cubs squandered a chance to climb within 2 1/2 games of New York, and the Mets celebrated another day in first as the Pirates beat the Expos, 5-3, north of the border. The Mets and Pirates have eight games remaining between each other as the Cubs have only a two-game set at Wrigley in the season’s final days against the Mets. In the meanwhile, Durocher may likely instruct his players to avoid walking under any ladders