The Impossible Dream is receiving a reprieve in Queens. Two years ago, the Boston Red Sox harbored pennant dreams that were dashed away in the final week of the 1967 campaign. Now, as the calendar turns to September, the New York Mets have overtaken the Pittsburgh Pirates for first place in the National League East. The Pirates, who eclipsed the Cubs for the division lead back in June, stumbled in their series at Wrigley while the Mets disposed of the dysfunctional Phillies at home. The Mets have a formidable duo in Jerry Koosman (14-10, 2.30 ERA) and Tom Seaver (16-10, 2.34 ERA) who trail only the Cardinals’ Bob Gibson in the NL ERA race. Rookie Gary Gentry (11-9, 3.23) has stepped up to form a solid mound trio. No surprise that the Mets lead the National League with a team ERA of 2.57 ERA. The pre-season line on Gil Hodges’ troops was the young pitching allow the club to tread water, but it would be consistency from the offense that would make or break the team.
The gamble on Tommie Agee has paid dividends. Agee, the 1966 Rookie of the Year with the White Sox, was acquired two seasons ago. Agee struggled in his first season with New York (.244, 3 HR, 31 RBI). He is now the club leader in home runs (25) and provides some inspirational play roving the center field garden. Cleon Jones, a .311 hitter last season, has raised his average this season to .347 while cutting down on his strikeouts. Jones leads the club in runs scored (84) and runs batted in (67). Hodges has mastered the platoon system a la Casey Stengel, shifting Ken Boswell, Wayne Garrett, Ed Charles, Al Weis, and Bobby Pfeil around the infield depending upon the opponent’s starter. The lone staple in the infield is shortstop Bud Harrelson who seemingly finds a way to get on base. Donn Clendenon, acquired from Montreal at the deadline, is beginning to heat up as autumn approaches. Clendenon slugged 4 home runs over the past week, including a pair of homers in what may be the Mets’ biggest win of the season, a 17-inning 11-7 victory in San Francisco on August 30th.
The Mets will host the Cubs for a two-game set at Shea Stadium this week, and the division could come down to another two-game series between those two clubs at Wrigley Field October 1-2 to conclude the season.