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Shouldering the Burden

The 2006 Mets aren't the only squad in team annals that had to deal with shoulder woes.

On April 29, 1969, Jerry Koosman suffered a shoulder injury while pitching against the Montreal Expos, noting that something snapped like a piece of elastic.

The resulting tenderness sidelined Koosman for nearly a full month, but the good news was that he returned as good, if not better than ever. In his first start back, on May 24, against the Houston Astros, he allowed 2 runs and 3 hits over 7 innings, in what turned into an eventual 5-1 defeat.

In that era, there was no hesitation, once a pitcher was healed, to throw him fully into the fire. Koosman's next start came on 3 days rest, on May 28, against the Padres. The Mets had lost five straight and while there were promising signs of progress there were also indications that this was going to be a troublesome season.

If there was any concern over whether Koosman could handle the physical and mental pressure, it was erased with this game, perhaps his finest as a Met. Gil Hodges permitted him to work 10 innings, as he yielded only four hits and struck out a club record and career-high 15.

The Mets squandered their share of opportunities by batting into three double plays and it took until the 11th inning (and Koosman's subsequent departure for Tug McGraw) for the Mets to plate their first and only run.

Cleon Jones led off, reaching when he beat out a grounder up the middle, judged to be an error on Padres shortstop Tommy Dean. After Ed Kranepool whiffed, Ron Swoboda advanced Jones to third with a single. putting the Mets within 90 feet of triumph. The Padres walked Jerry Grote to load the bases and hope that Bud Harrelson would hit into a double play. No such luck. Harrelson singled down the left field line, scoring Jones with the winning run.

The win might have been the story of the day, but the real key to come out of this was Koosman's effort on short rest. Now fully healed, Koosman got on a roll that helped propel the Mets to great things the rest of the season. In his first 60 innings back from the DL, Koosman allowed only 4 earned runs as the Mets went on an 18-7 spurt that turned their season around.

True Metders know...Duaner Sanchez is one of three pitchers in Mets history to get 3 walk-off wins in a 6-day span, joining Jesse Orosco (1983) and Skip Lockwood (1978), each of whom got 3 walk-off wins in a 4-day span.


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