Skip to main content

Ya Gotta Believe In The Best Stretch By a Mets Reliever

Remember watching Edwin Díaz mess up game after game last season and saying to yourself “This will be the one in which he turns everything around” only for that never to happen.

This is the story of the time that it did. If I’m going to write about great relief stints in Mets history then it is imperative that I make sure you know the tale of Tug McGraw circa 1973.

I’m guessing if you’re reading this, you’re familiar with the story of “Ya Gotta Believe!” and how McGraw’s rallying cry became the spark that carried the Mets to Game 7 of the World Series. But do you know the numbers that go with it?

On August 20, McGraw was the losing pitcher in an 8-3 16-inning loss to the Reds. That dropped to Mets to 55-67, the second-worst record in the NL, and left them seven games out of first place.

McGraw allowed 5 runs in 3 1/3 innings in that game – one run in the 13th and four more in the 16th. Part of the deal with McGraw that year was that when he got hit, he got hit a lot. He allowed 7 runs in relief once, six runs another time, the 5 in this game, 4 runs twice and three runs twice. That’s 30 runs alone in seven appearances … in relief.

These were his stats to that point in the season:

0-6, 6.45 ERA, 13 for 20 in save chances.

It’s important to remember for context that McGraw was a well-established pitcher who had been an important part of the 1969 champs. His 1972 and 1971 seasons rank 1-2 as the top seasons in Wins Above Replacement by a relief pitcher in Mets history. McGraw had earned his right to keep getting chances to turn it around.

On August 22, he did. McGraw pitched two scoreless innings in a 4-3 win over the Dodgers, who went 6 up, 6 down. The Mets scored 2 runs with 2 outs in the 9th to win the kind of game they had been losing throughout the season.

From that point on, McGraw was as good and as clutch as any relief pitcher the Mets have ever had.

 

Through August 20

August 22-end

W-L

0-6

5-0

ERA

5.45

0.88

SV-Blown Sv

13-7

12-0

K-BB

43-43

38-12

IP-HR

77 2/3 - 10

41-1

For those who say relief ERAs don’t tell the whole story, let’s add in that McGraw inherited 12 baserunners in this hot stretch. None of them scored.

The Mets went 17-26 in the first 43 games in which McGraw appeared (including the first 2 games of his turnaround). They went 16-1 in his last 17.

Every game in this run was an important one for the Mets in going from worst to first. The most impressive set might be McGraw’s stretch of 6 games in 8 days from September 12-19. Yogi Berra couldn’t afford to be shy about riding the hot hand. McGraw won 2 games and saved 4, allowing no runs, 7 hits and 2 walks in 11 2/3 innings pitched. His was a true rubber arm.

McGraw struck out five in two innings in a save against the Phillies to start this stretch. The headline on the AP story in the Chambersburg (PA) Public Opinion read “Tug McGraw’s Slump is Over.”

The article noted that McGraw couldn’t identify a cause for improvement. Nowadays with pitch performance numbers, we could note if his fastball had more zip or his screwball got more weak contact, but it’s all a guessing game.

“One day I just came out of the bullpen and did a great job,” McGraw said. “Everything was uphill from there. It came back as mysteriously as it had gone.”

McGraw didn’t pitch in the famous “Ball on the Wall” game on September 20 because he was needed so often in the games before it (the unsung hero of “Ball on the Wall” was Ray Sadecki, who pitched four scoreless innings in a McGrawian effort).

But after a three-inning save against the first-place Pirates the day before “Ball on the Wall,” McGraw reflected on the Jekyl & Hyde contrast of his 1973 season.

“I wouldn’t wish that on anybody,” he said in a quote in the next day’s Daily News. “Unless it meant the pennant.”

Ya gotta believe it did!

1973 TOPPS METS TUG MCGRAW CARD #30

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Walk-Offs in Movies, TV, and Other Places

Note: I'm leaving this post up through the end of the week, a) because I don't have time to pump out something new and b)because I was hoping to build a really good list of entertainment industry walk-offs...so if you're looking for something new, check back on Monday or so... Of course, if there's a major trade or move, I'll adjust and try to post something... In the meantime, click on the "Table of Contents" link as well. It has been updated. SPOILER ALERT: Read at your own risk Caught the ending of "A League of Their Own" on one of the movie channels the other day and it got me to thinking that it would be fun to compile a list of walk-offs from movies, television, and other forms of entertainment. Here's the start, and only the start, as I spent about 30 minutes or so thinking it over Help me fill in the blanks by filling out the comments section. "A League of Their Own"-- Racine beats Rockford for the All-American Girls

The 'Duca of Earl (and walk-offs)

If I told you that the Mets had just obtained a guy who is a career .316 hitter with runners in scoring position? How about if I told you that the Mets just traded for a hitter who has consistently ranked among the toughest in baseball to strike out? Or if I mentioned that the Mets just dealt for a player who was selected to the NL All-Star team the last three seasons, with the last honor coming via a vote by his peers? So, although he's on the down side age wise, his throwing arm isn't as good as it used to be, and he doesn't provide much power, there are a lot of good things that Paul Lo Duca brings to the New York Mets. For example: He'll sacrifice his body for the good of the team The Dodgers and Braves squared off on August 23, 2002 and Lo Duca made an impact both on the start and finish of this game. Three pitches after being dusted by Greg Maddux, Lo Duca made him pay with a first-inning home run. The Braves rallied to tie the game, 3-3 in the ninth, but thei

Minutiae Break: Worst Mets Relievers

It occurs to me after 79 straight walk-off related posts and some fatigue still remaining from Saturday's finish that I did promise to bring Metspective on other issues related to the Flushing 9, so I offer this posting up as a "Minutiae Break." This came about after several discussions related to the offhand Dick Tidrow/Danny Graves remark the other day , the conclusion of which indicated that it would be fun to create a list of the worst Mets relievers of all-time. I don't want to step on the territory of other bloggers, like " Faith and Fear in Flushing ," Mets Guy in Michigan " and " Metstradamus ," so I'll tread carefully here, aided by their influence. Should any friends, family members, or fans of these pitchers visit this site, I mean no harm. I'm just here to have a little fun with this topic. The ground rules are as follows: The pitcher must have had a Mets stint as long as Dick Tidrow's (11 games, 15 2/3 innings), for