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Dyer Straits for No-No Nolan

The walk-off time machine takes us back 34 amazing years to June 20, 1971 and our focus is again on Father's Day, but more specifically, Game 1 of a doubleheader between the Mets and Phillies at Shea Stadium.

The two teams were coming off a 15-inning marathon, the day before, in which the Mets won in walk-off fashion (we'll tell the tale of that game eventually), so manager Gil Hodges needed to figure out how to get through this day without overtaxing his bullpen any more than it already had been.

The problem for Hodges was that he had his most inconsistent pitcher on the mound, a flamethrower from Texas who had struck out 16 Padres less than a month prior, but who also had a three-start stretch early in the season in which he walked 22 batters in 23 innings, and had dropped his last three decisions. This was the kind of pitcher who would load the bases, then strike out the side, as he did in the first inning on of this game. In fact, this moundsman looked pretty sharp through the first half of the contest, building a 4-0 lead after five innings of one-hit ball, and appeared ready to improve upon his 6-4 mark and lower his already impressive 1.78 ERA

But this pitcher's erratic nature caused him to unravel in the sixth. The Phillies plated six runs on a combination of singles and homers (two to batters he had struck out in the first inning), and Hodges was forced to go to his bullpen to keep the game close, which it did.

The Mets bailed their starter out, but it took a furious ninth inning rally to do so. New York had left the more than 50,000 in attendance on edge in the seventh and eighth innings by stranding a pair of runners, but in the ninth, they made things look easy. The Mets got five straight singles, the last a chopper by pinch-hitter Duffy Dyer, which plated the last two runs for a 7-6 win. Joseph Durso of the New York Times called it "one of the most memorable finishes in their 10-year history of memorable finishes."

Game 2 of the double dip featured some intrigue as well, and not just because the Phillies pitched Jim "Perfect Game on June 21, 1964" Bunning. This one went extra innings as well, with Hodges stuck pitching Jim McAndrew for 5 1/3 innings of relief because Tug McGraw had toiled for too long the day before. Ron Taylor, who pitched 2 1/3 innings in Game 1, surrendered a go-ahead grand slam to Deron Johnson in relief of McAndrew in the 11th and though the Mets threatened in their half, they came up on the short end of a 9-7 loss.

We can't help but think that Mets management was particularly frustrated with their Game 1 starter that day. The trend continued throughout the season: brilliant for a couple of weeks, miserable for others. Though he started the season 6-1 with a 1.08 ERA, he finished only 10-14 with a 3.97 ERA.

It had to have been games like the one this day that caused Bob Scheffing to do what he did
on December 10, 1971, when he traded this pitcher to the Angels, along with three prospects, for shortstop Jim Fregosi, whom the Mets planned to convert to third base.

In announcing the trade, Angels GM Harry Dalton was quoted as saying his team had gotten "one of baseball's best arms." Scheffing told reporters that same day, perhaps harkening back in his mind to June 20 "...We've had him for three years and although he's a hell of a prospect, he hasn't done it for us. How long can you wait? I can't rate him the same category with Tom Seaver, Jerry Koosman, Gary Gentry"

Dalton was right. Scheffing was wrong. The starting pitcher for the Mets in their walk-off win that day was Nolan Ryan.

True Metronomes know...The Mets had 14 walk-off wins in 1971, the most they have had in any season.

PS: The entry below this one is a fun one...didn't get a lot of traffic on Saturday/Sunday, but it's worth a look

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