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This'll Make You Feel Better

The Dodgers put the Mets to bed at a rather late hour on Friday night/Saturday morning. It might be of consolation to weary-eyed Mets fans today to know that the Mets have given the Dodgers their fair share of sleepless nights.

Lets take August 1 and 3, 1977, shall we? Sure, Los Angeles was well ahead in the NL West and the Mets were a hopeless last-place team, but the games fit our purpose of today's entry anyway.

That August 1 game was one of those that the team that bats last was destined to win. Even facing future Hall of Famer Don Sutton and company, the Mets were undaunted by deficits of 1-0, 3-1, 6-3, and 7-6. Steve Henderson's two-run home run in the sixth inning evened things at six and ended Sutton's night, and when the Dodgers subsequently left the bases loaded in the seventh, there must have been a feeling in the air that good things were going to happen for the Mets this day.

This one went extra frames and the Dodgers pulled ahead in the 11th inning on a home run by second baseman Davey Lopes. That ended a string of 12 straight batters retired by Mets reliever Skip Lockwood, a Braden Looper-esque closer type whose best often was one pitch shy of what was desired.

That left the Mets work to do in the bottom of the frame and Dodgers reliever Mike Garman helped matters by hitting John Stearns to lead things off. With one out, the Mets tied the score on back-to-back singles by Lee Mazzilli and pinch-hitter Ed Kranepool. So this one went more inning and Lockwood got through the tough part of the Dodgers order unscathed.

Lenny Randle led off the bottom of the 12th with a double and the Dodgers elected to walk Felix Millan intentionally. This put two men on for Henderson, who would develop a penchant for coming through in these spots. Garman struck Henderson out and another rookie followed, pinch-hitter Joel Youngblood, who would later become famous for getting two hits in two cities for two teams, on the same day. Youngblood would be noteworthy on this day for drawing the ire of Dodgers manager Tommy Lasorda, as he promptly singled home the winning run. It was a well-deserved, angst-ridden win for the Mets, who tormented the 9,000 or so in attendance by leaving 16 men on base.

Los Angeles won the middle game of this series easily, but the series finale was another torturefest for Lasorda, whose team was three outs away from leaving Flushing with a 3-1 win before another Mets rally evened the score. A pair of walks jump-started the Mets rally and then an RBI single by Mike Vail made it a 3-2 deficit, but the Mets were down to their final out. Youngblood was up again, with two on base and this time he reached on an infield single to load the bases. So the game came down to Doug Flynn against Dodgers pitcher Lance Rautzhan, and the Mets got some help again, as Rautzhan issued a game-tying walk.

Of all people, Lasorda's friend, Bobby Valentine, yes the same one who would become Mets manager, was up next, and those who read this blog regularly probably figure I'm setting you up for the perfect finale, with Valentine beating his buddy with a base hit. Alas, I'm not that clever. Valentine flied to right and we were bound for extra innings again.

This one went 14 innings and the Dodgers had baserunners in every one of the bonus frames, but the Mets relievers, who pitched eight scoreless innings, wiggled through every one of them. In the last of the 14th, Garman was again on the mound, and again the Mets used a rookie rally to beat him. Youngblood singled to start things, and advanced to third on a balk and sacrifice by Flynn. With one out and a runner on third, the Dodgers elected to pitch to Mazzilli rather than walk the bases loaded, as is sometimes done in those instances, and that was a mistake. Mazzilli brought the winner in with a single to right.

The hapless Mets had stood toe-to-toe with the likes of veteran stars Ron Cey and Steve Garvey and it was the young rookies that came through to pull out a win. Much like a Dodgers rookie came through on Friday night.

True Metgers know...The Mets once had a streak of 12 straight seasons in which they had at least one walk-off win over the Dodgers. That spanned from 1969 to 1980.


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