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Getting Your 'Phil' of Labor Day Wins

By my calculations, the Mets have only one Labor Day walk-off win in their illustrious history, and for good measure, it came exactly 22 years prior to Labor Day 2005

The NL East was a bit of a mishmash on this date in 1983, similar to how the race for the NL wild card looks this season. The Mets weren't among the teams battling for the top spot, as the Pirates, Expos, Phillies and Cardinals duked it out, with no team seeming to want to take control (similar to this year's NL West). The Pirates, at 70-65, had a one-game edge on the Phillies, who happened to be the Mets opponents that day.

Fewer than 8,500 were on hand for this one as most Mets fans had lost interest at this point, with the team 22 games under .500, even though the lineup featured some excitement in the form of first baseman Keith Hernandez and rookie rightfielder Darryl Strawberry. That's too bad because they missed a dandy of a finish to this contest.

Perfectly willing to play the spoiler role, the Mets staked starter Mike Torrez to a 3-0 lead, but he couldn't hold it against a Hall of Fame Phillies lineup. Mike Schmidt hit a two-run home run in the third inning and Joe Morgan singled in the tying run in the fifth.

The score held through the middle innings as the Mets couldn't do anything against relievers Willie Hernandez and Ron Reed while young Mets righty Doug Sisk held the Phillies off the scoreboard with three innings of perfect pitching (not a misprint!).

Jesse Orosco was the Mets best pitcher in 1983, but this was not one of his better performances. On in the ninth to relieve Sisk, Orosco got into immediate trouble by walking leadoff man Sixto Lezcano, who stole second with one out and advanced to third on a throwing error by catcher Ron Hodges. After Bo Diaz walked, light-hitting shortstop Ivan DeJesus singled in the go-ahead run and Gary Matthews plated another with a sacrifice fly. So the Mets appeared headed to a rather distasteful loss as they entered the home ninth down by two.

Fortunately for the Flushing 9, Phillies closer Al Holland chose this night to melt down like LaTroy Hawkins did against Victor Diaz last season. Mookie Wilson and Keith Hernandez sandwiched singles around an out, bringing George Foster to the plate as the winning run. The newspapers tell us that Foster was in an 0-for-11 funk, something not uncommon during his reign with the Mets. In fairness, Foster was very, very clutch in 1983 and his bid to win the fans over was helped by what he did here. He crushed Holland's first pitch into the left field picnic area for a game-winning three-run home run.

While the win had little impact on the Mets fate, it served a much more meaningful purpose to the Phillies, a team that was in need at that point of a good kick in the ass. The Phillies were 69-67 after a defeat that really should have been devastating, but bounced back quite nicely. Philadelphia won its next three (two straight against the Mets) and closed the season by winning 21 of its last 26 games, a good enough run to win the NL East and eventually make it to the World Series, in which it lost to Baltimore in five games.

True Metophones know...The day after this win, Ron Darling made his major-league debut, tossing 6 1/3 innings of one-run ball in a 2-0 loss to the Phillies. A good piece of trivia attached to this one in that the Phillies winning pitcher that day was a well-known former Met, Tug McGraw.


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