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The Summer of False Hope Lives

Things were going so swimmingly in the week that was one of glory for the 1980 New York Mets (see the previous two entries) that they even made a trade to bolster their lineup, sending a minor leaguer to the White Sox for outfielder Claudell Washington. It was a good move at a good time, considering the Mets were in one of their hottest streaks in four years, as Frank Cashen sent a message to the Flushing Faithful that the team would try to improve itself. Washington wasn't a superstar by any means, but it was unusual to see the Mets make a nothing-for-something kind of trade.

So it was with 11 wins in 17 games that the Mets went into their June 11 game with the Los Angeles Dodgers, one day after rallying from a 4-0 deficit to win. They had confidence, and they had their ace on the mound, starting pitcher Craig Swan, whose ERA entering the game was 2.27.

The Mets seized a 2-0 lead against Jerry Reuss, unusual because scoring first in this run of success was a rarity. That was all the offense they would muster through the first nine frames. Swan was terrific through the first six innings, but tired slightly in the seventh, yielding a home run to Dodgers third baseman Ron Cey. Willie Randolph likes to say he'll give a starting pitcher every chance to close out a win (or go eight innings, anyway) if he's dominant and apparently he learned that from one of his predecessors, Joe Torre, who hung with Swan into the ninth inning. That didn't work out as well as he'd hoped as Steve Garvey's one-out home run tied the score, 2-2.

Torre was willing to do what Davey Johnson was extraordinarily reluctant to do during his reign of success- let his starter pitch into the 10th inning. With an unknown rookie named Mike Scioscia on second base, Swan retired Davey Lopes to end a Dodgers scoring chance in the 10th.

In the bottom of the inning, the Mets strung things out to their fullest extent against Dodgers reliever Rick Sutcliffe. Doug Flynn led off with a single. Washington had a chance to be the game's hero, but struck out pinch-hitting for Swan (Claudell went 1-for-17 in the first six games of his Mets career), as Flynn stole second. Sutcliffe gave Lee Mazzilli a free pass, then struck out Frank Taveras for the second out. Steve Henderson, whose time to be the star would come shortly, walked to load the bases.

The batter due up sixth in a tie game in the home half of an extra inning knows that there is only one such circumstance in which he can bat- bases loaded, two outs. In this instance, that was Mike Jorgensen, who survived a season-shortening beaning in 1979 to make good use of himself for the Mets that season. Jorgensen had entered earlier for defensive purposes, but provided the necessary instant offense to give the Mets a win for the second time this week, becoming the first Mets player since Jim Hickman in 1963 to hit a walk-off grand slam.

The era of good feeling carried over into the following day, in which the Mets rallied from five down to sweep the Dodgers. It really got going two nights later when Henderson worked some unlikely magic (though if you haven't read this much-plugged link by now, or it's companion chances are that you're not going to do so). And it really got going again 25 years to the day of Jorgensen's blast when Cliff Floyd cranked a walk-off three-run shot to beat another baseball team from Los Angeles.

True Metrakers know...The Mets had four walk-off wins within a 10-day span in 1980. They have only done that two other times in team history- in 1962, when the first four walk-off wins for the expansion squad came within a five-day span, and 1983, when they had five walk-off wins in 10 days.


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