Willie Mays (Trading Card DB)

July 17, 1973: Mets score 7 runs in 9th inning to beat Braves, 8-7

This article was written by Thomas J. Brown Jr.

Willie Mays (Trading Card DB)The Mets were playing poorly in July 1973. They arrived in Atlanta with a 6-10 record and their struggles continued when they lost the first game of the series, 8-6. The loss had led to speculation that Mets management might make some changes. Guido Cribari wrote in the White Plains Journal News, “One thing is certain, where the down-trodden Mets are concerned, manager [Yogi] Berra or someone will have to be made the goat for the unexpected collapse of the once proud occupants of Shea.”1

The Braves were having a terrific July when the Mets arrived in town. They had won 11 of 17 games before the series with the Mets. After beating New York on July 16, they entered the second game of the series with a four-game winning streak.

Braves manager Eddie Mathews started Carl Morton. The right-hander had won two of his three July starts, including going seven innings in his last start, a 15-6 Braves win on July 13. Morton looked strong out of the gate. He allowed just three baserunners through the first four innings. Wayne Garrett walked to lead off the game, Ron Hodges reached first on an error in the second and Rusty Staub got the first Mets hit in the fourth, a single.

Harry Parker had been slated to start for the Mets but at the last minute Berra made a pitching change and sent reliever Tug McGraw to the mound in hopes that he would pull out of a slump. It was McGraw’s first start since September 15, 1971. Berra’s move fooled everyone but the Braves.

Ralph Garr led off and homered on McGraw’s first pitch, his eighth home run of the season. The Braves struck again in the second after Paul Casanova singled and ended up on third when right fielder Rusty Staub booted the ball. He scored the Braves’ second run when McGraw threw wild to the next batter, pitcher Morton.

The Braves continued to hit McGraw in the third. After he walked the first two batters, Dusty Baker hit a one-out RBI single. Davey Johnson’s sacrifice fly brought in another run to give the Braves a 4-0 lead.

The Mets got on the scoreboard in the fifth, on singles by John Milner and Hodges and Don Hahn’s sacrifice fly. But Morton shut down the next two batters, leaving the Mets trailing by three runs.

The Braves added to their lead in the sixth. Marty Perez hit his fourth home run of the season with a runner on board. Two batters later, Hank Aaron hit a solo blast into the left-field seats. It was his 25th home run of the season and the 698th of his career, leaving him 16 home runs behind Babe Ruth. “I felt like when I hit it that it was the icing on the cake, that it was just another run,” Aaron said later.2

With the Mets in a six-run hole, McGraw was not sent back out in the seventh. It was clear that his struggles were not yet over; his ERA had risen from 5.85 to 6.17. Berra said, “He had a good screwball tonight. It was his fastball that they hit.” He added that the Mets needed McGraw to turn things around, saying, “We’re gonna have to have him. If you don’t have relief pitching, you ain’t gonna win.”3

John Strohmayer and Buzz Capra got the Braves out in order in the sevengh and eighth innings to send the game to the ninth with the Mets down 7-1. Morton had handcuffed the Mets through eight innings, allowing just five hits. But Garrett led off the ninth with a single. After Felix Millan lined out, Staub stepped to the plate. He had grounded into a double play on his last at-bat. This time he hoisted the ball over the fence for a two-run homer.

The Braves still led, 7-3. But Cleon Jones singled and Milner sent the ball over the fence for another Mets homer. Suddenly things looked shaky. Manager Mathews called in Adrian Devine from the bullpen. 

Devine got the second out when Hodges grounded out to second base. But a single by Hahn and a walk to pinch-hitter Ed Kranepool put another runner in scoring position. Berra substituted Ted Martinez for the slow-footed Kranepool. Jim Beauchamp pinch-hit for pitcher Capra and singled. Hahn crossed the plate, leaving the Mets trailing by just one run at 7-6, while Martinez ended up on third.

Mathews went back to his bullpen and called on left-hander Tom House to save the game. Berra went to his bench and sent Willie Mays to pinch-hit for Garrett. Mays hadn’t started due to a sore back after crashing into the outfield wall the day before. His sore back didn’t seem to bother him this afternoon. With the count 3-and-2, Mays singled, driving home two runs, to give the Mets the lead, 8-7.

“I was just lucky to hit it,” said Mays. “The pitch was up and out. I was just trying to make contact.”4 It was the second time Mays had upstaged Aaron. On April 27, 1971, Aaron hit the 600th home run of his career, only to see it go for naught when Mays singled in the 10th inning to give the San Francisco Giants a 6-5 victory.

Harry Parker, who was supposed to start the game, now got a chance to save it, and he pitched a perfect ninth, getting two strikeouts and a foul pop fly to end the game.

Aaron said he thought his home run had cemented the Braves victory, “but that’s baseball for you, I guess.” He defended the Braves relief pitchers saying, “[T]hose guys have good stuff, but they’re young and just in the process of learning. It takes time. This was a tough one to lose, the kind that will hurt your morale. But not this club. … It will bounce back.”5

Staub, likely talking about the struggles the Braves relievers had in the last inning, said, “Obviously, until there are three out, the game is not over.”6

The Mets had halted the Braves’ four-game winning streak. Berra, perhaps hoping that the Mets would begin a streak of their own, said, “That just might turn something around. I hope it starts something good.”7

Although the Mets remained in the National League East cellar and continued to struggle for the rest of July, they eventually turned things around to go 40-28 in the second half of the season and win the National League East Division championship, then beat the Cincinnati Reds for the pennant, before losing to the Oakland A’s in the World Series. Berra’s Mets did indeed “turn something around” and the speculation regarding his tenure eventually disappeared.


In addition to the sources cited in the Notes, the author used the Baseball-Reference.com and Retrosheet.org websites for box-score, player, team, and season pages, pitching and batting game logs, and other pertinent material.


1 Guido Cribari, “Yogi’s First in Line if Mets Start Firing,” White Plains (New York) Journal News, July 18, 1973: 45.

2 Wayne Minshew, “Mets 7 Run Rally Nips Braves in 9th,” Atlanta Constitution, July 18, 1973: 57.

3 Ed Shearer, “Mets Overcome Aaron’s 698th,” Bridgewater (New Jersey) Courier News, July 18, 1973: 33.

4 Shearer.

5 Minshew.

6 Minshew.

7 Shearer.

Additional Stats

New York Mets 8
Atlanta Braves 7

Atlanta Stadium
Atlanta, GA


Box Score + PBP:

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