Wednesday, July 30, 2014

July 30, 1968 - Gibson Maintains Sub-One ERA in Win Over Mets

Tuesday, July 30, 1968 - At Shea Stadium (Bob Gibson - Starting Pitcher) - Opponent:  New York Mets (Dick Selma - Starting Pitcher) - Attendance:  34,835

Bob Gibson was certainly the most dominant pitcher in major league baseball in 1968 (aka The Year of the Pitcher).  His season-ending 1.12 ERA was a post-Dead Ball Era record for any starting pitcher - ever.  After a July 25, 1968 shutout of the Pittsburgh Pirates, Gibson's ERA had actually dipped below 1.00 for the first time all season (the pitcher's equivalent to hitting .400?) - 0.96 - to be precise.

This statistical anomaly was of no concern to Gibson, whatsoever.  He never bothered to keep track of such nonsense.  As far as he was concerned, his job was simple:  Prevent the other team from scoring.  Period.  Then, with any luck at all, his team could score a run somewhere along the line, and his job would be done.

In this game, the Cardinals provided Gibson with an early 1-0 cushion - when Dal Maxvill shocked everyone with a third-inning lead-off triple to right field.  After Gibson struck out, Brock grounded one sharply, right up the middle, which Mets starting pitcher Dick Selma got a glove on, but couldn't make a play; however,  Maxvill had to stay at third on what was ruled a single.  Curt Flood then hit a ground ball to the right of third baseman Ed Charles - whose only play was a force-out at second base - but this time, Maxvill was able to score.

"There's your run, Gibby!"  There was more truth to that joking remark than not - at least in 1968.

They say scoring runs is contagious.  That usually wasn't the case in '68 - except in this game - although the Mets helped out with some strange defensive maneuvers - very strange, in fact.

In the top of the fourth-inning, Orlando Cepeda led-off with a single to left field.  Then Tim McCarver walked.  Next up - Mike Shannon - grounded one to Charles at third - but in his haste to turn two, couldn't field it cleanly, for a costly error - which loaded the bases.

Next up - Julian Javier - drove in Cepeda and McCarver with a single to right field.  By this time, Selma was unraveling - a wild pitch, another base hit and a sacrifice fly scored two more runs.  But the Cardinals weren't quite through.

Perhaps the most bizarre play of 1968 happened with Brock batting - once again, with Maxvill on third base.  Lou, who was deprived of an RBI an inning prior - when his infield single didn't score Maxvill from third, got a cheap one this time around.  After grounding one right back to Selma, the befuddled Mets hurler apparently thought there was a runner on first (there wasn't).  After fielding the ball, Selma quickly threw a strike to second baseman Jerry Buchek - who in turn, relayed the ball to first base for the out, as a grinning Maxvill dashed home with the fifth run of the inning - on what can best be described as a phantom double play.

It's quite possible that Gibson had a rare lapse of concentration when he returned to the mound for the bottom of the fourth.  Who could blame him?  At any rate, after getting the first two batters, Ed Charles drew a base on balls - the only one Gibson would allow in the game.  Then, Ed Kranepool doubled to right field to score Charles all the way from first.

That ended the scoring for the Mets - who at least attained a moral victory by spoiling another shutout for the Cards' ace.  The ERA stayed virtually the same for Gibson, however.  Still 0.96.

Meanwhile, Cepeda added another needless run for the Redbirds in the seventh - scoring Flood (who doubled with two out) from second base.  That was it - a 7-1 Cardinal winner.  Those seven runs were the most the Cardinals scored in any of Gibson's road starts in '68.  Twice, they scored eight runs for him at home - in games won by the Redbirds - 8-1 and 8-0.

It's a pity all that run support couldn't have been spread out over some of his other starts - when he really could have used an extra run or two...

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