Those bright hopes evaporated as fast as the bubbly. The next night Koosman's adrenaline was flowing but so was the Pirates' as they routed the Met lefthander after 3? innings to win 8-4. "Honest, I swear to God," an exasperated Koosman said, "I went out there for the second time in my career with great stuff and got ripped. The first time was in 1968 against the Reds."
Pittsburgh's Bill Robinson, a recent emigr� from the Phillies who hit a long home run off Koosman, reiterated the Pirate philosophy: "On this club," he said, "you just go up there and swing as hard as you want as often as you want. Just go up and screw that helmet on and swing from the behind."
Swing he did, connecting for a home run off Matlack the next night to lead Pittsburgh to a 3-1 victory. "When I came up in the seventh I told Jim Rooker I was going to boogie," said Robinson. "That means I knew I was going to hit that homer." The only thing Matlack knew was that the loss dropped the Mets six games behind the Pirates. "How black is black?" he said.
But then came St. Louis and there went Seaver again, pitching with three days' rest, striking out seven to pick up his 21st win with a big assist from Bob Apodaca, who relieved in the seventh to preserve a 5-2 Met victory. Poling his second homer in three games, Kingman became the first Met to hit 30 homers in a season since Frank Thomas did it for the original 1962 team.
Vail also hit his second home run of the week, a two-run drive that boosted his average to .379 and marked the 12th straight game in which he had hit safely. For Vail the homer was also a retaliatory back-of-the-hand for the five years he languished in the Cardinal farm system. "That homer was really gratifying," he said. "A special feeling. When I was in the Cardinal system, I hit well but they still wouldn't even invite me to spring training. It was disheartening. I never got the chance I knew I should have gotten."
Koosman got his chance with the Cardinals and he wished he hadn't. In a disastrous first inning that was marred by walks, a wild pitch and errors—one of the most costly committed by Vail, who seems as alien to left field as he is at home at the plate—the Cardinals scored four runs and went on to win 6-3. On Sunday, Matlack, exploring deeper shades of black, was routed by the Cards 12-4.
And so on the last day of the first week of the best month in baseball, Pittsburgh was still firmly in command, with St. Louis trailing by 5� games, Philadelphia by 7 and New York by 7�. With only 21 games remaining the Mets as well as the other contenders would have to get cracking or this would be one of those rare Septembers without a pennant race. Or as Yogi might say, you can't be out of it until you're in it.