NL West Champions
New York Mets
NL East Champions
The Houston Astros weren't expected to make much noise in 1986. Coming off of an 83-win season in 1985 and dealing with the off-season loss of veteran knuckleballer Joe Niekro, some pundits predicted the Astros would lose 100 games. If the fans in Houston could not look forward to a competitive season, they would at least get to watch the Astrodome host the All-Star Game for the first time since 1968. When the Mid-Summer Classic arrived, the team was barely over .500 despite an incredible start by ace pitcher Mike Scott. But soon afterwards, the team caught fire and barreled into the playoffs with a club-record 96 wins. Driving the offense was slugging first baseman Glenn Davis with 31 homers and 101 RBI. Davis had become only the second Astro in history to hit 30 homers in a season. Right fielder Kevin Bass enjoyed a career year, batting .311 with 20 homers and 22 steals. Bill Doran and Billy Hatcher ran wild on the bases, with 42 and 38 steals, respectively.
But the real story of the 1986 Astros was their pitching. Led by eventual Cy Young winner Mike Scott, the rotation was deep from top to bottom. Scott piled up 18 wins, but led the league with a 2.22 ERA and 306 strikeouts. Lefty Bob Knepper had 17 wins to go with his nice 3.14 ERA, and veteran fireballer Nolan Ryan rounded out the playoff rotation with 12 wins and 194 strikeouts in 178 innings. Pitching would be the dominating force of the 1986 playoffs, and the Houston staff would meet the challenge.
The New York Mets were a juggernaut in the NL East all season, winning 108 games and looking like clear favorites to return to the World Series for the first time since 1973. Catcher Gary Carter (24 homers, 105 RBI) and outfielder Darryl Strawberry (27 homers, 93 RBI) spearheaded the Mets' offensive attack, while centerfielder Lenny Dykstra (.295 avg) and second baseman Wally Backman (.320 avg) made sure they had runners to drive home. But, like the Astros, the Mets' strength was in their pitching. Dwight Gooden followed up his 1985 Cy Young season with 17 wins and a 2.84 ERA. But Bob Ojeda (18 wins, 2.57 ERA) had a better year, while Sid Fernandez (16 wins, 3.52 ERA) and Ron Darling (15 wins, 2.81 ERA) were not far behind. It didn't take a rocket scientist to guess that the playoff series between these two teams would be a low-scoring affair.
The seven-game series opened in Houston with Game 1 going Houston's way. Mike Scott outdueled Dwight Gooden and prevailed 1-0 on a solo homer by Glenn Davis. The Mets evened the series in Game 2 when they touched up Nolan Ryan for five runs while the Astros were held by Ron Darling to a single run, losing 5-1.
Despite a venue change to New York, the Astros looked as if they would take Game 3, but Lenny Dykstra shocked Houston with a game-winning two-run homer in the bottom of the ninth against closer Dave Smith for a dramatic 6-5 New York victory. Game 4 started out as a matchup between Sid Fernandez and rookie Jim Deshaies, but was instead postponed due to rain. Taking advantage of the extra day, the Astros switched gears and sent Mike Scott to the mound instead. Scott was brilliant again, beating Fernandez and dominating the Mets with a three-hitter in a 3-1 victory. The baffled New York hitters collected a bag of balls allegedly "scuffed" by Scott, but their claims were rebuffed by league officials.
The series was now even at two games apiece and the stage was set for a real controversy. Nolan Ryan faced off against Dwight Gooden in an incredible pitching duel, but the Mets prevailed, 2-1, in 12 innings. The most controversial play came in the 2nd inning when shortstop Craig Reynolds was called out at first base by umpire Fred Brocklander on an inning-ending double play. The 'out' call prevented a runner from scoring from third base, and was heatedly contested by the Astros. Instant replays clearly showed that Reynolds was indeed safe, and the Astros would go on to lose the game in extra innings.
With their backs to the wall, the Astros returned to Houston needing to win the final two games to avoid elimination. The Mets, however, were desperate to win Game 6 in order to avoid facing Mike Scott again in Game 7. Unfortunately for them, Bob Knepper was brilliant, taking a two-hitter and a 3-0 lead to the ninth inning. Amazingly, the Mets rallied for three runs to force extra innings. And, once again, they were given additional life by umpire Fred Brocklander, now stationed by home plate. With one out and the tying run on third, Ray Knight looked at a third strike thrown by Dave Smith right down the heart of the plate. Brocklander called it a ball. Knight then sent the next pitch to the outfield for a game-tying sacrifice fly. Neither team then scored until the 14th, when the Mets took a one-run lead. With two outs and their backs against the wall, Billy Hatcher hit perhaps the most memorable home run in franchise history, a shot high and deep off the left-field foul pole. The game was tied again as both teams simply refused to die. The game was broken open in the 16th when the Mets scored three runs to take a 7-4 lead. Given the low scoring of the series, the lead seemed insurmountable. While despondent fans were pouring out of the Astrodome, the Astros nevertheless rallied for two runs and finally went down with the tying run on second base, losing by a final score of 7-6.
Game Six was an amazing and exhausting game, and some have called it "The Greatest Game Ever Played". In fact, the game is the subject of a book with that very title, written by Jerry Izenberg. It is unfortunate that the greatest game in history came at the expense of the Astros. Many fans still look back at the 1986 team as the best in franchise history.
See also: 1986 Division Clincher
Game 1 at Houston - Astros 1, Mets 0
Wednesday, October 8th
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
New York 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 - 0 5 0
Houston 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 x - 1 7 1
Win - Scott. Loss - Gooden.
HR - Davis.
Time - 2:56. Attendance - 44,131
HOUSTON - Mets manager Davey Johnson had no trouble putting his finger on the reason his team lost to the Astros, 1-0, in Game 1 of the National League Championship Series on Wednesday night.
Johnson put his finger on the split-fingered fastball of Mike Scott.
The Houston righthander, who led the majors in shutouts and strikeouts this year, came up with that winning combination in giving the Astros a 1-0 lead in the best-of-seven series.
Mr. K struck out 14, matching a career high and tying an NLCS record, in pitching a five-hitter and beating Dr. K, Dwight Gooden. Scott's split-fingered fastball was too much and Glenn Davis' second-inning homer off Gooden was just enough for the Astros to defeat the heavily-favored Mets.
Scott delighted the crowd of 44,131 in the Astrodome, many of whom waved orange placards with giant "K's" whenever a Met struck out. But Scott baffled and irritated the Mets with his split-fingered fastball.
The major league leader in strikeouts this season struck out four of the first seven batters he faced. By striking out Keith Hernandez and Gary Carter to end the first inning, and Darryl Strawberry and Mookie Wilson to open the second, Scott became the third pitcher in NLCS history to strike out four in a row. Scott's strikeout of Ray Knight to end the game tied him with former Pirate John Candelaria for most strikeouts in an NLCS game.
"I couldn't say that I was going in there and trying to get strikeouts," said Scott, who had 14 in a game against the Padres this year. "It was just a good strikeout day for me. I didn't get behind too many hitters, and that for me is the key. I felt strong. I felt like I was in the groove."
What else did the Mets expect from Scott, who this year became the fourth pitcher in National League history to strike out more than 300 batters in a year, and who clinched the West with a no-hitter against the Giants? But Scott's pitches didn't go unchallenged.
The Mets, one of many teams to accuse Scott of throwing an illegally scuffed ball, asked plate umpire Doug Harvey to inspect the ball in the first. Harvey kept the ball in play, and Carter struck out. In the sixth, Keith Hernandez argued a called third strike with Harvey on a pitch that broke down and in. That was only one of several times the Mets contested the calls.
"Doug Harvey is a veteran umpire back there," said Johnson. "A couple of the calls were marginal. But umpiring didn't beat us. Mike Scott beat us."
And Davis. The Astros' first baseman put the only run on the board with a monstrous homer to lead off the second. He sent a 1-0 pitch, a high fastball, over the 400-foot mark in center field. Davis batted only .091 against Gooden in 11 at-bats this year.
"He's gotten the best of me more often than I've gotten of him," said Davis, who led the Asros with 31 home runs this year. "About the home run, I was just trying to lay off the high pitch and it just happened."
The Astros' run stood up, even when the Mets had their best chance to score by putting runners at first and second with one out in the eighth. Scott struck out a batter to lead the inning, but Danny Heep, hitting for Gooden, singled through the middle. Len Dykstra drove a smash at second baseman Bill Doran, who knocked down the ball but threw late to first.
But Scott answered the challenge as best he knows how. He struck out Wally Backman, then struck out Hernandez for the third time in the game.
"I thought we had a chance coming into the game to score some runs," said Gooden, whose seven-game winning streak against the Astros was snapped.
"But every time Mike needed a big out, he got it. Every time he needed a strikeout, he got it. And whenever we got into scoring position, we didn't get the big hitters."
Eight of Scott's strikeouts were against the heart of the Mets' order. He struck out Hernandez three times, Carter three times, and Darryl Strawberry twice.
"Any time you go into a series during the season or the post-season and you win the first game, it's very big for either team," said Astros manager Hal Lanier. "No. 1, you've beaten the other team's best pitcher. Beating Dwight Gooden, even though we scored only one run, is a big lift for this ballclub."
New York AB R H BI Houston AB R H BI Dykstra cf 3 0 1 0 Hatcher cf 3 0 0 0 Backman 2b 4 0 0 0 Doran 2b 4 0 0 0 Hernandez 1b 4 0 1 0 Walling 3b 4 0 0 0 Carter c 4 0 0 0 Davis 1b 4 1 1 1 Strawberry rf 4 0 1 0 Bass rf 4 0 2 0 Wilson lf 4 0 0 0 Cruz lf 4 0 1 0 Knight 3b 4 0 0 0 Ashby c 1 0 1 0 Santana ss 2 0 1 0 Reynolds ss 3 0 2 0 Mazzilli ph 1 0 0 0 Thon ss 0 0 0 0 Orosco p 0 0 0 0 Scott p 3 0 0 0 Gooden p 2 0 0 0 Heep ph 1 0 1 0 Elster pr-ss 0 0 0 0 TOTALS 33 0 5 0 TOTALS 30 1 7 1 New York 000 000 000 -- 0 5 0 Houston 010 000 00x -- 1 7 1 E-Reynolds. DP-New York 1, Houston 0. 2B-Bass. HR-Davis (1). SB-Hatcher (1), Dykstra (1), Bass (1), Strawberry (1). NEW YORK ip h r er bb k Gooden L, 0-1 7.0 7 1 1 3 5 Orosco 1.0 0 0 0 0 1 HOUSTON ip h r er bb k Scott W, 1-0 9.0 5 0 0 1 14 Umpires - Harvey (HP), Weyer (1b), Pulli (2b), Rennert (3b), West (LF), Brocklander (RF). Time-2:56. Att.-44,131.
Game 2 at Houston - Mets 5, Astros 1
Thursday, October 9th
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
New York 0 0 0 2 3 0 0 0 0 - 5 10 0
Houston 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 - 1 10 2
Win - Ojeda. Loss - Ryan.
Time - 2:40. Attendance - 44,391.
HOUSTON - Game 1 of the National League Championship Series was brought to you by the letter 'K'. K as in Mike Scott's 14 strikeouts.
Game 2 Thursday night was brought to baseball fans by the letters 'H' and 'O'. H as in Keith Hernandez, whose two-run triple in the fifth inning broke open the Mets' 5-1 victory at the Astrodome. And 'O' as in Bob Ojeda, who pitched a complete game victory before 44,391 to even the series at 1-1.
"If it was 0-2 now, it would be really tough," said Ojeda, who allowed 10 hits and only his third run in his last 35 innings. "Because even if we were to take two out of three in New York, they would still be only one game away from winning it."
The best-of-seven series resumes in New York at 11:00 a.m. Saturday with Ron Darling of the Mets facing Bob Knepper.
"It was a big win for us -- obviously," said Hernandez. "But to say that we ahave the edge now, I disagree. Houston is a fine team, and this is the best matchup in the playoffs since Philadelphia and Houston (in 1980). Any time you've got the two best pitching staffs in the series -- and these are the two best staffs in the National League -- it's going to be tight. I'm just glad to get out of here with one win, and get the home fans behind us. We didn't want to go home down two games."
The Mets made sure they didn't when they scored all their runs in the fourth and fifth against Nolan Ryan. For the second straight night, the Mets did not get a hit until the fourth. But they made their three hits in the inning count toward a 2-0 lead.
The big hit was delivered by a member of the K corps. Gary Carter, who struck out in four of his first fiveat-bats, doubled in the first run, breaking the Mets' scoreless-inning streak in the playoffs at 12 1/3 innings. Darryl Strawberry, a strikeout victim in his first at-bat Thursday, giving him three in his first five playoff at-bats, made it 2-0 with a sacrifice fly.
In the fifth, Wally Backman drove in Ojeda with a single. Then Hernandez knocked in Backman and Len Dykstra with a triple past a diving Billy Hatcher in center field.
"I feel pretty disappointed right now," said Ryan who lost to the Mets for the fourth time this year. "I thought I had pretty good stuff, but I let it get away from me. After Mike won last night, we wanted to go into New York winning two in a row. It's not over. This just means that we're going to have to go in there and win. It will just be a little tougher."
If the letters H and O were prominent in the Mets' victory, the letters LOB were significant in the Astros' defeat. In Game 1, the Astros were able to get away with leaving eight men on base, including five in the first four innings against Dwight Gooden. The reason, of course, was that Scott was serving K-rations to the Mets in playoff-record-tying doses.
On Thursday, the Astros matched the Mets' 10 hits, but they left eight men on base in the first six innings and nine overall. They did not get their first run until the seventh, when they were already behind, 5-0.
"We got enough hits," said Astros manager Hal Lanier. "We just didn't get them at the right times. We didn't get enough runs. Give Ojeda credit. He got the outs when he got into trouble. We'll have to score more runs than we have. With two runs in two games, we're fortunate that we won one of the ballgames."
Ojeda, the Mets' winningnest pitcher this year with 18 regular-season victories, fell behind in the count many times. But Mets manager Davey Johnson never got the urge to call on a reliever.
"Bob pitched a real gutty ballgame," Johnson said. "He didn't have command of his pitches at times, and he gave up a lot of hits. But he made the pitches he had to make, and that was the key to the game."
But by then you didn't need a baseball fan to tell you that the run was too late. A fan of Sesame Street could have told you that, too.
New York AB R H BI Houston AB R H BI Dykstra cf 5 1 2 0 Hatcher cf 5 1 1 0 Backman 2b 5 2 2 1 Doran 2b 4 0 1 0 Hernandez 1b 3 1 2 2 Garner 3b 3 0 1 1 Carter c 5 0 1 1 Davis 1b 4 0 1 0 Strawberry rf 3 0 0 1 Bass rf 3 0 2 0 Wilson lf 4 0 1 0 Cruz lf 4 0 1 0 Knight 3b 3 0 1 0 Ashby c 4 0 0 0 Santana ss 4 0 1 0 Thon ss 4 0 2 0 Ojeda p 4 1 0 0 Ryan p 1 0 0 0 Pankovits ph 1 0 0 0 Anderson p 0 0 0 0 Puhl ph 1 0 1 0 Lopez p 0 0 0 0 Kerfeld p 0 0 0 0 Lopes ph 1 0 0 0 TOTALS 36 5 10 5 TOTALS 35 1 10 1 New York 000 230 000 -- 5 10 0 Houston 000 000 100 -- 1 10 2 E-Hatcher, Davis. DP-New York 2, Houston 1. 2B-Bass, Carter, Dykstra. 3B-Hernandez. SB-Wilson (1). SF-Strawberry. NEW YORK ip h r er bb k Ojeda W, 1-0 9.0 10 1 1 2 5 HOUSTON ip h r er bb k Ryan L, 0-1 5.0 7 5 5 0 5 Anderson 2.0 1 0 0 1 2 Lopez 1.1 2 0 0 2 1 Kerfeld 0.2 0 0 0 0 0 Umpires - Weyer (HP), Pulli (1b), Rennert (2b), West (3b), Brocklander (LF), Harvey (RF). Time-2:40. Att.-43,391.
Game 3 at New York - Mets 6, Astros 5
Saturday, October 11th
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
Houston 2 2 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 - 5 8 1
New York 0 0 0 0 0 4 0 0 2 - 6 10 1
Win - Orosco. Loss - Smith.
HR - Doran, Strawberry, Dykstra.
Time - 2:55. Attendance - 55,052.
NEW YORK - Until Saturday, the only time Len Dykstra ever hit a home run in the bottom of the ninth to win a game came during a board game.
"I was playing Strat-O-Matic -- a baseball game where you roll dice -- against my brother, Kevin," said Dykstra, the Mets' center fielder. "I rolled some good numbers."
On Saturday, Dykstra couldn't have rolled any better. the dice turned up snake eyes for the Astros , and there was nothing imaginary about this game.
Dykstra's two-run homer in the bottom of the ninth off the Astros' Dave Smith won Game 3 of the National League Championship Series, 6-5.
The Mets fell behind, 4-0, in the second, tied it in the sixth, and were three outs away from trailing in the series when Dykstra homered to right, his ninth of the season.
"It's too much like a fairy tale," said pitcher Ron Darling, who left after the fifth losing, 4-0. "You hear a lot about the great home runs in baseball like Bill Mazeroski's and Bobby Thomson's, but you still don't think it could ever happen."
It happened with one out, and there were 55,052 witnesses at Shea Stadium who will swear to it. It seemed that half of those people mobbed Dykstra as he tried to reach home plate.
"It was like fourth and goal in football," he said. "But I touched it -- barely."
Dykstra got all of Smith's forkball on an 0-1 count.
"A lot of times I get on Lenny because he likes to swing for the fences," said Mets manager Davey Johnson. "But today, I'll forgive him."
Smith, however, was not so forgiving when it came to the 0-1 pitch. "It was bad pitch selection," he said. "This is definitely disappointing. We had the ballgame won, my job was to save it and I didn't."
"Now we put a little pressure on them," said Dykstra. "They have to come back with their best pitcher with just three days rest, when he probably would like to have four. We're in a pretty good position now."
The Astros were in prime position to win Game 3 and eliminate the Mets' homefield advantage. In the first of three games at Shea in what was reduced to a best-three-out-of-five series, the Astros scored two in the first and two in the second on Bill Doran's two-run homer.
But lefthander Bob Knepper, who sailed along with a four-hitter through five innings, mysteriously lost his effectiveness in the sixth. The Mets scored their first run on a fielding error by Craig Reynolds. Then, with Keith Hernandez and Gary Carter on base, Darryl Strawberry did the improbable.
Strawberry brought to the plate a .212 batter average this year against lefthanders, a .100 career batting average against Knepper, and a .000 average against the Houston starter this year. It looked like the only way Strawberry could hit a home run was in a game of Strato-Matic. But he tied it with a three-run shot to right.
"I made a bad pitch to Strawberry," said Knepper.
But the Astros were not dead. They used a walk to Doran, a throwing error by third baseman Ray Knight and an RBI ground out by Denny Walling in the seventh to regain the lead. But in the ninth, Wally Backman bunted his way on against Smith in the first real controversial play of the series.
Backman ran and slid out of the first-base line to avoid the tag of first baseman Glenn Davis, who had to come up the line and field the bunt. Astros manager Hal Lanier argued that Backman should have been called out. But first base umpire Dutch Rennert ruled that Backman was allowed in that case to leave the baseline because he already had passed Davis.
After Danny Heep flied out, it was time for Dykstra to step to the plate. In his one other time up (he does not start against lefthanders), he struck out against Knepper. But now he was facing Smith. Charlie Kerfeld had retired the Mets in order in the eighth, but Lanier went to the man who led the Astros in saves this year.
"When I've got a man pitching who saved me 33 games, I'll bring him in," said Lanier.
Earlier this year, Dykstra doubled off Smith to tie a game in the eighth.
"I wasn't thinking about going up there to hit a home run to win the ballgame," he said. "I was just thinking base hit. I saw the pitch real well and hit it real well. Don't get used to this. You're not going to see too many more game-winning home runs from me."
For the Astros, this one was enough.
Houston AB R H BI New York AB R H BI Doran 2b 4 2 2 2 Wilson cf-lf 4 0 0 0 Hatcher cf 3 1 2 0 Mitchell lf 4 1 2 0 Walling 3b 5 1 1 2 Orosco p 0 0 0 0 Davis 1b 3 0 1 0 Hernandez 1b 4 1 2 0 Bass rf 3 0 0 0 Carter c 4 1 0 0 Cruz lf 3 0 1 1 Strawberry rf 4 1 2 3 Ashby c 4 0 0 0 Knight 3b 4 0 1 0 Reynolds ss 2 1 1 0 Teufel 2b 3 0 0 0 Lopes ph 1 0 0 0 Backman 2b 1 1 1 0 Kerfeld p 0 0 0 0 Santana ss 3 0 0 0 Smith p 0 0 0 0 Heep ph 1 0 0 0 Knepper p 3 0 0 0 Darling p 1 0 0 0 Thon ss 1 0 0 0 Mazzilli ph 1 0 1 0 Aguilera p 0 0 0 0 Dykstra ph-c 2 1 1 2 TOTALS 32 5 8 5 TOTALS 36 6 10 5 Houston 220 000 100 -- 5 8 1 New York 000 004 002 -- 6 10 1 E-Reynolds, Knight. DP-Houston 0, New York 1. HR-Doran (1), Strawberry (1), Dykstra (1). SB-Hatcher 2 (3), Bass (2). S-Hatcher. HOUSTON ip h r er bb k Knepper 7.0 8 4 3 0 3 Kerfeld 1.0 0 0 0 0 1 Smith L, 0-1 0.1 2 2 2 0 0 NEW YORK ip h r er bb k Darling 5.0 6 4 4 2 5 Aguilera 2.0 1 1 0 2 1 Orosco W, 1-0 2.0 1 0 0 1 2 Umpires - Pulli (HP), Rennert (1b), West (2b), Brocklander (3b), Harvey (LF), Weyer (RF). Time-2:55. Att.-55,052.
Game 4 at New York - Astros 3, Mets 1
Sunday, October 12th
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
Houston 0 2 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 - 3 4 1
New York 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 - 1 3 0
Win - Scott. Loss - Fernandez.
HR - Ashby, Thon.
Time - 2:23. Attendance - 55,038.
NEW YORK - The Astros proved in Game 4 Sunday night that they are still very much alive in the National League Championship series.
Alive because of the lively pitches thrown by Mike Scott.
Call it a split-fingered fastball. Call it a scuff pitch. Whatever it's called, the Mets couldn't have touched it with a 10-foot Louisville Slugger in the Astros' 3-1 victory at Shea Stadium. The victory tied the best-of-seven series at two games.
A day after shocking the Astros with a 6-5 ninth-inning victory in Game 3, the Mets were baffled for the second time in the series by Scott. Pitching on three days rest for the first time since Aug. 2, he threw a three-hitter to become the first pitcher in league championship series history to throw two complete-game victories.
"God couldn't have pitched better than Scott did tonight," said second baseman Wally Backman, who maintained that Scott threw an illegally defaced ball.
But his teammate, Keith Hernandez, called the pitch legal.
"When Bruce Sutter was with the Cubs, he had the best split-fingered fastball I ever saw," said Hernandez, the Mets' first baseman. "But tonight, Scott's was even better than Sutter's. Mike pitched great. He painted the plate with it. And you couldn't read the seams like you could in Game 1. Believe me when I tell you that he had better stuff than he did in Game 1."
Hard as it is to believe, it was true.
Scott, who was overpowering in striking out a National League playoff series record-tying 14 in Game 1, recorded only five strikeouts. The 19 strikeouts are a record for a championship series. He gave up two less hits in game 1, sticking with his split-fingered fastball almost exclusively after the fifth inning.
"I didn't have the good fastball I had in the first game, so I wanted to keep the ball in the ballpark," said Scott. "That's why I went mostly with the split-finger. They had some good home-run hitters coming up in the late innings. I wanted to keep the ball away, keep it down and keep it in the ballpark."
Scott did all that -- with 15 ground ball outs -- and he kept the Astros in the series.
"We knew what had to be done," said Astros manager Hal Lanier. "We had to win tonight. We knew if we didn't win, we'd be down 3-1 and we'd be seeing Dwight tomorrow."
Scott didn't surrender a hit until Ray Knight's fifth-inning single, which was the first well-hit ball for the Mets. But by that time, the Astros had two very well-hit balls. Alan Ashby drilled a two-run homer in the second, and Dickie Thon added a home run in the fifth.
"I took the loss Saturday hard," said Ashby, whose first homer of the series gave him eight for the year, including five game-winners.
"I guess I tend to blame myself because, after all, I did call the pitch that Len Dykstra hit. And all day I was thinking about how we had to win three out of four to win the series. So it was satisfying for me to hit the homer. Now, we know it's going back to Houston."
The homers were two of the three hits given up by Mets' starter Sid Fernandez, the loser. He should have celebrated his 24th birthday Sunday, but the celebrating was held to a minimum.
"Sid's problem is that he took a little off the fastball against Ashby," said Mets manager Davey Johnson. "That was a critical blow."
The homer followed a critical misplay.
The Mets should have been out of the second inning when Ashby put the Astros ahead, 2-0. Two pitches before the homer, he hit a catchable pop-up in the first row of seats behind third base. But shortstop Rafael Santana failed to reach into the stands for the ball and the third out, and Ashby received a reprieve. Davis led off the inning with a single, so the uncaught foul ball was especially damaging.
"Raf made a mistake," said Johnson, "He called for it, when it was Ray Knight's play. Raf was not in position to make the catch. We don't make many of those kinds of mistakes."
Houston AB R H BI New York AB R H BI Doran 2b 4 0 0 0 Dykstra cf 4 0 1 0 Hatcher cf 4 0 0 0 Backman 2b 4 0 0 0 Garner 3b 3 0 0 0 Hernandez 1b 4 0 0 0 Walling ph-3b 1 0 1 0 Carter c 4 0 0 0 Davis 1b 3 1 1 0 Strawberry rf 3 0 0 0 Bass rf 3 0 0 0 Wilson lf 3 1 1 0 Cruz lf 4 0 0 0 Knight 3b 3 0 1 0 Ashby c 3 1 1 2 Santana ss 2 0 0 0 Thon ss 3 1 1 1 Heep ph 0 0 0 1 Scott p 3 0 0 0 Sisk p 0 0 0 0 Fernandez 1 0 0 0 Mazzilli ph 1 0 0 0 McDowell p 0 0 0 0 Johnson ph 1 0 0 0 Elster ss 0 0 0 0 TOTALS 31 3 4 3 TOTALS 30 1 3 1 Houston 002 010 000 -- 3 4 1 New York 000 000 010 -- 1 3 0 E-Scott. 2B-Walling. HR-Ashby (1), Thon (1). SB-Backman (1). SF-Heep. HOUSTON ip h r er bb k Scott W, 2-0 9.0 3 1 1 0 5 NEW YORK ip h r er bb k Fernandez L, 0-1 6.0 3 3 3 1 5 McDowell 2.0 0 0 0 0 1 Sisk 1.0 1 0 0 1 0 Umpires - Rennert (HP), West (1b), Brocklander (2b), Harvey (3b), Weyer (LF), Pulli (RF). Time-2:23. Att.-55,038.
Game 5 at New York - Mets 2, Astros 1 (12)
Tuesday, October 14th
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 101112 R H E
Houston 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 - 1 9 1
New York 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 - 2 4 0
Win - Orosco. Loss - Kerfeld.
HR - Strawberry.
Time - 3:45. Attendance - 54,986.
NEW YORK - Wally Backman was leading off second base, with one out in the 12th inning of Game 5 of the National League Championship Series against the Astros on Tuesday, when Gary Carter stepped up to the plate.
"I don't know if I had a premonition or not," said Backman, the Mets' second baseman. "But I wanted Gary to get the hit so bad, I could almost see him do it."
Seconds later, Carter did it.
Mired in a 1-for-21 playoff batting slump, the Mets' catcher singled up the middle to score Backman with the winning run in New York's 2-1 victory at Shea Stadium. The Mets have a 3-2 lead in the best-of-seven series.
"Gary Carter's the hero and I'm the goat," said Astros' reliever Charlie Kerfeld, who gave up the winning hit after putting Backman in scoring position with a wild pickoff throw. "That's life. As a reliever, some days you're on top of the world, and some days you're at the bottom. Today, I'm at the bottom."
The Mets are one victory from ascending to the top of the National League. They can clinch their first World Series appearance since 1973 with a victory Wednesday afternoon in Game 6 of the best-of-seven series. Bob Ojeda, who won Game 2 for the Mets, will go for the clincher against Bob Knepper in the Astrodome at 2:05.
"It's not a comfortable feeling," said Mets manager Davey Johnson, talking about a return to Houston. "The Astros don't give up. They fight tooth and nail. They'll have two fine pitchers going against us, who are each able to beat us. We'll have to play real well to beat them."
The fact that the Mets are in position to end the series is amazing. They were held to two hits in nine innings by Nolan Ryan, who struck out eight of the first 12 men he faced. They received a huge break in the second inning when a disputed call at first base went their way and cost the Astros a run. They got another break when the Astros took themselves out of scoring position with a base-running blunder in the eighth. But the biggest break of all came when they got a big hit from a guy who was batting .048 with one RBI in the playoffs.
"I'd just like to thank the good Lord for hanging in there with me," said Carter, who did not have a hit in his last 15 at-bats until the single. "It's about time. There really is justice in this world."
Justice for Carter, yes. But none for Ryan. He threw a Fall Classic performance, only to see his teammates waste several scoring chances against Dwight Gooden. Ryan, who lost Game 2 and his previous regular-season starts to the Mets, struck out 12 and did not allow a hit until the seventh. But it was a big hit. Darryl Strawberry's homer just cleared the right-field wall and tied the game at 1.
"That was as good a game as Mike Scott threw against us Sunday (a three-hit, 3-1, complete-game victory), if not better," said Backman, who struck out three times, but singled with one out in the 12th. "When I struck out in the ninth, I couldn't have hit Nolan's pitch with a 4-by-4. He was just mowing us down."
Ryan, who walked only one batter, took his non-decision philosophically.
"I gave us an opportunity to win," he said. "And we didn't take advantage of it. Sometimes, it doesn't work out in your favor."
The game's crucial call didn't go the Astros' way, either. In the second, with Kevin Bass on third and Jose Cruz on first, Craig Reynolds appeared to clearly beat out a double-play ball, thanks to a slow pivot by shortstop Rafael Santana. Bass would have scored the first run of the game, but first-base umpire Fred Brocklander called Reynolds out. He ruled that Reynolds' foot was above the bag and not on it when Santana's relay arrived to Keith Hernandez.
"I saw the replay," said Brocklander. "I go with my call. It was a bang-bang play, as close to a tie as you'll get."
Said Reynolds: "If he said he saw the replay, then all I can say is that he missed it twice."
Said Astros manager Hal Lanier: "If it goes our way, we would have won in nine."
The Astros scored in a similar situation in the fifth. Bill Doran beat out a possible double play when Backman had trouble getting the ball out of his glove on his flip to Santana. But Doran was easily doubled off second with one out in the eighth, thinking that Denny Walling's liner to left would drop in front of Mookie Wilson. In all, the Astros left seven men on, including runners at first and second in the 10th.
"Once again, we didn't get the big RBI when we needed it," said Lanier, whose team has outhit the Mets in the series. "If we did, we would have won the game in nine."
And they wouldn't be facing elimination.
Houston AB R H BI New York AB R H BI Doran 2b 4 0 1 1 Dykstra cf 5 0 0 0 Hatcher cf 3 0 1 0 Backman 2b 5 1 1 0 Walling 3b 5 0 1 0 Hernandez 1b 4 0 1 0 Davis 1b 5 0 0 0 Carter c 5 0 1 1 Bass rf 5 0 2 0 Strawberry rf 3 1 1 1 Cruz lf 5 0 1 0 Wilson lf 4 0 0 0 Ashby c 5 1 1 0 Orosco p 0 0 0 0 Reynolds ss 4 0 1 0 Knight 3b 4 0 0 0 Thon ph-ss 1 0 0 0 Santana ss 3 0 0 0 Ryan p 3 0 0 0 Mazzilli ph 1 0 0 0 Puhl ph 1 0 1 0 Elster ss 0 0 0 0 Kerfeld p 0 0 0 0 Gooden p 3 0 0 0 Heep lf 1 0 0 0 TOTALS 41 1 9 1 TOTALS 38 2 4 2 Houston 000 010 000 000 -- 1 9 1 New York 000 010 000 001 -- 2 4 0 E-Kerfeld. DP-Houston 0, New York 2. 2B-Ashby. HR-Strawberry (2). SB-Hatcher. HOUSTON ip h r er bb k Ryan 9.0 2 1 1 1 12 Kerfeld L, 0-1 2.1 2 1 1 1 3 NEW YORK ip h r er bb k Gooden 10.0 9 1 1 2 4 Orosco W, 2-0 2.0 0 0 0 0 2 Sisk 1.0 1 0 0 1 0 Umpires - West (HP), Brocklander (1b), Harvey (2b), Weyer (3b), Pulli (LF), Rennert (RF). Time-3:45. Att.-54,986.
Game 6 at Houston - Mets 7, Astros 6 (16)
Wednesday, October 15th
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 101112 131415 16 R H E
New York 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 3 0 0 0 0 1 0 3 - 7 11 0
Houston 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 2 - 6 11 1
Win - Orosco. Loss - Lopez.
HR - Hatcher.
Time - 4:42. Attendance - 45,718.
HOUSTON - Just when you thought you had seen everything a baseball playoff could offer, you hadn't seen anything until you watched the sixth game of the National League Championship Series on Wednesday.
Game 6 between the Mets and the Astros in the Astrodome had it all. It even had an ending, four hours, 42 minutes after it started. And it was a sweet ending for the Mets, who will be playing in the first World Series since 1973.
The longest game in post-season history ended with the Mets winning in 16 emotion-charged innings, 7-6. Fans who said the Mets would win the series in seven games were almost right. It took the team with the best record in baseball this year 6 2/3 games.
"When we got Kevin Bass to strike out to end the game, it was like my brain stopped," said third baseman Ray Knight, the biggest hero on a Mets team of heroes. "I was afraid he would get a hit, and we'd be playing all night. I was numb. It took a second to sink in, that we had won the series. I'm emotionally drained. My legs are still shaking."
Knight, who delivered the game-winning hit in the 16th, might settle down in time to take the Shea Stadium field for Game 1 of the World Series Saturday. Maybe.
"It's going to be very tough for the World Series to match this playoff," said Len Dykstra, the Mets' center fielder who started the heroics with a leadoff triple as a pinch-hitter in the ninth.
The Mets were the best-hitting team in baseball this year, but the worst-hitting team in the playoffs. That trend continued as they were two-hit by Bob Knepper through the first eight innings. It looked like the Astros' three-run first, their biggest inning in the NL playoffs, would stand. And it looked like the stage was set for a Game 7 showdown Friday between Mike "Great" Scott, the series MVP, and Ron Darling. But down to their last three outs, the Mets battled back to tie the game and send it into extra innings.
Knight's RBI sacrifice fly with one out in the ninth off reliever Dave Smith bought the Mets extra innings to settle the series without a final confrontation with Scott. The former Astro's RBI single seven innings later drove in Darryl Strawberry, assuring the Mets that they would not have to face the man who played tricks with the ball on their minds in Games 1 and 4.
"Amen," said Met manager Davey Johnson. "I feel like I've been pardoned."
"Scott held us to one run in 18 innings. I would have had no bullpen tomorrow. Basically, Ron Darling would have had to have pitched all nine innings. It would have been tough."
"I'm not ashamed of our bullpen," said Astros reliever Dave Smith, who still was fuming over home plate umpire Fred Brocklander calling his one-ball, two-strike fastball to Ray Knight a ball when the Astros led, 3-2. Knight then hit a sacrifice fly to score the run that sent the game into extra innings. "We had chances to bury the Mets in the two games we lostin New York and in this one. We didn't score the runs when we should have, and that left the Mets in position to catch us."
The Mets' bullpen was tougher than the Astros', and that proved to be the difference in the series. After starter Bob Ojeda left in the fifth trailing, 3-0, Rick Aguilera and Roger McDowell came out of the pen to allow just two hits over the next eight innings.
In the 14th, the Mets made their first bid to win. Strawberry received a gift double when Billy Hatcher and Bill Doran misplayed his towering fly ball with one out. Then Wally Backman drove a single to right. When Bass' throw to the plate sailed high over Alan Ashby's head to the screen, Strawberry scored.
But 4-3 soon became 4-4. With two outs to their name, the Astros tied it when Billy Hatcher drilled a Jesse Orosco fastball into the left-field foul pole screen. For Hatcher, the homer was the ninth of the year, but it wasn't enough. Once again, the Astros' bullpen, which let victories slip away in Games 3 and 5, let the Mets take the lead. Three more runs in the 16th off Aurelio Lopez and Jeff Calhoun sent some of the 45,718 for the exits. But those who stayed almost witnessed the unthinkable.
However, Comeback II fell just short when Orosco, the first reliever in post-season history to win three games in a series, threw Bass six straight sliders and recorded the strikeout with runners at first and second.
"What we got was the big hit and that's what Houston could never get off our relievers," said Dykstra.
Astros manager Hal Lanier couldn't find fault with his relievers or baserunners, who again took the team out of potentially big innings. The biggest blunder came in the first when Ashby missed a bunt attempt and Bass, charging down the line on the squeeze play, was an easy out. Lanier lodged a minor complaint about the way home plate umpire Fred Brocklander called balls and strikes in the fatal ninth, when the Astros felt they had struck out Knight. Brocklander was the umpire who appeared to miss a close play at first in Game 5, costing the Astros a victory.
But in the end, all those points were moot.
"If we had to lose a ballgame, I'm glad it happened the way it did," Lanier said. "And that was to see us go down swinging and battling the way we had the whole year."
He got no arguments in the visitors clubhouse. The Mets won the series with a .189 team batting average.
"What can you say?" said Keith Hernandez.
And then, raising a bottle of champagne, he said it all: "I just don't ever want to go through another playoff series like this."
New York AB R H BI Houston AB R H BI Wilson cf-lf 7 1 1 1 Doran 2b 7 1 2 0 Mitchell lf 4 0 0 0 Hatcher cf 7 2 3 2 Elster ss 3 0 0 0 Garner 3b 3 1 1 1 Hernandez 1b 7 1 1 1 Walling ph-3b 4 0 0 0 Carter c 5 0 2 0 Davis 1b 7 1 3 2 Strawberry rf 5 2 1 0 Bass rf 6 0 1 0 Knight 3b 6 1 1 2 Cruz lf 6 0 1 1 Teufel 2b 3 0 1 0 Ashby c 6 0 0 0 Backman ph-2b 2 1 1 1 Thon ss 3 0 0 0 Santana ss 3 0 1 0 Reynolds ss 3 0 0 0 Heep ph 1 0 0 0 Knepper p 2 0 0 0 McDowell p 1 0 0 0 Smith p 0 0 0 0 Johnson ph 1 0 0 0 Puhl ph 1 0 0 0 Orosco p 0 0 0 0 Anderson p 0 0 0 0 Ojeda p 1 0 0 0 Pankovits ph 1 0 0 0 Mazzilli ph 1 0 0 0 Lopez p 0 0 0 0 Aguilera p 0 0 0 0 Calhoun p 0 0 0 0 Dykstra ph-cf 4 1 2 1 Lopes ph 0 1 0 0 TOTALS 54 7 11 6 TOTALS 56 6 11 6 New York 000 000 003 000 010 3 -- 7 11 0 Houston 300 000 000 000 010 2 -- 6 11 1 E-Bass. DP-New York 0, Houston 2. 2B-Garner, Davis, Hernandez, Strawberry. 3B-Dykstra. HR-Hatcher (1). SB-Doran (2). S-Orosco. SF-Knight. NEW YORK ip h r er bb k Ojeda 5.0 5 3 3 2 1 Aguilera 3.0 1 0 0 0 1 McDowell 5.0 1 0 0 0 2 Orosco W, 3-0 3.0 4 3 3 1 5 HOUSTON ip h r er bb k Knepper 8.1 5 3 3 1 6 Smith 1.2 0 0 0 3 2 Andersen 3.0 0 0 0 1 1 Lopez L, 0-1 2.0 5 3 3 2 2 Calhoun 1.0 1 1 1 1 0 Umpires - Brocklander (HP), Harvey (1b), Weyer (2b), Pulli (3b), Rennert (LF), West (RF). Time-4:42. Att.-45,718.
Information for this page was compiled from Houston Astros media sources. Articles were obtained from archives of the Dallas Morning News. Photos come from a variety of sources, including the New York Mets and "The Greatest Game Ever Played", by Jerry Izenberg.