On October 15, 1986, the NLCS returned to the Astrodome for the deciding games of the best of seven series. Never a place the Mets enjoyed playing, the team's all-time record at the park was 54-90 through the '86 season and with the 'Stros carrying a three-run lead into the ninth inning of Game Six, it seemed like the Mets were doomed for another defeat on the green plastic carpet of the Harris County Domed Stadium. With 1986 Cy Young Award winner Mike Scott taking the mound for Houston in Game Seven, there was feeling among Mets players that a loss would lead to elimination the next day.
Lenny Dykstra opened the ninth with a triple. Mookie Wilson brought him home with a single. A Kevin Mitchell grounder moved Mook to second and he easily scored from there on Keith Hernandez's double one batter later. A pair of walks from Astros reliever Dave Smith loaded the bases for Ray Knight who tied the game with a sacrifice fly.
The Eastern and Western Division champions traded zeroes for the next five innings. Roger McDowell allowed just one hit to the fifteen batters he faced while Wally Backman put the sinkerballer in line for a series-ending win with an RBI single in the top of the 14th. McDowell's co-closer Jesse Orosco couldn't keep it that way, though. With one out in the bottom of the frame, Billy Hatcher made it anyone's ball game once again by pulling a fastball into the left field foul pole netting for a home run. Orosco settled down after that, keeping the Astros off the board for an inning and two-thirds via strikeouts and infield outs.
In the 16th, the Mets plated three runs on two RBI hits and a wild pitch. They'd need every one of them, as Houston rallied yet again. Three singles from Bill Doran, Billy Hatcher, and Glenn Davis brought Kevin Bass to the plate with the tying and winning runs on the corners. Bass worked the count full, but Keith Hernandez, acting as team captain, fan surrogate, and all-around badass, threatened to knock out Orosco if he threw another fastball to the patient outfielder. The lefty listened, broke off a nasty breaking ball, and Bass swung over it. Thus ends the story of how the Mets punched their ticket for a third trip to the World Series.
Lou Klimchock is 73 years old today. Klimchock made five pinch hitting appearances for the Mets in 1966 and went down swinging in three of them. In the other two, he popped out to short and grounded into a double play.
Game of Note
One day after Tommie Agee raced from gap to gap, robbing the Orioles of extra-base hits to left and right, Ron Swoboda added another amazing catch to the Mets' highlight reel in Game Four of the 1969 World Series. With Orioles on first and third and one out in the top of the ninth, Brooks Robinson smashed a sinking line drive that seemed certain to fall outside of Swoboda's range. The burly outfielder surprised everyone, including himself, by breaking on the ball perfectly and swooping in, body fully extended, for a diving grab. Aesthetics aside, the catch went in the box score as a game-tying sacrifice fly, though the Mets would win it 2-1 in the tenth when J.C. Martin's sac bunt attempt turned into a walk-off error.
Amazin'-ly Tenuous Connection
Seventy-three years ago today, the City of New York held a ceremony to dedicate what Time called "the most pretentious land and seaplane base in the world." Known then as Municipal Airport, today named for the mayor who made it happen, La Guardia has been the Mets' next door neighbor since the team moved out to Flushing in 1964. Jets don't soar over Citi Field's airspace nearly as often as they did Shea's, so fans are have to make their own deafening, opponent-distracting roars these days.