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The Stretch Run: Dwight Gooden's 1985 season, September-October

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Doc finished his historic 1985 campaign with six spectacular starts.

Dwight Gooden
Dwight Gooden
Getty Images/Getty Images

To catch up on the first five months of Dwight Gooden's remarkable 1985 season, read the first part and the second part of our series.

When they went to Dodger Stadium on September 6 to begin a three-game weekend series, the Mets had not lost a game since Dwight Gooden’s last start in San Francisco on August 31. Yet, the team was still 1.5 games back of the first-place St. Louis Cardinals in the NL East. Friday night’s pitching matchup would be the third contest of the year between ace pitchers Gooden and Fernando Valenzuela, and the game would live up to expectations.

Gooden pitched nine shutout innings, fanning 10 batters while walking none and giving up only five hits. He left the game in a 0-0 deadlock, as Valenzuela would go on to pitch 11 shutout innings before leaving the game for a pinch hitter. The Mets finally broke the stalemate in the 13th on Darryl Strawberry’s two-run, two-out double off of Tom Niedenfuer. The Dodgers loaded the bases with two outs in the bottom of the inning, but Jesse Orosco got Bill Madlock to pop out to first base to secure the Mets’ fifth straight win.

New York pulled even in the standings with St. Louis by the time the two teams met each other at Shea for a three-game showdown beginning on September 10. The Mets won the first game, 5-4, to take a one-game lead in the NL East. The middle game of the series on September 11 featured another battle of aces as Gooden matched up with the Cards’ John Tudor.

For the second straight time, Doc left the game after nine innings in a 0-0 tie. Cesar Cedeno hit a leadoff home run in the tenth off Orosco for the game’s only run. Tudor threw a 10-inning shutout, limiting the Mets to three hits. The loss proved especially painful, as it prevented a sweep by the Mets, who won the third game, 7-6, on a walk-off single by Keith Hernandez.

On September 16, Gooden pitched his seventh complete game shutout of the season, fanning 11 Phillies as the Mets won easily, 9-0, at Shea. He also went 2-for-4 at the plate, including a two-RBI double in the fifth inning.

Doc’s hitting heroics peaked during his next start on Saturday afternoon, September 21, against the Pirates at Shea, when he hit a three-run home run to left off Rick Rhoden to cap a seven-run first inning for the Mets in a 12-1 laugher. It was Gooden’s first career home run, which can be seen here.

The only reason Gooden didn’t pitch a complete game against the Pirates that day was because he didn’t need to, leaving after eight innings with the game well in hand. It was his 22nd victory of the season, his last home start, and the team’s 90th win of the season.

Gooden could really hit well, as evidenced by his eight career home runs (seven for the Mets). He had three hits in this game and four RBI, giving him five hits and six RBI over his previous two starts. In September and October of 1985, Doc went 8-for-19 at the plate, with a home run and eight RBI. He went 21-for-93 on the season, good for a .226/.265/.280 batting line with one home run and nine RBI.

Doc defeated the Cubs for the fifth time that year, 3-0, at Wrigley Field on September 26. It was his eighth shutout of the season, and fifteenth complete game. Dr. K had seven punchouts on the day, and contributed an RBI single in the fourth inning.

The Mets came to St. Louis needing to sweep a three-game series to pull even with the Cardinals heading into the final weekend. New York won the first-game, 1-0, on Darryl Strawberry’s home run off Ken Dayley in the eleventh inning, which hit off the clock beyond the right field wall in Busch Stadium. This majestic and memorable home run can be seen here.

The second game of the series, played on October 2, matched Gooden against 21-game winner Joaquin Andujar. The Mets took an early 2-0 lead, the second run scoring on Gooden’s RBI fielder’s choice ground out in the second.

They then broke the game open with two runs in the seventh to go ahead 5-1 after George Foster homered to lead off the inning. The lead seemed safe until the Cards gave the Mets a scare in the bottom of the ninth: St. Louis mounted a two-out rally including two walks and two singles to score a run, bringing the winning run to the plate. However, Gooden got Tom Herr to line out to second for the final out of the game.

The victory gave Doc a 24-4 record on the season, and a 1.53 ERA. The two runs he gave up in this game were the only two earned runs he surrendered in 53 innings over all of September and October, good for a 0.34 ERA over that time. It was Gooden’s sixteenth complete game of the year, and his 10 strikeouts made it his eleventh double-digit-strikeout game of 1985. He finished with 268 strikeouts on the year.

The Mets were one game behind St. Louis, and Doc was in line to pitch a potential tiebreaker game at Shea on Monday, October 7. Unfortunately, that one-game playoff never happened. The Redbirds beat the Mets, 4-3, in the last game of a three-game series in St. Louis, and clinched the division Saturday, when they defeated the Cubs while the Mets lost to the Expos at Shea. St. Louis won the NL East with 101 wins, to the Mets’ 98.

Gooden won the NL Cy Young Award easily that fall, garnering all 24 first-place votes and finishing far ahead of second-place finisher John Tudor. Gooden even placed fourth in the MVP voting.

The Hall of Fame seemed a sure thing for Doc at that point, but, sadly, cocaine addiction and arm injuries would derail him, and he would not even reach 200 career victories. However, that does not diminish the memory of his 1985 season. It was truly a year for the ages.