April 24, 1986: Hojo and Foster Come Through in the Clutch

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Date: April 24, 1986
Mets starter: Ron Darling
Mets: 5
Cardinals: 4
Winning pitcher: Roger McDowell
Key player(s): Howard Johnson, George Foster, Roger McDowell
Key play: Johnson’s homer in 9th, Foster’s single in 10th

Riding a five-game winning streak, the Mets began a series against the Cardinals in St. Louis. The Cards’ victory over New York for the East Division title the previous year gave the game (and series) a special atmosphere. Clutch hits from Howard Johnson and George Foster enabled the Mets to win the opener, 5-4, in 10 innings.

The Mets led, 1-0, on a home run by Darryl Strawberry in the second inning. The Cardinals made a scoring bid in the bottom half of the inning, but were stopped when Terry Pendleton was out on a rundown between third and home. Mets’ starter Ron Darling then retired the next ten St. Louis batters.

In the sixth, the Cards broke out with three runs off Darling. An error by Wally Backman allowed Vince Coleman to score. Andy Van Slyke got a single with the bases loaded to bring home Willie McGee and Tommy Herr, putting St. Louis in front. Randy Niemann came in to replace Darling and stopped further scoring.

In the eighth, Gary Carter’s single off Jeff Lahti brought home Len Dykstra. The Cardinals got a run in the bottom half when Herr scored on Foster’s error of Jack Clark’s fly ball. It was a 4-2 St. Louis lead entering the ninth inning.

Hoping to redeem himself, Foster led off the ninth with a double off Tim Conroy. Todd Worrell entered the game to pitch to Ray Knight. The Cardinals’ ace reliever got Knight to ground out. Johnson then blasted a Worrell pitch over the right field wall for a game-tying home run, putting St. Louis in a state of shock. The game went to extra innings.

Backman led off the top of the tenth with a walk and a steal of second base. Following two fly outs and an intentional walk, Foster came to bat. George ripped a single to left, scoring Backman from second to put the Mets in front. Worrell then got Knight out to end the inning.

The Cards had one more shot in the tenth, but failed to score. They had a runner at second with one out, but Roger McDowell struck out Van Slyke and then got Pendleton to ground out to end the ball game. The Mets had their sixth straight win and were off to a good start in a key series against their bitter rivals.