April 26, 1985: Darling and Backman Stifle Bucs

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Date: April 26, 1985
Mets starter: Ron Darling
Mets: 6
Pirates: 0
Winning pitcher: Ron Darling
Key player(s): Ron Darling, Wally Backman, Howard Johnson
Key play: Backman’s five hits, Johnson’s single

The Mets faced the Pirates on a Friday night at Shea Stadium. The teams played the opener of a three-game series. Ron Darling pitched a shutout and Wally Backman collected five hits in a 6-0 Mets win over Pittsburgh.

Darling surrendered only a walk to Joe Orsulak in the top of the first inning. Backman singled against Bucs’ starter Jose DeLeon to lead off the bottom half. Wally stole second base and moved to third on a wild pitch. Howard Johnson hit a single to score Backman for a 1-0 Mets lead. Keith Hernandez drew a walk and consecutive strikeouts of Gary Carter and Darryl Strawberry followed. DeLeon then retired Danny Heep on a fly ball to center fielder Orsulak for the third out.

Darling shut down the Pirates in the top of the second. John Christensen drew a walk to open the bottom of the inning. Rafael Santana singled to send Christensen to third base and Darling went down on strikes. Backman hit a single to bring home Christensen with the Mets’ second run and Johnson was struck out. DeLeon then retired Hernandez on a pop-up to third baseman Jim Morrison to close out the inning.

After a scoreless third, Darling yielded only a double to Jason Thompson in the top of the fourth. Christensen walked to open the bottom half. John advanced to second base on Santana’s ground out to Morrison. Darling also grounded out to Morrison and a single by Backman drove home Christensen for a 3-0 Mets lead. Johnson grounded out to second baseman Johnny Ray to end the inning and Darling held the Pirates to a double by Orsulak in the top of the fifth. With two outs in the bottom half, Strawberry homered for the fourth New York run of the game. DeLeon then walked Heep and fanned Christensen for the inning’s final out.

Darling hurled a scoreless top of the sixth. To begin the bottom half, Santana drew a walk and went to second base on a wild pitch. Darling followed with a ground ball on which DeLeon threw to Morrision for an out on Santana. Backman hit a single and Johnson walked to load the bases. Against Pittsburgh reliever Al Holland, Hernandez hit a sacrifice fly to score Darling and increase the Mets’ lead to 5-0. Carter was walked intentionally to reload the bases and Holland retired Strawberry on an inning-ending pop-up to first baseman Thompson. Darling held the Pirates to a walk to pinch-hitter Lee Mazzilli in the top of the seventh. Bucs’ reliever Cecilio Guante then struck out the side in order in the bottom half.

Darling hurled a perfect top of the eighth. Ron hit a double to lead off the bottom of the inning. Backman followed with a double for his fifth hit of the game, scoring Darling with the Mets’ sixth run. Johnson went down on strikes and Hernandez grounded out to shortstop Bill Almon. A passed ball by catcher Tony Pena moved Backman to third base. Guante then got Carter to fly out to right fielder George Hendrick and finish off the inning.

Hendrick flied out to right fielder Christensen to open the top of the ninth. Pena popped out to second baseman Backman and a double by Morrison ensued. Darling then got Almon to ground out to shortstop Santana and bring the game to an end. The Mets had a victory on Ron’s shutout to start the weekend series.