October 11, 1986: Game Three of the NLCS

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Date: October 11, 1986
Mets starter: Ron Darling
Mets: 6
Astros: 5
Winning pitcher: Jesse Orosco
Key player(s): Darryl Strawberry, Len Dykstra
Key play: Strawberry's and Dykstra's home runs

The Mets and Astros faced each other in the third game of the National League Championship Series on a Saturday afternoon. A Shea Stadium crowd of 55,052 was on hand for the Mets’ first post-season home game in thirteen years. The Mets came from behind for a dramatic 6-5 win over Houston to take a two-games-to-one Series lead.

Billy Hatcher singled with one out in the top of the first inning. Hatcher stole second base and scored on an ensuing single by Denny Walling. A wild pitch by Mets’ starter Ron Darling moved Walling to second base. Darling hit Glenn Davis with a pitch and threw a called third strike past Kevin Bass. A single by Jose Cruz brought home Walling for the second Houston run. Darling then caught Davis off second base with a pickoff throw to shortstop Rafael Santana to end the inning.

Astros’ starter Bob Knepper pitched a perfect bottom of the first. With one out in the top of the second, Craig Reynolds drew a walk. Knepper flied out to left fielder Kevin Mitchell and a home run by Bill Doran extended the Houston lead to 4-0. Hatcher followed with a single and stole second base. Darling fanned Walling to close out the inning. Knepper then held the Mets to a single by Ray Knight in a scoreless bottom half.

Darling and Knepper each hurled scoreless ball from the third inning to the fifth. Mets’ reliever Rick Aguilera walked Cruz to open the top of the sixth. Ashby hit a ground ball to third baseman Knight for a double play and Reynolds singled to center field. Knepper flied out to center fielder Mookie Wilson to end the inning. Back-to-back singles by Mitchell and Keith Hernandez began the bottom half. Gary Carter reached on an error by shortstop Reynolds that plated Mitchell for the first New York run. Darryl Strawberry hit a three-run homer to tie the game. Knight grounded out to third baseman Walling and a fly ball by Tim Teufel was caught by right fielder Bass. Knepper then retired Santana on an inning-ending fly ball to left fielder Cruz.

Doran drew a walk to open the top of the seventh. Hatcher reached on an error by Knight that advanced Doran to third base. Walling hit a force play grounder to second baseman Teufel to drive home Doran for a 5-4 Astros lead. Aguilera threw a called third strike past Davis and got Bass to fly out to Wilson for the third out of the inning. Knepper hurled a scoreless bottom half. Mets’ reliever Jesse Orosco set down all three batters in the top of the eighth. Houston’s Charlie Kerfeld then pitched a perfect bottom of the inning.

Orosco held the Astros without a run in the top of the ninth. Leading off the bottom half, Wally Backman got a bunt single against Houston reliever Dave Smith. Backman advanced to second base on a passed ball by catcher Ashby and pinch-hitter Danny Heep flied out to center fielder Hatcher. Lenny Dykstra followed by hitting Smith’s second pitch over the right field wall for a home run that ended the game. The Mets had an exciting victory and the lead in the Series.