The legacy of the 1986 New York Mets came down to one game, played 30 years ago today -- Game 7 of the World Series against the Boston Red Sox. Two days before, the Mets were down to their last strike, down two runs with two outs in the 10th inning, but rallied to win Game 6 with three runs, the last coming home on Bill Buckner’s error.
But as baseball goes, a new day turned the scoreboard back to 0-0 and the Mets fell behind very quickly in Game 7. Dwight Evans and Rich Gedman started the second inning with back-to-back home runs against Ron Darling and Wade Boggs’ RBI single made it 3-0.
This seemed like a gargantuan deficit, given that Red Sox starter Bruce Hurst (pitching on three days' rest) had already dominated the Mets twice in the series. For five innings, he did so again.
In the fourth inning, Mets manager Davey Johnson realized that he couldn’t leave Darling out there to escape jam after jam and he replaced Darling with lefty Sid Fernandez.
This move helped turn the game around. After a walk, Fernandez retired seven consecutive hitters, keeping the Mets within three runs as the bottom of the sixth began.
When Rafael Santana grounded out, the Mets’ win probability dropped to 12 percent. It began its steep upward climb when Lee Mazzilli (pinch hitting for Fernandez) and then Mookie Wilson singled and Tim Teufel walked.
That loaded the bases for one of the best clutch hitters in baseball, Keith Hernandez, whose two-run single off Hurst cut the Red Sox's lead to 3-2. The Mets tied the game in an odd way, when Gary Carter’s fly ball was trapped by Evans. Wally Backman (running for Teufel) scored the tying run, though Hernandez was thrown out at second.
All even, the game turned into a three-inning showdown. The Red Sox went down 1-2-3 against Roger McDowell in the top of the seventh and the Mets made their move to win in the bottom of the inning.
Ray Knight, who had gotten so many big hits for the Mets all season, homered to left center off Calvin Schiraldi, to put the Mets ahead. They scored twice more on an RBI single by light-hitting shortstop Rafael Santana and a sacrifice fly by Hernandez.
Now it was the Red Sox's turn to respond, trailing 6-3 in the top of the eighth, and they did so with three hits and two runs, which scored on Evans' double. In came Jesse Orosco for a six-out save bid and Orosco got out of the inning by getting Gedman to line out, Dave Henderson to strike out swinging and Don Baylor to ground out.
But the Mets got the putaway runs. Darryl Strawberry, removed from Game 6 in a late double-switch, homered to lead off the bottom of the eighth and deliberately trotted around the bases. The last run came in surprise fashion. Orosco faked a bunt, pulled the bat back and chopped a single to center field to make it 8-5.
It’s often forgotten what happened next -- Wilson leapt of the way of a low inside fastball, the same way he did in Game 6. But this one would hit him, whereas the one in Game 6 went to the backstop, scoring the tying run in the 10th inning. Oh, what a few inches did to Wilson’s baseball fate.
All that was left was the ending and Orosco made it easy, popping up Ed Romero, getting Boggs to ground out. The last Red Sox batter was Marty Barrett, who flailed at a high, outside fastball for strike three. Orosco went to his knees and threw his glove in the air, as teammates piled on him in celebration of a championship for the greatest team in Mets history.
Did you know?
Orosco had the last six-out save in Game 7 of a World Series until Giants pitcher Madison Bumgarner was credited with a 15-out save in Game 7 of the 2014 World Series against the Royals.
Hernandez also had a key hit in Game 7 of the 1982 World Series for the Cardinals. He’s one of four players to have multiple RBIs in Game 7 of a World Series more than once. The others are all Yankees: Mickey Mantle (three times), Moose Skowron (twice) and Yogi Berra (twice).
Two players have hit game-winning home runs in the seventh inning or later of a winner-take-all World Series game: Bill Mazeroski (1960, Pirates) and Knight.
The Red Sox suffered a similar fate in Game 7 of the 1975 World Series, blowing a 3-0 lead to the Reds. Three teams have rallied from a three-run deficit in the sixth inning or later of Game 7 of a World Series: The 1960 Pirates, the 1975 Reds and the 1986 Mets.