This date in '86: Mike Scott x 2

Over the next three weeks, Mark Simon will reminisce here about the 1986 postseason, which ended in a Mets championship. Here's a capsule look at Game 4 of the 1986 NLCS, played on this date, 25 years ago.

Game 4: Astros 3, Mets 1

Mike Scott, who frustrated the Mets with a 14-strikeout effort in a 1-0 win in Game 1, got fewer whiffs (five) this time around, but was almost as good as he was in the series opener. He pitched his second complete game of the series to beat the Mets and their starter Sid Fernandez at Shea.

Fernandez lost on his 24th birthday, at the time the second pitcher to lose a postseason game on his birthday, joining Brickyard Kennedy of the 1903 Pirates.

It was a frustrating game for the Mets, who collected baseballs in an attempt to prove that Scott was cheating by scuffing the ball. The Mets stockpile was turned away by National League officials. Scott was not just dominating. He was in the heads of the Mets players who knew that if the Astros won one more game, they would see him again in Game 7 of the series.

The Mets didn’t get their first hit until there were two outs in the fifth inning, and by that time, they were already down by three runs, courtesy of home runs by Astros catcher Alan Ashby and shortstop Dickie Thon against Fernandez.

The Mets got the tying run to the plate in the ninth inning, but Scott retired Wally Backman, Keith Hernandez and Gary Carter in order to end the game. The last out left Carter 1-for-17 in the series, and the Mets and Astros tied 2-2.

Turning Point

Ashby’s second-inning foul pop up landed in a temporary photographer seating area, installed specifically for the playoffs. Had that seating area not existed, the foul ball would likely have been caught by Mets third baseman Ray Knight or shortstop Rafael Santana. Instead, Ashby homered and the Mets were down by two runs early.

What They Wrote

“Spotting The Great Scott three runs is like spotting the Chicago Bears three touchdowns.

Forget it.

So, all that remained after the Astros guaranteed everybody a flight back to Houston tomorrow for Game 6, was enough early harvest sour grapes to produce a case of very poor jug wine. How about "Scuffed Ball Cellars" for a label. Chill well and serve in a frosted glass with a symbolic scuff through the ice.”

-- Bill Conlin, Philadelphia Daily News

Quote of the Day

“He paints. He’s a Rembrandt,”

-- Hernandez on Scott

Further Reading

“I could go on stage with David Copperfield with as much as I was supposed to be doing to the ball. I must have been pretty good at it.”

- Scott to author Mike Sowell in the book, One Pitch Away

The definitive book about the 1986 postseason is that one, written in 1995. It recounts the NLCS, ALCS and World Series, then profiles 14 of the key participants, including Scott, Gary Carter, Ray Knight, and Mookie Wilson. It can be found online here.

Stats To Remember

1- The Mets had only four baserunners in the game. That set the mark for the fewest baserunners they’ve ever had in a postseason game. It was tied 20 years later when the Mets lost to the Cardinals 5-0 in Game 3 of the NLCS.

2- Scott became the first pitcher to throw two complete games in an LCS (the LCS began in 1969). Two other pitchers have done it since- Danny Cox for the 1987 Cardinals and Tim Wakefield for the 1992 Pirates. Scott is the only pitcher with multiple postseason complete games against the Mets.

3- The two pitchers who most vexed the Mets in 1986 were both named Mike. Scott beat the Mets twice in the playoffs. Giants ace Mike Krukow, a 20-game winner that year, went 4-0 against the Mets in the regular season.