The Most Heartbreaking Loss in Astros History
On the brink of a Game Seven showdown in the NLCS, and forcing the Mets to face the unhittable Mike Scott, the Astros succumbed in 16 innings to the New York Mets today, 7-6. It will be the Mets, and not the Astros, who will carry the NL banner into the 1986 World Series to face the Boston Red Sox.
For most of this contest, the Astros appeared to have the game well in hand behind eight innings of shutout ball by Bob Knepper. The Astros opened up what would seem like a commanding 3-0 lead with three runs in the first inning off Mets starter Bob Ojeda.
The action began immediately with a lead-off single by second baseman Billy Doran. He would be elminated from the basepaths by a Billy Hatcher fielder’s choice, but Hatcher would score on a Phil Garner (Scrap Iron) double to left center field.
Scraps would score the Astros’ second run on a Glen Davis single, who would take second on a Kevin Bass walk. Davis would score the last Astros run for the next 13 innings on a Jose Cruz single.
Meanwhile, Bob Knepper cruised until the ninth inning, allowing only five hits, with six strikeouts and one walk.
Although considered the third starter on a strong Astros staff behind Mike Scott and Nolan Ryan, he was arguably the Astros’ second best pitcher in this year. He was second in wins behind Mike Scott with 17, second in ERA at 3.14, and second in innings pitched at 258.
Although he had begun to tire at the end of the season, Knepper still had gas in the tank for Game 6 of the NLCS.
Until the ninth inning.
Lenny Dykstra led off the ninth with a triple. He would score on the next at bat on a Mookie Wilson single. Wilson scored with one out on a Keith Hernandez double, a hit which chased Knepper.
Still holding a 3-2 lead, manager Hall Lanier turned to his reliable closer, Dave Smith, to close out the game and hand Game 7 to Mike Scott. Smith had 33 saves in this year, but today Smith walked the first two batters he faced, loading the bases. The Mets would tie the score on a Ray Knight sacrifice fly.
Neither team would score again until the 14th inning. Smith would hold the Mets in the 10th inning, and Larry Anderson would hold them scoreless and hitless from the 11-13th innings.
But the Mets would get to the next Astros pitcher, Aurelio Lopez. Many were confused and distraught by Lanier’s decision to leave the rookie phenom, Charley Kerfeld, on the bench. It turned out to be a mistake.
Catcher Gary Carter led off the inning with a single. He would move to second on a walk to Darryl Strawberry. And then the Mets got their first lead of the game on a Wally Backman single.
In the bottom of the 14th inning, with one out, the Astros miraculously tied the score, Billy Hatcher, who was 7-24 in the series, kept hope alive with one of the most memorable homers in Astros history. On a 3-2 count, Hatcher took an inside fastball from Jesse Orosco to the left field foul pole in the Astrodome.
Until the 16th inning. With Lopez still pitching, Darryl Strawberry led off with a double. Ray Knight chased Lopez with an RBI single, putting the Mets up 5-4.
Jeff Calhoun replaced Lopez, and promptly wild pitched Ray Knight to third. He then walked Wally Backman, followed by another wild pitch scoring Knight. The Mets scored their third run of the inning on a Lenny Dykstra single, giving the Mets a 7-4 lead.
In the future, some might call this the Greatest Game Ever Played. The Astros, who won 96 games this year, did not give up.
With one out and Jesse Orosco pitching his third inning of relief, Davey Lopes walked, and then moved to second on a Doran single. Billy Hatcher continued his heroics with an RBI single, scoring Lopes. Glenn Davis would then single in Doran. But with two outs and a runner on second, Kevin Bass, a .311 hitter for the season, struck out, leaving the Astros one run short, and sitting out the World Series.
It was a heartbreaking end to a glorious season, a season that saw the Astros clinch their division on a no-hitter by Mike Scott. The the Astros have never gone to the World Series, but prospects for 1987 look bright, with Scott, Nolan Ryan, Glenn Davis, Kevin Bass, Billy Doran, Jose Cruz, and almost all of this pennant winning roster returning for another shot.