After a short break, back to game six. This is the final installment of the series.
When baseball went to a playoff system in 1969, the playoff round was a best of five, making it impossible for a game six. That changed in 1985 when the current best of seven format began. It proved immediately successful when Toronto won game four of the 1985 ALCS and took a three games to one lead over Kansas City. In previous years that would have put Toronto into the World Series, but the new format required them to win one more. They couldn’t and the Royals won their only World Series that season.
There have been a few good sixth games in ALCS history, but most of the truly memorable ones occurred in the National League. Ozzie Smith’s home run and the “Bartman” game were both game six. But for sheer drama and length, there’s never been anything quite like game six of the 1986 NLCS.
The New York Mets went into game six of the 1986 NLCS up three games to two against the Houston Astros. The game was played on Wednesday afternoon, 15 October, in Houston. The Astros looked like they were going to tie up the series when they jumped on Mets ace Bob Ojeda for three runs in the bottom of the first. With a couple of doubles and a couple of singles, Houston forged ahead. The key play of the game occurred in the first, when Kevin Bass recorded the third out trying to steal home. It ended the scoring for the Astros in the first, and as things turned out one more run would have been critical.
For eight innings the Astros held New York in check. Starter Bob Knepper threw eight shutout innings to bring the game to the top of the ninth and bring Houston within three outs of a game seven. He got one. A triple, a single, and a double gave the Mets two runs and chased Knepper. A sacrifice fly tied the game and Bass’s base running blunder now brought on extra innings.
And it brought on extra inning after extra inning. The game went on for 4 hours and 42 minutes. Not being a particular fan of either team, I was, by the end, beginning to root for it to go 18 so I could get in a strange double-header. I thought the Mets were going to mess it up for me when they scored a run in the 14th, but Billy Hatcher homered in the bottom of the inning to give me another chance at my hoped for double-header.
The fifteenth was scoreless, then the Mets scored three on a double, two singles, two wild pitches, and a sacrifice fly. Up 7-4 it looked like World Series time for the Mets. Houston decided not to make it easy. On a couple of singles and a walk, the Astros got two runs back, then Kevin Bass came to the plate with two outs. He struck out to end the game, the series, and my shot at a double-header. The Mets went on to win the World Series.
It was more an interesting than exciting game for most of the time. There was the drama extra innings always gives, but for much of the game it looked like the Mets were in trouble. They made it exciting finally in the ninth, then it became a long drama through a 14th inning tie then the finale of the Astros getting within one run to send it to sixteen. The game had some individually good performances. Jesse Orosco picked up the win, his third in the series, Knepper threw eight shutout innings before losing it in the ninth. Ray Knight had two critical RBIs, and Glenn Davis and Billy Hatcher both had three hits for the Astros, one of Hatcher’s being the game’s only home run. Then there was Kevin Bass who went one for six with the out at home and Astros manager Hal Lanier who left Knepper in to start the ninth.
It was a heck of a game, and a heck of a game to end this series on. I still wish I’d gotten that double header out of it. Oh, well.