One characteristic of the 1986 Mets was their explosiveness. Not only did they dominate with pitching and the ability to manufacture runs, but they could take over a game with one big inning.
On this day in 1986, that inning was the third when the Mets broke through for five runs on consecutive homers from Gary Carter, Darryl Strawberry and Kevin Mitchell en route to a 5-1 victory at Atlanta.
Rick Aguilera gave up eight hits in the complete-game effort.
With the victory the Mets moved to 64-30 as they ran away with the NL East.
Keith Hernandez wasn’t much of a home run hitter, but on this date in 1987, he went deep twice as the Mets pummeled the Chicago Cubs, 13-2, at Wrigley Field.
HERNANDEZ: So smooooth.
The game also featured four hits each from Gary Carter and Kevin McReynolds. Hernandez, Tim Teufel and Rafael Santana drove in three runs apiece, and Dwight Gooden pitched eight innings to earn the victory.
I always liked watching Hernandez play. Whenever I watched the Met from that era, Hernandez was always the guys I’d want at the plate when a clutch hit was needed. Darryl Strawberry was always feared for his power, but Hernandez was the one with the game on the line.
One question I’ll ask Hernandez when I see him next is whether he could have been a home run hitter if he tried to hit for more power. Wade Boggs always said he would hit more homers if that was his mindset, and I believe the same the same would have applied with Hernandez.
Defensively, he was superb, and along with Don Mattingly, New York was blessed to have two premier first basemen during the 1980s.
Hernandez was so smooth at the 3-6-3 double play, and, of course, making the throw to third off a bunt. Nobody made that play better than Hernandez.
The Mets finally recognized the 1986 team this weekend. I’m bad, too. I should have had more on that dynamic team, also. I’ll rectify that beginning today.
DANNY HEEP: Remember him?
The 1986 Mets mauled opponents. They dominated. The steamrolled them. Such as on this date in Pittsburgh with a 10-4 rout that featured 15 hits.
The first four hitters in the order, Mookie Wilson, Wally Backman, Darryl Strawberry and Danny Heep went a combined 9-for-18 with seven runs scored.
The Mets hit only three homers that day – Rick Aguilera, Strawberry and Wilson – to move 20 gaves (35-15) over .500.
Gary Carter and Keith Hernandez were off that day.
Aguilera started and lasted 4.1 innings, and Roger McDowell worked 3.2 innings of relief to earn the victory.
On a side note, Barry Bonds went 0-for-5 for the Pirates.
SWOBODA: One of the Amazins.
There were signs prior to their showdown series against the Cubs that 1969 had the potential to be a breakout, if not special season.
The Mets always had their troubles against the Giants, and finding little ways to win was never their forte. However, on this day in 1969 the Mets completed a three-game sweep of San Francisco at Shea Stadium, winning 5-4 on Ron Swoboda’s bases-loaded walk in the ninth inning.
Swoboda signed with the Mets after playing one year at the University of Maryland, and debuted with the team in 1965. Swoboda hit 15 homers by the All-Star break, but finished the season with 19, then a Mets’ rookie record (broken by Darryl Strawberry in 1983).
For all his strength, Swoboda never became a big time home run hitter and finished his career with 73. He will always be remembered for hitting a pair of two-run homers off Steve Carlton, Sept. 15, 1969, and robbing Brooks Robinson of extra bases with a diving catch in right field in Game 4 of the World Series.
SWOBODA CAREER STATS
When he first broke into the big leagues, they used to say of Darryl Strawberry he had the swing of Ted Williams. However, he never had the plate discipline of Williams, and as great as his numbers were, there was always the belief he could do more.
Strawberry’s career high in homers was 39, accomplished twice. Perhaps the most memorable homer in his career was the 440-foot drive off the scoreboard clock in St. Louis in 1985.
STRAWBERRY: What a sweet swing.
That proved to be overstated, but Strawberry was one of those rare players who grabbed and held your attention whenever he came to the plate. How far would this one go? Would he be punched out?
On this date in 1983, Strawberry hit the first of 335 homers in a career marred by drug use and suspension. Strawberry averaged 34 homers and 102 per 162-game stretch.
In a career oddity, Strawberry played for all the teams with New York roots: the Mets, Dodgers, Giants and Yankees.
Strawberry played out the last years of his career with drug problems and will be remembered as a wasted talent. Had he stayed clean, there’s no telling what his numbers might have been.