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On This Date in Sports October 11, 1986: Nails

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The New York Mets rally to stun the Houston Astros 6-5 in Game 3 of the NLCS at Shea Stadium. The Astros had jumped out to a 4-0 lead only to see the Mets tie it in the sixth on a home run by Darryl Strawberry. The Astros scored an unearned run in the seventh and led 5-4 in the ninth when Wally Backman led off with a drag bunt and scored ahead of a walk-off home run by Lenny Dykstra. The Mets, who were befuddled by Mike Scott twice, would win the series in six games to advance to the World Series, where they beat the Boston Red Sox in seven games. 

Heading into the season, Mets manager Davey Johnson proclaimed that they would not win the division they would dominate. His claims were proven true, as the Mets won the division by 21 and a half games by posting a record of 108-54. The Mets rose to the top of the Eastern Divison with an 11-game winning streak in April and never looked back. One of the few moments of adversity came in Houston after the All-Star Break, when four players Bob Ojeda, Ron Darling, Tim Teufel, and Rick Aguilera, were arrested for a scuffle with off-duty cops working as bouncers. The Mets lost three straight that series setting the stage for a postseason showdown with the Astros. 

The Houston Astros behind Hal Lanier won the Western Division with a record of 96-66. They were just as dominant in the second half as the Mets as they pulled away and won the division by ten games. The pitching of Mike Scott was a critical part of Houston's success as he won 18 games and led the league with a 2.22 ERA and 306 strikeouts. The Astros got an unexpected advantage when they got the home field in the NLCS. At the time, the East and West alternated years in hosting Game 7. The East was to host  Games 1, 2, 6, and 7. However, the Oilers were scheduled to play on Sunday against the Chicago Bears. Instead, the middle three games were played in New York, while the Astros got the opening two games and a potential Game 7 at home because of a scheduling conflict. 

The Astros took advantage of the new schedule and won the opener at Astrodome, as Mike Scott outdueled Dwight Gooden 1-0, striking out 14 batters in a complete-game five-hitter. The Mets bounced back to win Game 2 by a score of 5-1 behind Bobby Ojeda and came home with the series tied at a game apiece. 

Game 3 at Shea Stadium started poorly for the Mets as Ron Darling struggled allowed two runs in the first and two runs in the second, with Bill Doran providing the power with a second-inning home run. Bob Knepper, meanwhile, had the Mets off balance for five innings. In the sixth inning, the Mets bats finally woke up as they scored four runs to tie the game, with Darryl Strawberry hitting a majestic three-run homer. The Astros quickly took the lead back as Ray Knight committed an error in the seventh, leading to an unearned run against Rick Aguilera. In the eighth inning, the Mets were frustrated by Charlie Kerfeld, who taunted Gary Carter after he bounced back to the pitcher. Jesse Orosco, meanwhile, kept it a one-run game with two strong innings. 

Down 5-4 in the ninth, the Mets were facing Astros closer Dave Smith. Wally Backman looking to spark his team, laid down a perfect drag bunt. The Astros argued that Backman ran out of the baseline as he slid into first, avoiding the tag. Backman reached second on a passed ball. After pinch hitter Danny Heap flew out to center, the Mets had Lenny Dykstra who pinch-hit in the seventh and stayed in the game. On a 0-1 count, Dykstra made the perfect swing and deposited the ball in the right-field bullpen to send Shea Stadium into delirium as Backman and Dykstra, the Mets two Wild Boys, jumped for joy while circling the bases as the Mets won 6-5. 

The Mets were again shut down by Mike Scott in Game 4, losing 3-1. After a rainout on Columbus Day, the Mets regained control of the series with a 2-1 win in 12 innings in Game 5 as Gary Carter singled up the middle against Charlie Kerfeld to score Wally Backman from second. The game had featured a great pitchers' duel between Nolan Ryan and Dwight Gooden. 

With Mike Scott looming, the Mets trailed 3-0 in Game 6 at the Astrodome, when Lenny Dykstra sparked a three-run rally in the ninth inning with a triple. The Mets would win a 16-inning marathon 7-6, as Jesse Orosco won three games in the series but was denied the MVP by Scott. The Mets would go on to win the World Series, but not before a memorable flight home from Houston.