Going into Game 6 of their National League Championship with the Houston Astros, the Mets knew it was now or never if they wanted a shot at their second title.
Astros ace Mike Scott had baffled Davey Johnson's Mets in Game 1 and Game 4, and he was set to pitch the decider, should the series go the distance. He had struck out 14 batters in a complete game shutout to open the series, and he followed it up with nine innings of one-run ball. They didn't want to test their luck a third time, especially in the Astrodome where they had lost four of their last five meetings with Houston.
And so it came down to Bob Ojeda squaring off against Bob Knepper. Little did they know it then, but Oct. 15, 1986, would go down as one of the biggest games in the club's history.
The Astros plated three runs on four hits in the bottom of the first inning and Knepper shone for the Astros, giving up just two hits and a walk through the first eight innings.
Then, as became the theme for the Mets in the playoffs in '86, they rallied late. Lenny Dykstra led off the ninth with a pinch hit triple and he scored on Mookie Wilson's RBI single to right. Keith Hernandez doubled Wilson home to cut the lead to 3-2 and, after Dave Smith came in and loaded the bases on back-to-back walks, Ray Knight tied things up with a sac fly to right field.
After four relatively uneventful extra innings, the Mets took their first lead of the game on Wally Backman's single in the 14th inning, only to see Houston center fielder Billy Hatcher hit a solo shot deep down the left field line.
Two innings later the drama began all over again. The Mets plated two runs on a double, RBI single, walk, and two wild pitches before the Astros could retire a batter in the 16th inning.
Darryl Strawberry doubled and Knight scored him on a base hit to right, advancing to second on the throw home. Jeff Calhoun replaced Aurelio Lopez but threw an 0-2 wild pitch to Backman to move Knight to third, and Backman dug in and drew a nine-pitch walk.
Calhoun then threw another wild pitch to closer Orosco that scored Knight from third, and Orosco then dropped down a perfect sacrifice bunt on the following pitch to get Backman to third. Dykstra joined the party with an RBI single to right, and only Mookie Wilson's ground ball double play stopped the damage.
After more than four-and-a-half hours, the Mets were were once again just three outs away from a trip to the World Series.
But three singles and a walk later and the Astros were threatening not only to rally again, but to win the game and force a decider. The Astros cut the deficit to 7-6 and they had runners on first and second with two out. Kevin Bass had worked the count full against Orosco, but the Mets reliever recorded his fifth, and most important strikeout of the day, to send the team into a frenzy.
It took 16 innings, 430 pitches, and 4:42 hours, but the Mets were finally on their way back to Shea to host the Red Sox.