Mets Playoff History: 1986 NLCS battle of expansion teams
By Tim Boyle
The New York Mets and Houston Astros came into Major League Baseball together. In 1986, the two expansion teams from 1962 battled it out in the NLCS.
The New York Mets and Houston Astros aren’t really rivals anymore like they could have been. Each was an expansion team in 1962, linking the pair. Back then, the Houston team went by the nickname, Colt .45s.
Now as the Astros and in the American League, the two only face each other once every few seasons. Thank goodness because their franchise is an absolute powerhouse in modern times.
Long before Jose Altuve, George Springer, and the ageless Justin Verlander were pitching in Houston, the Mets and Astros went to battle in the 1986 NLCS. It was Houston’s third trip to the postseason. As we heard plenty in 2017 when they won a championship, it would take more than another 30 years to win it all.
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In this particular season, the buzzsaw they ran into called New York home. The two teams squared off in a Best of 7 series with some unique connections.
Two of the top starters on Houston that year were former Mets. In separate notably bad trades by the Mets, this pair of left New York for a brighter future.
The more famous of the two, Nolan Ryan, is the all-time strikeout leader who in 1986 pitched as a 39-year-old. He won 12 regular season games for the Astros, delivering a 3.34 ERA and 194 strikeouts.
Even better in this particular year, Mike Scott was the 1986 National League Cy Young winner. Behind 18 wins and a 2.22 ERA, he led the league with an outstanding 306 strikeouts.
Scott nearly came back to haunt the Mets. The only two games the Astros won were ones he started. Scott pitched a pair of complete games and allowed only a single run. The performance was enough to earn him the NLCS MVP—even with his team ultimately taking the L.
Fortunately for New York, they managed to keep the rest of the games close. Bob Ojeda was able to beat Ryan in Game Two. In their other victories in Games Three, Five, and Six, the bullpen was forced to take over.
Scott may have won two games for the Astros, but Jesse Orosco amazingly won three of them for the Mets. He did so with a total of 8 relief innings, the last two of which came in extra innings. Without him, Houston may have gotten the better of the orange and blue boys.
As all Mets fans fondly remember, the victory put them in the World Series where they faced the Boston Red Sox. The Astros, meanwhile, didn’t make it back to the postseason again until 1997 where they dropped all three games they played. They failed to advance beyond the NLCS until 2004. After defeating the Atlanta Braves three games to two, they dropped Game Seven against the St. Louis Cardinals in the NLCS.
Another important Mets connection, the 2004 postseason included an epic performance from Carlos Beltran. His .455 batting average and 4 home runs in the NLDS were enough to take down Atlanta. Unfortunately, another 4 dingers and a .417 average against St. Louis was not enough.
For what it’s worth, the 2004 Astros also included ex-Mets teammates Jeff Kent and Jose Vizcaino. Linked from the start, it seems the Mets and Astros have crossed paths in a variety of ways over the years.
The next time the Mets and Astros faceoff in the postseason will need to happen in the World Series. With Houston now in the American League, we won’t get a revenge series anytime soon.
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Back in 1986, the Mets ended a long drought of postseason-less baseball in the franchise’s history. It began with a series versus the Astros, the team they came into Major League Baseball with.