What if Ron Darling came up with a huge start for the New York Mets in Game Seven of the 1988 NLCS? Let’s rewrite some history.
For sports fans, there are two types of games that tend to stick with us. There are the ones where the team loses in heartbreaking fashion late and the kind where you never seemed to have a chance. In Game Seven of the 1988 NLCS, New York Mets fans experienced the latter.
In our series of rewriting Mets history, we’re going to take a look at a different outcome for this game. What if things played out a little differently and Mets starter Ron Darling came up big in this outing?
Some games have a moment or two where we could envision a different ending. This game didn’t have a single error, a big strikeout, or a black cat run on the field. The Los Angeles Dodgers clobbered Darling for a full inning and their starting pitcher, Orel Hershiser, did what he had to against the Amazins’ bats.
In this 6-0 Mets loss, Darling surrendered a run in the first and five more in the second inning. Dwight Gooden came into the game as a relief pitcher before Darling even recorded an out in the second frame. While Gooden didn’t give up any earned runs credited to his ERA, he did allow inherited runners to cross the plate. One of them was on the second error of the inning.
This disappointing Mets loss went beyond just the performance of Darling. Two big errors and a goose egg for the visiting team from Flushing all resulted in a terrible day in New York sports history. We should also give credit to Hershiser who seemed like he could do no wrong in 1988.
Somewhere in a parallel universe, Darling goes toe-to-toe with Hershiser in this deciding Game Seven. He doesn’t go the distance, but he keeps the team in the game. Feeling the pressure, Hershiser makes a mistake.
Alternatively, maybe we see this game head into extra innings in a 0-0 tie. It wouldn’t have been crazy for Hershiser to pitch in the tenth frame. However, he would have to leave at some point. As long as the Mets pitchers could keep things scoreless, they have a chance.
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Winning this game would have put the Mets back where they were two seasons earlier: the World Series. This time, instead of facing the Boston Red Sox, their opponent would be the Oakland Athletics.
The 1988 World Series is famous for a couple of reasons. It’s the last time the Dodgers won a championship. One specific moment, the Game One pinch-hit home run by Kirk Gibson, is an all-time great highlight in MLB history.
A win by the Mets in Game Seven of the NLCS steals this image of Gibson running around the bases pumping his fist. Instead, the series is known for something else.
The Mets won 100 games in 1988 compared to the Athletics who won 104. There’s no question New York would have had a shot at winning it all. The Dodgers handled Oakland quite well, winning the series 4-1.
Two World Series Championships in three years would have certainly had some effect on the future of the Mets. Most notably, the 1986 team that did win it all wouldn’t be nearly as special.
There’s something about a championship team fans adore forever. One-hundred percent of Mets fans would trade this special relationship with the 1986 team if it meant another win in 1988. And they should.
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Winning in 1988 wouldn’t have changed much about the direction of the team. Management still attempted to build a winning ball club in the years after. The biggest change in history is fans in Flushing would hold Darling in even higher regard and there would be another batch of World Series memories.