When the Mets set an Opening Day home run record in 1988
By Tim Boyle
The championship-hopeful 1988 New York Mets started the season with a bang by smacking a record six home runs on Opening Day.
In 1988, expectations were high for the New York Mets. The team was not long removed from winning the 1986 World Series. With the roster still mostly intact, it was time for this core to lead them to another championship.
Of course, we now know this isn’t what would happen. The Mets were bounced in the NLCS versus the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Long before that sports tragedy, the team opened the 1988 season with a big offensive showing versus the Montreal Expos on April 4, 1988.
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On the mound for the Mets, Dwight Gooden. Opposing him, we had Dennis Martinez. Two great starters of the era would begin the year for their respective clubs. Who would come out as the winner?
Lenny Dykstra led off the game with a walk but was picked off first base. Tim Teufel followed up with a single. He was then erased when Keith Hernandez grounded into a double play.
In the first inning, the Expos escaped the danger. They wouldn’t be so lucky in the later innings.
Gooden wasn’t so lucky in the bottom of the first inning. Following a Mitch Webster triple, former Met Hubie Brooks singled to drive him in. Montreal took an early lead.
The celebration in Canada did not last long. Darryl Strawberry led off the second inning with a home run. The game was tied again and the offense had officially woken up.
The Mets scored again in the third on a Kevin McReynolds single. One inning later, Kevin Elster extended the lead with a home run. It was the second dinger of the day for New York and not even halfway to where they would be by the end of the game.
The game remained tied throughout and by the top of the sixth inning, we were tied up at 4. Former Expos catcher Gary Carter began this inning with a single. Two straight outs looked like it would not amount to anything.
That’s when Davey Johnson went to his bench and pinch-hit for Gooden. While a solid hitter for a pitcher, Dave Magadan was indeed the better option. He drew a walk which then led to the big blow of the game.
With two on and two out, Dykstra hit a three-run bomb against Martinez. The Mets took the 7-4 lead. There was now no looking back.
Now with three home runs on the day, the Mets went into the 7th inning leading 7-4. Strawberry and McReynolds went back-to-back against Expos reliever Randy St. Claire. McReynolds hit his second of the game in the top of the 9th for a nail in the coffin and 10-6 lead.
This score would hold through the bottom of the inning with the Mets taking the first game of the season versus their National League East rivals.
At the time, no other team had ever hit six home runs in a game on Opening Day. The 2018 Chicago White Sox later tied it in 2018 with the Dodgers breaking the record in 2019 with eight home runs of their own.
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The record held for more than thirty years. Hopefully, future Mets teams find a way to get it back.