SAN DIEGO — For one enchanted evening, Met Magic almost became Met Neglect.
The New York Mets--who led by five runs after three innings and by four runs after seven--blew their lead to a Padre team that, for one rare night, looked like the team of 1984.
But 1986 reappeared in the 11th inning when Goose Gossage--in his third inning of relief--gave up two singles and then a sacrifice fly to Keith Hernandez. Garry Templeton led off the Padre 11th with a double. Out of players, Manager Steve Boros had to send up pitcher Craig Lefferts to bat for Gossage, and Lefferts struck out. But Tim Flannery came up and ripped a ball to center. Templeton tried for home, but Len Dykstra's throw from center field was a strike, and Templeton was out.
Meanwhile, Flannery kept running and tried for third, but he also was thrown out.
And so the Mets won, 6-5, on an improbable double play.
But the Padre comeback was just as improbable. For seven innings, New York's Dwight Gooden maintained control--striking out seven and yielding his only run on a Steve Garvey RBI double to deep center. Meanwhile, Darryl Strawberry had driven in four runs (two on his 19th homer of the season in the third inning), and the Met lead was 5-1.
But Roger McDowell, who had earned a save in each of his last six appearances, began the eighth and was stricken with misfortune.
First, Tony Gwynn singled and then John Kruk singled. Then, Kevin McReynolds walked. Garvey--who had looked miserable during a fourth-inning confrontation against Gooden--stepped up and grounded to second, but two Padre runs scored on Wally Backman's error when the ball rolled past Backman and into right field.
Met Manager Davey Johnson--now leading by only two runs--sought Jesse Orosco from the bullpen. Orosco struck out pinch-hitter Bruce Bochy, but pinch-hitter Carmelo Martinez grounded an RBI single to center and Templeton blooped an RBI single to right.
But Orosco retired both Marvell Wynne and Flannery to end the rally. And then a scoreless ninth inning sent the game into extra innings.
Certainly, Gwynn worked overtime Wednesday. He did the following:
--Hit three singles.
--Threw out three baserunners.
--Stole two bases.
--Made a running, death-defying catch in right (almost hitting the wall near the bullpen).
--Drew five standing ovations.
Gwynn tipped his hat so many times, he was tipsy. "I've never experienced a feeling like that," Gwynn said. "A standing ovation for throwing a guy out? I knew I had the camera on me and I had a dip (of tobacco) in my mouth, so I said, 'Don't smile, because everyone will see your chew.' "
This game had such an intriguing matchup to begin with. It was Ed Whitson (the scorn of New York) vs. Gooden (the Lord of New York). Before the game, Whitson had said: "I've beaten Gooden before. Back in '84."
Could he win again? "All I need is some runs," he had said.
Gwynn prevented all the runs he could. In the first inning, Met catcher John Gibbons lifted a fly ball to right with Strawberry on third, and Gwynn threw Strawberry out at the plate easily.
In the second inning, Rafael Santana lined a ball into the right-field corner and tried for a double, but Gwynn threw him out. Then in the fifth, Hernandez also lined a ball to the right-field corner, and again Gwynn threw him out at second.
Gwynn said: "I don't throw with the Parkers and the Strawberrys. My arm's decent now, but not an outstanding arm."
Still, the throw of the night came from Dykstra--a player the Padres have coveted for more than a year.
"This is probably the fastest grass outfield in the league," Dykstra said. "I saw Flannery hitting, so I shaded him that way (to left-center) and played shallow. I took a gamble, and it paid off."
Templeton, who limped to his car afterward, said: "I got a good jump. He just made a hell of a play."