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Great Scott! Ex-Astros ace dominated like Lee

Houston Astros pitcher Mike Scott delivers a pitch

Houston Astros pitcher Mike Scott delivers a pitch during his no-hitter game against the San Francisco Giants in the Houston Astrodome in Houston, Texas, on Sept. 25, 1986. The Astros won 2-0 to capture the National League Western division. Photo Credit: AP

Mike Scott is some 3,000 miles removed from the American League Championship Series, watching the Yankees-Rangers games on television from his Southern California home.

But the memory of the former Houston Astros ace has been reignited here in New York, thanks to the specter of Cliff Lee that now hangs over the Yankees in this series.

After watching the Rangers lefthander strike out 13 during eight scoreless innings in Game 3, Scott admitted in a telephone interview Tuesday that he sees "some similarities" between the impact Lee is having on this series compared with what Scott did to the Mets during the 1986 NLCS.

Back then Scott allowed only one run and eight hits in 18 innings, striking out 19 while only walking one. He won Games 1 and 4 and was prepared to pitch Game 7 if only the Mets had not ended the series with a thrilling 7-6 victory in 16 innings in Game 6 at the Astrodome.

So if there's anyone who could possibly understand what Lee is feeling right now, it's Scott. And after beating the Yankees in Game 3 in dominating fashion Monday night, it's interesting to note that Lee is lined up to pitch a potential Game 7 with a World Series berth on the line. That's something Scott never had a chance to do.

"Nobody knows," Scott said, "what would have happened."

But we can guess. And for starters, the thought of facing Scott in a win-or-go-home game was viewed as a worst-case scenario inside the Mets clubhouse before Game 6. "He was in our minds," former Mets second baseman Wally Backman said. "There's no question about it."

Scott was baseball's best pitcher that season, going 18-10 with a 2.22 ERA and .923 WHIP. He compiled 306 strikeouts in 2751/3 innings. And just like Lee is doing right now, Scott became even better in the postseason, constantly sending Mets hitters back to the dugout baffled by what they just saw.

Flash forward 24 years and you saw that same defeated look on the Yankees hitters' faces on their way back to the dugout all through Monday night's game.

Interestingly, Lee downplayed his overall dominance after the Rangers' 8-0 win, saying no one should read anything into his eight scoreless innings beyond it being the one game. "Just because I had a good game this time and the previous time," Lee said, "doesn't mean it's going to happen again."

And that's almost exactly what Scott said when asked about what might have happened if the '86 NLCS had advanced to a seventh game. In his mind it was far from a certainty that he would have been just as dominant as he had been in his first two starts.

"I wasn't going to throw my glove out there and just shut them out in the seventh game," Scott said. "I don't think I was ever that good where I thought that."

Of course no story about Scott's dominance is complete without addressing the allegations that he was scuffing the ball. While fans may be focused on the rosin on the back of Lee's hat (which is legal), the Mets players didn't hide the fact that they thought Scott was doing something illegal to the baseball.

"A lot of us really believe Scott was cheating," Backman said.

Although Scott said those allegations "will probably follow me forever," he also refused to outright deny it. "I've always said I'm going to write a book one of these days and it may or may not be in there," Scott said. "But even if I don't write a book, let's keep it a mystery."

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