If the 1986 Mets have taught us anything, it’s that a baseball game is never over until the last out is made.
Whether it’s October or May, that fact rings true. It was true when the Mets staged one of the most improbable rallies in baseball history in Game 6 of the 1986 World Series. It was true Friday night when one of the biggest villains in recent Mets history helped the Dodgers stage a ninth-inning comeback on the eve of the Citi Field celebration of the 1986 champions.
Chase Utley, who was booed all night in his first regular-season game in Flushing since he broke Ruben Tejada’s leg with a now-banned slide in last year’s NLDS, smacked a tying three-run double off Jeurys Familia with two outs in the ninth inning as the Dodgers rallied from a 5-1 deficit against the Mets’ closer.
If it’s drama you like, it was drama you got. Curtis Granderson led off the bottom of the ninth with a game-winning home run into the rightfield corner as the Mets won, 6-5.
That’s the same final score as Game 6 against the Red Sox. Friday night’s winning pitcher: Jeurys Familia.
“Great game, baseball,” Granderson said. “You never think anything is over until it finally is.”
Friday night was no “Mookie’s Ball Gets by Buckner,” but it was pretty exciting for the sellout crowd of 43,462. The whole night long, the spirit of ’86 was in the air.
Fans received a nifty ’86 jersey shirt and the team wore throwback uniforms. “1986” was painted on the grass near the foul lines. The nostalgia will last all weekend.
Saturday night, it won’t just be Keith and Ron in the booth and Tim Teufel coaching third base. It will be Mookie and Doc and Darryl and Ray Knight and Jesse Orosco and Wally Backman and Lenny Dykstra and nearly the whole roster from that storied team.
“Any chance you get to see the guys who came before you, it’s really neat and cool,” Granderson said in PG language no ’86 Met would ever have used. “Being here in New York, hearing the number of fans talk about the ’86 team, where they were, how they saw it, how they felt, the number of family members that are named after it, whether it be ‘Shea’ or players on that team, it seems to be the topic of conversation regardless if you bring it up or not. There always is a reference to the ’86 team, which is really neat.
“The fans are definitely looking forward to [Saturday night]. I thought this T-shirt giveaway was probably one of the biggest ones considering everybody put them on instead of brought them home. I think everyone wanted to get a chance to be a part of it. I even got some messages from some people here in New York saying, ‘Can you get me one if you get some extra ones?’ It speaks volumes for what that team did for this city and this fan base. Hopefully I get one. We don’t have one yet. We’ll have to see how many they have left over.”
Citi Field was a party zone, at least until Familia gave up four runs in a non-save situation. He walked in a run with one out to make it 5-2. Then, after he struck out pinch hitter Trayce Thompson for the second out, Utley lined the tying double into the right-centerfield gap.
It was quick, it was shocking. But the shock didn’t last long as Granderson sent a towering shot inside the rightfield foul pole for the second walk-off home run of his career.
A few minutes later, over on Twitter, Dykstra posted his approval.
“That’s how a Mets lead off man walks off!!!” Dykstra tweeted.
And that’s how 1986 met 2016.