Strawberry, '86 Mets rally past Expos in Bracket

May 28th, 2020

NEW YORK -- In what was their most dramatic virtual win to date, the 1986 Mets used a late rally to topple the 1994 Expos, four games to three, in an MLB Dream Bracket 2 third-round series. The Mets will next play another National League East tormentor, the 1995 Braves, for a spot in the semifinals.

The simulated competition, featuring many of the greatest teams in baseball history, is being produced by Out of the Park Baseball 21, MLB's most realistic strategy game (PC and Mac). The Mets’ other entrant, the 1969 squad, lost in their opening-round series against the 1997 Marlins. But on the strength of ’s four-homer barrage against the Expos, the ’86 Mets are still alive. They beat the 2018 Rockies and 1998 Padres, before knocking off an Expos team featuring Hall of Famers Pedro Martinez and Larry Walker.

The Dream Bracket includes 64 teams, including two from each active franchise plus the ’94 Expos and three Negro Leagues teams. Each round features a best-of-seven matchup between clubs in a single-elimination format. Here’s how the Mets advanced:

Game 1: Mets 7, Expos 3
The Mets took their first lead of the series during a fifth-inning rally against Expos starter Ken Hill and never looked back. Relatively quiet in the first two rounds of the Dream Bracket, Strawberry opened the scoring with an RBI single to plate , then scored on Ray Knight’s two-out, two-run hit. Three innings later, Strawberry hit a three-run homer to put the game on ice and make a winner of , who contributed seven innings of two-run ball.

Game 2: Expos 7, Mets 6
As it turns out, the Mets were not the only virtual team capable of coming from behind to win. Staring at a one-run deficit in the eighth inning of Game 2, Expos catcher Darrin Fletcher hit a three-run home run off to deny the Mets a two-game series lead. It was Orosco’s second blown save in Dream Bracket play, sticking (six innings, four runs) with a no-decision.

Game 3: Expos 3, Mets 2
For the first time in the Dream Bracket, the Mets fell behind in a series when Orosco and Rick Aguilera combined to give up all three Expos runs during a ninth-inning, walk-off rally at Olympic Stadium. The Mets had taken a lead off John Wetteland on Kevin Mitchell’s pinch-hit, two-run homer in the top of the inning. Inexplicably, manager Davey Johnson removed starting pitcher at that point after allowing him to take his turn at bat. Ojeda, who had thrown only 97 pitches over eight scoreless innings, watched from afar as Orosco allowed three of the four men he faced to reach base, then Aguilera uncorked a walk-off wild pitch to allow Wil Cordero to score the winning run.

Game 4: Expos 6, Mets 2
The Expos put the Mets on the brink of elimination with a strong Game 4 performance against , who allowed four runs in four innings. ’s key fielding error in the sixth inning resulted in an additional two-run rally for the Expos, who leaned on Walker’s three-double performance for much of their offense. Walker would wind up hitting .308 with five doubles in the series, and .329 with 19 extra-base hits in 21 games during Dream Bracket play.

Game 5: Mets 4, Expos 3
In a must-win game, the Mets relied on their youth, as 23-year-old hit a game-tying RBI double in the fifth and 25-year-old Howard Johnson delivered a pinch-hit, go-ahead single in the sixth. Hoping for a vintage performance from Gooden to stave off elimination, the Mets received a merely mediocre one; he allowed three runs in five innings. But Aguilera and Orosco rebounded from their Game 3 troubles, and and closed out the Expos to send the series back to New York.

Game 6: Mets 9, Expos 3
Once again needing a win to stay alive, the Mets tagged Martinez for seven runs in a rare off night for the future Hall of Famer. Strawberry opened the Mets' scoring with yet another two-run homer, but the most significant offense came during a five-run rally in the sixth that saw , Knight and Rafael Santana hit consecutive RBI singles. The offense was more than enough for Mets starter Darling, who struck out 10 over seven innings to lower his Dream Bracket ERA to 1.72.

Game 7: Mets 5, Expos 4
Through nearly three full rounds of Dream Bracket play, the Mets had consistently relied on late rallies and comebacks to advance. Why should Game 7 against a legendary Expos team be any different? After McDowell blew Ojeda’s lead in the top of the seventh, Strawberry -- who else? -- put the Mets back in front with a 419-foot homer off Jeff Shaw. Given a one-run lead, Doug Sisk and Orosco combined on the final six outs to send the Mets to the quarterfinals. For Strawberry, it was the culmination of a series that saw him hit .286 with four home runs, 10 RBIs, two stolen bases and a 1.105 OPS, after batting just .205 over the first two Dream Bracket rounds.