NEW YORK -- Continuing their roll through a bracket full of legendary teams, the 1986 Mets took the next step in their quest to become the greatest (virtual) club of all time on Wednesday, beating the 1998 Padres, four games to two, in an Out of the Park Dream Bracket second-round series. The Mets are one of 16 teams still alive in the bracket. They will next play the 1994 Expos, who beat the '79 Pirates to advance.
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 Mets, lost in their opening-round series against the '97 Marlins. But on the strength of Gary Carter, Keith Hernandez and others, the '86 Mets have now beaten the 2018 Rockies and the '98 Padres to roll through two rounds.
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: Padres 3, Mets 2
When Lenny Dykstra opened this second-round series with a double and Wally Backman followed with a homer, it looked as if the Mets might cruise to victory over the '98 Padres. Instead, they did not record another hit until the fifth, as Padres starter Kevin Brown settled down to deliver a quality start and a trio of relievers -- including Hall of Famer Trevor Hoffman -- held a one-run lead. Dominant in his first-round performances against the '18 Rockies, Dwight Gooden stumbled just a bit in his return to the mound, allowing single runs in the first, second and third innings. The third of them, a Wally Joyner single that plated Tony Gwynn, cost Gooden the game.
Game 2: Mets 5, Padres 3
The Mets once again plated a pair of first-inning runs, this time on Gary Carter's two-run homer off Andy Ashby. Only this time, they kept scoring when Carter went deep again in the fifth and Kevin Mitchell doubled home Ray Knight in the eighth. Mets starter Ron Darling pitched five effective innings for the win, before the relief quartet of Rick Aguilera, Roger McDowell, Randy Niemann and Jesse Orosco retired the final 12 batters in succession. Over the first seven games of Dream Bracket play, Carter improved to 10-for-23 with five home runs and 13 RBIs.
Game 3: Mets 7, Padres 6
Some dramatics awaited the Mets in their return to Shea Stadium, following the series' first two games in San Diego. After knocking Padres starter Sterling Hitchcock out of the game with three runs in the third inning and two in the fourth, the Mets gave it all back when Orosco blew a three-run lead on Ruben Rivera's pinch-hit homer in the ninth. No matter. In the bottom of the inning, Dykstra drew a leadoff walk to spark a rally against Hoffman, moving to second base on Backman's sacrifice bunt. An intentional walk to Hernandez and a Darryl Strawberry single loaded the bases, likely whipping the virtual crowd into a frenzy. Finally, real-life 1986 World Series MVP Ray Knight came through in the clutch in much the same way, singling to send Dykstra home with the winning run.
Game 4: Mets 3, Padres 2 (15 innings)
Much like their marathon victory over the Astros in 1986 National League Championship Series Game 6, the virtual Mets outlasted the '98 Padres in Dream Bracket Game 4. Dykstra was in the middle of things again, singling to set up Backman's walk-off hit. That took Doug Sisk off the hook after the Mets right-hander -- in his fourth inning of relief -- gave up a go-ahead run in the top of the 15th. The Mets and Padres had traded zeros over the previous seven innings, after neither starter pitched particularly deep into the game. Sid Fernandez struck out eight over five innings of one-run ball, eventually giving way to the usual suspects out of the Mets' bullpen. Perhaps most impressively, the Mets beat Hoffman for the second consecutive night.
Game 5: Padres 6, Mets 4
If the Mets planned to cruise to an easy Dream Bracket victory, real-life 1996 NL MVP Ken Caminiti had other plans. Caminiti hit a go-ahead grand slam off McDowell in the ninth, keeping the Padres alive for another day. After Gooden and three relievers held the Padres to two runs over eight innings, Aguilera loaded the bases on two singles and a walk in the ninth. In came McDowell, who served up Caminiti’s 384-foot slam, and the Mets went quietly against starter-turned-reliever Ashby in the ninth.
Game 6: Mets 5, Padres 0
Back in San Diego, Darling blanked the Padres over seven innings to punch the 1986 Mets' ticket to the Dream Bracket quarterfinals. Starting on short rest after his emergency relief appearance in Game 5, Ashby walked Dykstra to open the game and served up a two-run homer to Hernandez. Ashby recorded merely four outs. The Mets tacked on two more against Brian Boehringer in the fifth on RBI singles by Backman and Hernandez, then added some insurance on a Strawberry run-scoring fielder's choice in the eighth. Knight and Hernandez were the Mets' offensive leaders in the series, combining to hit .340 with three RBIs apiece.