The Mets had struck quickly against John Tudor with three runs in the first, on a run-scoring double by Hernandez and Strawberry's 35th homer of the year. Wilson added another run in the second on the homer to left, which is when Tricky Dicky and Mookie's cookie embraced. The Cardinals looked as if they didn't have a chance. But then the ball went through Hernandez's legs, and before you could say Bill Buckner, the Cards were out on the field, shaking hands with one another. After the game McDowell was asked if he had ever seen a game turn around so quickly. "Yeah," he said. "Game 6 of the World Series."
The next day Hernandez said he hadn't slept well. "I woke up at six and couldn't get back to sleep. I kept mulling the game over, where it went wrong. I nodded off at nine, and then realized I had to get to the park."
While Hernandez was tossing and turning, his old manager, Herzog, was sleeping like a baby. And while the Mets' captain was hurriedly getting dressed, Herzog was...well, let's put it this way. You've just gotten off the lobster shift at a Manhattan printing plant, and you're heading home to Queens. You board the No. 7 train, and at Grand Central Station you notice that the guy getting on is awfully familiar. Blond brush cut. Barrel chest. Say, isn't that Whitey Herzog? "Ride the subway all the time," says Herzog. "People are nice. Sure, they recognize me, but they never bother me."
The Mets were counting on Gooden to help them get back on track on Saturday. But after striking out Coleman to start the game, Gooden, who had the flu, gave up five runs before New York even got to bat. He lasted only another inning and made the earliest exit of his career. "We flattened out after that," Hernandez would say. "I know I did."
Certainly the Mets played dispiritedly. Shortstop Rafael Santana, who had looked sensational the night before, made two errors. Even Davey Johnson gave up. In the fifth, with the score 6-0, he pulled a double switch, taking catcher Gary Carter out in the middle of an inning. Johnson said he was only trying to save Carter, but he was clearly conceding the game to the Cardinals. St. Louis starter Greg Mathews said after the game, "That was like taking Jack Clark out of the game. I'm a lefty, and I'm thinking. Thank you very much."
Afterward, Davey Johnson downplayed the significance of the game with a flurry of sporting metaphors. "This just means that we'll have to catch them on the final turn," he said. "We had 'em on the ropes last night. Now we just have to tee it up again tomorrow." There was also another book lying on Johnson's desk. This one was entitled All Fall Down.
The rain fell down on Sunday, and under normal circumstances the game would have been called. But the Mets wanted 1) the gate receipts. 2) a last shot at the Cards at Shea and 3) a last shot at the Cards without Clark. So they played. In the fourth inning, the Mets scored twice—as St. Louis outfielders swam through the outfield after balls that might have been caught on dry land—and the Mets held on for a 4-2 victory.
"This win was big," said the Mets' Wally Backman. "But the weekend wasn't good. Everything goes back to Friday. The roof didn't Cave in. It got demolished. We blew an opportunity."
Sweep, sweep? "We could have been swept," said Backman. "We're going to watch the scoreboard a little more closely the next three weeks." And, with the Mets and Cards finishing the season with three games in St. Louis, who knows what will happen? Ground balls have a way of going through first basemen's legs.