In 1986 NLCS, lefty Bob Knepper started Game 3 at Shea Stadium and Game 6
at the Astrodome, going 15 1/3 innings and surrendering six earned runs.
During the regular season, he went 17-12 with 3.14 ERA in 258 innings.
"Game 3 was an interesting game for me. I didn't feel like I had real good
stuff. The fans were typical New York fans, rowdy and screaming. It was so
loud, noisy and boisterous, it was the only time in my life I remember
concentrating on shutting out the crowd.
"Normally, you're so focused on the hitters that shutting out the crowd isn't
a problem. I wasn't comfortable on the mound. You had to pitch with your
The Astros had a 4-0 lead going into the sixth inning. Then Knepper gave
up a three-run homer to Darryl Strawberry, and the Mets tied the game at 4-4.
Knepper left the game after seven complete innings with the Astros leading
5-4. The Mets scored two runs in the bottom of the ninth to win 6-5.
"It was a strange game. With just a couple of breaks our way, we would have
won. It just seems like no matter what we did, it was the Mets' series.
Things went their way."
Knepper started Game 6, with the Mets leading the series 3-2.
"It's amazing how even to this day I can be driving in a car and go through my eighth or ninth inning and just about remember every pitch I threw that inning. It still hurts. It was the opportunity of a lifetime. My nerves were on end, I was psyched up, geared up, aggressive. I went right at the Mets,
and probably more than any game I pitched, my demeanor was just a real good
tone-setter for the ball club -- I think everyone picked up on my energy. I
was just on fire."
The Astros led 3-0 after eight innings, and Knepper had a two-hitter
"I went out in the ninth inning, and I was probably getting tired mentally
and physically, after eight innings of high-intensity, full-out pitching. In
the back of your mind, you sense that the momentum is changing. It's such a
subtle change, because for eight innings you're so dominating."
Lenny Dykstra led off the Mets' ninth with a triple, then scored on Mookie
Wilson's single. After Kevin Mitchell grounded out, Keith Hernandez doubled,
"I should have stepped off the mound for a minute, and taken charge of the
situation, collected myself. I wanted someone to come out to the mound and
tell me to get the job done. I didn't want out of that ballgame. I felt very
confident I could get Gary Carter and Strawberry. I needed some kind of
break. I just had to step off the mound, and I didn't do it."
Astros manager Hal Lanier brought in reliever Dave Smith with Hernandez on
second and Houston still leading 3-2.
"When I got off the mound and went into the dugout, what I wanted to do was
come back in and pitch to Darryl Strawberry. As soon as I got to the dugout,
I thought, 'Just give me a couple of minutes here and let me back out there.'
"It was miserable watching the rest of the game, especially in the last
innings. That was probably the most helpless, frustrated feeling I had,
having to watch that
and not being able to do a single thing. It was harder than if I had never
been a participant in that game. You have a sense of it still being your game.
"As you watch them win the World Series, you don't know if God had it set up
for the Mets to win that year, or if things just went that way. Taking
nothing away from those guys -- they were a great ballclub -- they got the
breaks and took advantage of them."
Bob Knepper lives in Colorado and is the chaplain for the Colorado Springs Sky Sox.
amazing how even to this day I can be driving in a
car and go through my eighth or ninth inning and
just about remember every pitch I threw that
inning. It still hurts. It was the opportunity of a
lifetime. My nerves were on end, I was psyched
up, geared up, aggressive. ”
||— Bob Knepper