The New York Mets got Darryl Strawberry back after missing seven weeks with a thumb injury, but it was not enough for them to overcome the pitching of John Tudor of St. Louis, who ran his record to 6-0 in June, as the Cardinals won 3-2 before 45,929 at Busch Memorial Stadium.
The National League was setting up as a four-way dogfight at this time. The Montreal Expos were leading the division with the Cardinals just a 1/2 game back. The Mets were 2 1/2 back and the defending division champion Cubs were 3 1/2 back. Mets manager Davey Johnson had 6'6" righthander Ed Lynch starting on the mound while Cardinals manager Whitey Herzog countered with the southpaw Tudor, who had been acquired in the offseason from Pittsburgh along with Brian Harper in exchange for George Hendrick and a minor leaguer.
St. Louis used three hits in the second from the bottom of the order to get on the board first. Rightfielder Andy Van Slyke singled and third baseman Ivan DeJesus followed with another to put two on and one out. Shortstop Ozzie Smith grounded out to Lynch, but the runners moved up. Lynch tried to get out of the inning by retiring #8 hitter, catcher Tom Nieto, but he singled to center to score Van Slyke and DeJesus.
Second baseman Tommy Herr hit his third home run in the third inning to give the Cardinals a 3-0 lead. But Lynch and the Mets relievers: Tom Gorman, Terry Leach, and Jesse Orosco, shut out the Cardinals the rest of the way.
The Mets didn't score against Tudor until the seventh when leftfielder George Forster hit his 11th homer of the season. Centerfielder Mookie Wilson homered in the eighth to cut the deficit to 3-2. After first baseman Keith Hernandez had a one-out single, Herzog brought in Jeff Lahti to relieve. Lathi got catcher Gary Carter to ground into a force play. With Strawberry due up, Herzog went to a lefty, Ken Dayley. Strawberry whiffed to end the inning.
Third baseman Ray Knight got a one-out single, but nothing else and Dayley got his sixth save.
In the end, it would be the Cardinals and Mets who would duel for the pennant as Montreal and Chicago fell by the wayside. The Cardinals ended up on top with a 101-61, beating out the Mets by three games.
Tudor started out the season 1-7, but he rebounded to have the best season of his career, going 21-8 with a 1.93 ERA. He led the NL with 10 shutouts. This might have been Cy Young Award material, but 20-year old Mets pitcher Dwight Gooden had one of the best seasons ever, going 24-4 with a 1.53 ERA and 268 strikeouts and winning the "Triple Crown of Pitching." Gooden got every first place vote. Gooden's ERA+ was 226.
The Cardinals fared better in the MVP voting as centerfielder Willie McGee won it with a league-leading .353 batting average and 56 stolen bases. Teammate and leftfielder Vince Coleman won the Rookie of the Year award with 110 stolen bases. (The AL Rookie of the Year was Ozzie Guillen.)
St. Louis used the stolen base like few teams have since. They stole 314 bases, 132 more than the next best team in the NL, Chicago. They defeated the Dodgers in the NLCS in six games, but lost Coleman to a broken leg when he was trapped by an automatic tarp roller in St. Louis. The Cardinals would lose to the Kansas City Royals in seven games in the World Series.
Sources: Retrosheet, Baseball-reference.com, New York Times