Sid Fernandez - New York Mets

New York Mets

Despite a 6-5 record, Fernandez had 123 strikeouts and a 2.56 ERA in 1984 with the triple A Tidewater Tides to earn a call-up to New York in mid-July. He earned his first major league win in his first start with the Mets on July 16 against the Houston Astros at the Astrodome. For the season, Fernandez went 6-6 with a 3.50 ERA in fifteen starts.

Fernandez again split 1985 between Tidewater and the Mets. In 1701⁄3 innings, Fernandez struck out 180 batters while only allowing 108 hits. Both ratios were easily the best in the entire Major Leagues, with second place in both categories going to his teammate and Cy Young Award winner Dwight Gooden. Fernandez' 5.71 hits allowed per nine innings are the second-best in National League history behind only Carl Lundgren's 5.65 in 1907. Fernandez' downfall was bases on balls which, combined with poor run support, resulted in a record of only 9-9. Seven of his nine losses were in games where he gave up two or fewer earned runs. Despite having the third-best record in baseball, the Mets were second-best in their division and thereby missed the postseason.

Fernandez' statistics were only average in 1986 but the Mets could do no wrong as he compiled a 16-6 record. A 12-2 start resulted in his first All-Star Game appearance and the first ever appearance by a Hawaiʻi native. In his only inning of the All-Star Game, Fernandez walked the first two batters but then struck out Brook Jacoby, Jim Rice and Don Mattingly in succession to get out of the inning. For the regular season, his success was almost completely based on home field advantage as his ERA was 2.17 at home and 5.03 on the road. Regardless of his road performance, Fernandez was one of four Mets pitchers to receive consideration for the 1986 Cy Young Award — the only Cy Young Award vote of Fernandez' career. He finished a distant seventh behind the Houston Astros' Mike Scott.

Fernandez faded in the second half but the Mets easily won the division and he went head-to-head against Scott in Game 4 of the 1986 National League Championship Series. With a chance for the Mets to take a three-games-to-one lead, Fernandez gave up an early two-run home run and Scott coasted to a 3-1 win. The Mets recovered to win the next two games.

In the World Series, Mets manager Davey Johnson feared starting a left-handed high-fastball pitcher in Fenway Park with its shallow Green Monster so Fernandez was stationed in the bullpen. Dwight Gooden faltered in Game 5, falling behind 4-0 in the pivotal game. Fernandez took over in the fifth inning and shut down the Boston Red Sox for four innings but the damage was done dropping the Mets into a three-games-to-two hole. After the legendary Bill Buckner Game 6, the Red Sox recovered to take an early 3-0 lead in the deciding Game 7. With starter Ron Darling ineffective, Fernandez entered and retired seven batters in a row including four strikeouts. With the momentum seemingly back to the Mets, they scored three runs in the sixth inning and three more in the seventh and won the game 8-5 for their second world championship.

In 1987, Fernandez was again fantastic for the first ten weeks gaining another All-Star Game appearance — but again declined after the break, going just 3-3. A knee injury caused him to miss three weeks in August and many observers again considered his weight to be a factor. For the second year in row, his statistics were heavily skewed towards home field advantage with a 9-3 record and 2.98 ERA at home compared to 3-5, 5.05 on the road. Similar to 1985, the Mets had a better record than two division winners — but not their own division winner — so they again missed the postseason.

1988 was a reversal as Fernandez started the season miserably and then recovered later in the season. His ERA was 7.53 after three games and 5.57 in mid-May but dropped all the way to 3.32 for the All-Star break. Around that time, he went on a strikeout tear, punching out fifty batters in five games — but only managed a 2-3 record. He finished out the season well and the Mets won 100 games, making the postseason for the second time in three years. For the second time, Fernandez led the Majors in hits allowed per nine innings. For the third year in a row, home field advantage was a huge factor for Fernandez with an 8-4 record and 1.83 ERA at home compared to 4-6, 4.36 on the road. With the 1988 National League Championship Series tied, Fernandez was chosen to start the important Game 5 and he responded by pitching well for three innings. In the fourth inning, he fell apart, giving up three runs and, in the fifth, Kirk Gibson hit a three-run homer to knock him out of the game. The Dodgers coasted to a 7-4 victory and won the series in seven games. What many thought would be a Mets dynasty never materialized and they didn't make the playoffs again until 1999.

1989 was arguably Fernandez' best season. He started the season in the bullpen but, after allowing only two hits in five scoreless innings, he was back in the rotation. He went into the All-Star break at 7-2 with an ERA under three and, in his first game after the break, he struck out a career-high sixteen Atlanta Braves in eight innings (but lost the game on a ninth inning home run). The strikeout total is still the all-time Mets record for left-handers. Fernandez ended the season with a 14-5 record — best in the National League — and ranked in the top ten in the league in several categories including ERA, strikeouts, hits per nine innings, strikeouts per nine innings and strikeout-to-walk ratio. He even pitched well on the road for the first time in four years compiling a 7-3 record with a 2.91 ERA away from pitcher-friendly Shea. He won his last three games but the Mets could not gain ground on the Chicago Cubs and missed the playoffs with their worst record in six years.

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