CINCINNATI, JULY 12 -- Baseball's best team from the first half of the season and its hottest club lately got together here tonight for what already was being billed by many -- including several members of the New York Mets -- as a preview of the National League Championship Series.
If anything was settled on this rainy evening in Riverfront Stadium, it was that the Mets and Reds could provide an intriguing postseason matchup. They split a tense doubleheader that stretched late into the night, with New York capturing the opener, 10-3, Cincinnati the nightcap, 3-2.
"I think we'll be seeing them in October," said Mets outfielder Darryl Strawberry, who continued his recent binge by hitting one of New York's five home runs. "Judging by how our games with them have gone, it'd be a pretty good show."
The Mets' victory was forged with seven runs in the last two innings. New York hit four of its homers, beating up Cincinnati's vaunted bullpen. And Dwight Gooden (9-5) won his sixth straight start.
But the Reds got 7 2/3 innings from Danny Jackson (4-2) in the nightcap, then shutout relief from Randy Myers to make three first-inning runs off Ron Darling stand up.
"I hope we'll be playing them in the postseason," Reds Manager Lou Pinella said. "I hope we'll be playing anyone in the postseason. . . . We just have to worry about getting there."
The opener had the intensity of a postseason confrontation, turning on a four-run Mets uprising in the eighth that included the ejection of Reds' pitcher Norm Charlton and the removal of his successor, Rob Dibble, because an angry Pinella momentarily lost his bearings.
With the score 3-3, Charlton walked Kevin McReynolds. As Daryl Boston fouled out, Charlton had some choice words for home plate umpire Steve Rippley, who wasted little time in ejecting him.
That brought on Dibble, who surrendered an RBI double to Todd Hundley and a two-run single to Howard Johnson. Pinella -- apparently still fuming about Charlton's ejection and also angry that Dibble was paying no attention to Johnson's lead off first base -- added to the chaos by storming to the mound; problem was, pitching coach Stan Williams had already visited in the inning, so Dibble had to be taken out.