And it was Darling who warned Aguilera of a considerable danger to his bat. Shortly after George Foster was released in 1986, Aguilera wanted to change his uniform number so that four members of the rotation -- him, Darling (No. 12), Gooden (16) and Bobby Ojeda (19) would have numbers in the teens. Sid Fernandez wore No. 50 for the 50th state, Hawaii, his birthplace.
Aguilera asked for and received Foster's No. 15 but not before Darling warned him. "Don't take his number. You'll stop hitting."
As skilled a hitter as he was, Aguilera hit only three home runs in his 16 big-league seasons. Then again, he had merely one at-bat -- with the Cubs in 1999 -- after the Mets traded him to the Twins on 1989. He played for the Twins and Red Sox until 1999.
Aguilera hit two home runs in 1986, both as a starting pitcher, 31 days apart. He hit the second on July 7 in Riverfront Stadium in Cincinnati where the ball carried in the heat. Because of the heat and because he had hit one so recently, the other Mets starters didn't want want to pay up in the home run pool. Aguilera was due $200, $50 a man. But the others wanted to pay only $5 per or $20. When Aguilera protested, Ed Lynch tried to soothe him.
"Aggie, c'mon," Lynch said. "Twenty dollars. That's a whole new wardrobe."
Beltran takes a seat: Carlos Beltran was removed from the starting lineup after he strained a muscle in his left side, swinging in batting practice. The club said his status was day-to-day. Lastings Milledge was shifted from left field to center field, Marlon Anderson took Milledge's place in left and batted sixth. David Wright, Carlos Delgado and Paul Lo Duca batted third, four and fifth. Unaffected by Beltran's absence was Shawn Green, who batted eighth -- against left-hander Tom Gorzelanny -- for the time since 1997.
First impressions: The victory on Tuesday was the Mets' 23rd in the first game of a series. They have lost 10 first games. Their record is the best in the big leagues.
A landmark: Paul Lo Duca after the game Tuesday: "I was going to ask if I could have the lineup card. I had two hits." He ended the game with seven hits in his last 49 at-bats.
This date in Mets history -- July 26: Chi Chi Olivo, a 36-year-old right-handed pitcher from the Dominican, pitched for the Braves in 1961, '64-'66, winning two games before 1966, both on this date in 1964 against the Mets. He was the winning pitcher in 11-7 and 15-10 victories at Shea Stadium, pitching two innings total. He faced one batter in the second game, completing the seventh inning. Warren Spahn, the short-lived starter in the first game, pitched two scoreless innings to finish the second game.
Steve Henderson (two), John Stearns, Willie Montanez and Elliot Maddox hit doubles and Joel Youngblood drove in five runs with a triple and home run in the Mets' 12-3 victory against the Reds at Shea on this date in 1978. ... On any given Saturday: The '86 Mets had their worst day on the date. They were swept by the Braves in Atlanta, losing 4-3 and 8-5 to a team that began the day seven games under. 500. The Mets were 33 games over. 500 after the sweep. ... Rico Brogna hit a two-run home run in the top of the 11th inning, providing the final runs necessary for a 10-9 Mets victory in St. Louis on this date in 1994. ... Brogna had four RBIs in the victory that was the second in a 10-game sequence during which the Mets won eight times.
Coming up: Oliver Perez faces the Pirates on Thursday at 12:10 p.m. ET for the first time since he was traded by them to the Mets almost a year ago. The Pirates pitcher is Pat Maholm, the second left-handed starter the Mets will oppose in the series and the third in a four-game sequence that began Sunday in LA.