It was probably the most obvious example of collusion among the 26 MLB owners when Raines failed to sign with any other team as a free agent after the 1986 season. He therefore had to sit out the first month of the Expos’ 1987 season. Raines signed a three-year contract for $4.8 million on May 1. Then, in his first game the next day, the Washington Post reported that he
capped a storybook, four-hit day with a 10th-inning grand slam that gave the Expos an 11-7 comeback victory over the New York Mets yesterday at Shea Stadium.
Raines, a free agent who left the Expos after last season and rejoined Montreal when he was unable to reach agreement with another team, also had a triple in his first at-bat [actually on the first pitch of that at-bat, thrown by David Cone], two singles, a walk, three runs scored and a stolen base. The Expos had 20 hits — the most in one game in the majors this season — off six Mets pitchers.
“I never expected this,” Raines said. “I thought I might be rusty, but I was comfortable at the plate, and that was important. I wasn’t overmatched.”
Raines, who led the National League with a .334 batting average last year, had been keeping himself in shape during his layoff by working out daily at his Sarasota, Fla., home, lifting weights, stretching and running.
In the ninth inning, he started a rally when he beat out a routine grounder to shortstop off reliever Gene Walter with the Expos trailing, 6-4. Montreal eventually tied the score, 6-6, on a single by Tim Wallach, Andres Gallaraga’s RBI infield out and Vance Law’s two-out single off Doug Sisk.
Raines predicted before the game that he would be able to get off to a fast start. “I feel positive that I will go out and contribute right away,” Raines said, “but it’s easy to say you are going to do something before you actually have to do it.”
He lived up to his prediction in the 10th when, after Reid Nichols and Casey Candaele started the inning with singles and Herman Winningham beat out a bunt, Raines hit a 1-0 pitch from Jesse Orosco (1-2) over the left field fence for his fourth career grand slam. The Expos scored their final run when Keith Hernandez dropped a throw a first allowing Galarraga to score from third.
“The first pitch [from Orosco] was a slider, and then I sat on a fastball,” Raines said. “That’s exactly what he threw, and I got a great swing.”
It was one of the most memorable performances of Raines’ career and of the ’87 season. Raines, who became a free agent when he rejected an Expos’ contract offer on Jan. 8 of ’87, added: “Frankly, I’m in the best shape I’ve been in in couple of years. I’m at 184 (pounds) now, and I started last season at 192. In Sarasota, I ran on my own, but got my swings with the high school team. Getting a hit the first time up took as lot of pressure off me.”
Mets manager Davey Johnson: “He can help anybody. I was hoping he would take the weekend off to work out the kinks.
“Either spring training is overrated or they’ve got great high school baseball in Florida.”
And Expos general manager Murray Cook, on a much less than gracious note: “We’ve paid him all that money, he has to start earning it.”