Darling, the Rangers’ first pick in the June 1981 draft, came to the Mets with Walt Terrell in return for Lee Mazzilli in 1982. In his 1984 rookie season he went 12-9, quickly gaining a reputation for picking up hard-luck no-decisions, and was overshadowed by Dwight Gooden‘s amazing rookie year. Darling made the 1985 All-Star team and finished 16-6. He had perhaps his best start ever opening a crucial late-season series against the Cardinals, pitching nine shutout innings on October 1st as the Mets won in the 11th. Earlier that year in his first ML relief appearance, he finished the Mets’ 19-inning, 16-13 victory over the Braves by striking out Rick Camp at 3:55 am, completing the latest-ending game in baseball history.
The Hawaiian native led the NL in walks in 1985, with 114 in 248 innings, the second year in a row he topped 100. Some said he thought too much and was too much of a perfectionist. His control improved in 1986 (81 walks in 237 innings) and he posted a career-best 2.81 ERA while helping the Mets to a World Championship. He tallied 15 wins, and the Mets won 27 of the 34 games he started. Called on to start the World Series opener, he lost a 1-0 three-hitter on an unearned run, but came back to win Game Four with seven shutout innings. In the Mets’ Game Seven victory, he was knocked out early.
Darling struggled in 1987, when he posted a 4.29 ERA and spent September on the DL. The split-finger fastball artist came back strong in 1988, going 17-9 with a 3.25 ERA. In the LCS he took a no-decision in Game Three and lost Game Seven, in the process setting an NLCS record for most runs allowed (9) in a seven-game series. Despite struggling with his control most of 1989, he still won 14 games with a 3.52 ERA.
After 11 season with the Mets, Darling was traded to Montreal for reliever Tim Burke in July 1991. Just over two weeks later the Expos sent him to Oakland for a pair of minor-league hurlers. Darling pitched four more full seasons for the A’s, winning 15 games for the club’s 1992 AL West winning squad.
An excellent fielder, Darling was known to have one of the best pick-off moves among righthanders. He was sometimes used as a pinch runner, and in 1989 he hit homers in two consecutive starts. His brother Eddie was in the Yankee system in 1981-82.
While at Yale, Darling faced St. John’s pitcher Frank Viola in a memorable NCAA playoff game, tossing 11 no-hit innings but losing 1-0 in the 12th inning. It is the longest no-hitter in NCAA history.