The New York Mets have a way of putting the opposition in a sticky position late in the game.

They certainly did it Saturday to the Los Angeles Dodgers and Jay Howell.The Mets scored five runs after Howell, the Dodgers reliever, was tossed from the game for doctoring the baseball, and went on to an 8-4 victory over the Dodgers in a cold rain on Saturday to take a 2-1 lead in the National League playoffs.

Howell, who started the eighth inning with the Dodgers ahead 4-3, was ejected when the Mets claimed he had a foreign substance on his glove and umpiring crew chief Harry Wendelstedt, along with home plate umpire Joe West, found a pine tar-like substance.

The glove was delivered to NL president Bart Giamatti, who was sitting near first base. Giamatti said reports would be filed with him and he wouldn't comment on any possible additional penalty against Howell.

"Give credit to (coach) Bill Robinson," Mets manager Davey Johnson said. "He said he thought Howell had a sticky substance in his glove."

Wilson said several players on the bench knew Howell was doing something.

"We could see him tugging at the strings and we knew something was going on," outfielder Mookie Wilson said. "Bill Robinson pointed it out."

"It changed my strategy, my best relief pitcher was out of the game," Lasorda said. "Yeah, I guess it did change my strategy."

The Dodgers used three pitchers after Howell as the Mets rallied for the victory, the go-ahead run coming on a single by Wilson.

"I was thinking, `Don't strike out. Just make contact,' " Wilson said.

Nineteen times during the regular season and twice in the playoffs, the Mets came from behind in their final at-bat to win.

"This team has a lot of heart," second baseman Wally Backman said. "We just never give up, we just don't quit."

Game 4 of the best-of-seven series is scheduled Sunday night at Shea Stadium. Left-hander John Tudor will pitch for the Dodgers against right-hander Dwight Gooden, the Mets' starter in Game 1.

Saturday's game was played in a chilly drizzle but got under way as scheduled at 10:20 p.m. MDT. The outfield and basepaths were wet and proved treacherous.

"In terms of weather, it was the worst I've played in," Wilson said. "It was hard to get a grip on the bat and the footing was very poor. The elements had a lot to do with the play of the game. It was affecting us early in the game and it looked like it affected the Dodgers later."

Dodgers left fielder Kirk Gibson, who made a fine defensive play in the fifth inning but misplayed a ball in the seventh, also said the conditions were poor.

"It was hard to get a jump because the ground was so wet," he said.

After the Dodgers took a 4-3 lead in the eighth, the Mets came back to tie the score in the bottom of the inning.

Howell, relieving Orel Hershiser, started the inning but didn't last long.

Alejandro Pena relieved and completed a walk to Kevin McReynolds. Howard Johnson forced McReynolds on a bunt attempt and then stole second. One out later, Johnson scored the tying run on Backman's double.

Pinch-hitter Len Dykstra walked, and former Met Jesse Orosco relieved Pena. Wilson lined a single to center field to give the Mets the lead. After Gregg Jefferies was hit by a pitch, Orosco walked Keith Hernandez to force in another run.

Darryl Strawberry capped the rally with a two-run bloop single to left field as the first batter to face Ricky Horton.

David Cone, who was knocked out after two innings as the starter of Game 2, pitched the ninth inning for New York.

Mets reliever Roger McDowell struck out the first two batters in the Dodgers eighth and appeared to have ended the inning when Mike Sciosia hit a grounder back to the mound. While making his throw to first, McDowell slipped on the wet turf and his throw was wild, allowing Sciosia to move to second. Jose Gonzalez ran for Sciosia and the Dodgers loaded the bases with an single and a walk.

Danny Heep was sent up to pinch-hit for Hershiser, but when the Mets went to the bullpen to bring in Randy Myers, Mike Sharperson replaced Heep. Sharperson walked on a 3-2 pitch to force in a run.

Sharperson had walked one time in 64 plate appearances this season.

Hershiser pitched seven innings and allowed six hits.

Game 3 was scheduled Friday night but was rained out.