Last gasp revives SoxThey overtake Angels, take series home
By Larry Whiteside, Globe Staff, October 13, 1986
ANAHEIM, Calif. -- When the curtain comes down on the Red Sox' season, this will be remembered as their finest hour. They came, they battled and they survived in the American League Championship Series with one of the most dramatic comebacks in Boston baseball history.
Perhaps it didn't quite match Game 6 of the 1975 World Series. But few games will feature the intensity and excitement of the Red Sox' 7-6 victory over the California Angels that salvaged their drive for their first pennant in 11 years. It cut the Angels' lead to 3-2 as the best-of-seven series heads back to Boston for Game 6 tomorrow night, and it was achieved after the Sox came within one strike of elimination.
|Date:||Oct. 12 (day)|
|HR:||Gedman (1), Boone (1), Grich (1), Baylor (1), Henderson (1)|
Filling in for injured center fielder Tony Armas (sprained ankle), Henderson twice came up with clutch strokes. One saved the Sox from imminent defeat; the other won the game. With a 2-and-2 count and two out in the ninth, he drilled a Donnie Moore pitch into the left-field seats, turning an apparent 5-4 elimination into a 6-5 Sox lead. That enabled him to gain redemption for a two-run homer by Bobby Grich in the sixth, a ball that bounced off Henderson's glove and over the fence.
In the 11th, Henderson climaxed the comeback with a bases-loaded sacrifice fly that scored Don Baylor.
Then Schiraldi preserved the victory with a remarkable comeback of his own. On Saturday night, the hard-throwing reliever had self-destructed in the ninth inning of a 4-3 Angel victory. He had hit Brian Downing with a pitch that created a 3-3 tie and robbed Roger Clemens of a possible victory.
Yesterday he got revenge by recording the final three outs in the 11th, after Steve Crawford had held the Angels at bay for 1 2/3 innings.
"The ballgame today," said Sox manager John McNamara, "might be the finest baseball game, the most competitive baseball game and exciting baseball game that I've ever seen. To be a part of it and to come back and win when your team is down is great."
But things seemed grisly for the Sox as they came to bat in the ninth. The Angels had a 5-2 lead, and many among the crowd of 64,223 were massed in the aisles, primed to storm the field in celebration of California's first pennant.
But the gathering was premature. Bill Buckner led off with a single to center and left in favor of pinch runner Dave Stapleton. Jim Rice struck out looking. Then Baylor, the former Angel, hit a two-run homer off California ace Mike Witt, cutting the deficit to 5-4. Witt retired Dwight Evans on a pop to third, but, one out from the victory, he was lifted for reliever Gary Lucas, who promptly hit Rich Gedman (4 for 4) with a pitch. Then Henderson drove a 2-2 Moore pitch over the left-field fence for a 6-5 Red Sox lead.
It didn't last long. Bob Boone opened the bottom of the ninth with a single off reliever Bob Stanley. Ruppert Jones ran for him, and was sacrificed to second by Gary Pettis. Joe Sambito replaced Stanley, and surrendered a first- pitch single to Rob Wilfong that tied the game. Crawford came on, and the Angels still had a chance to salvage the pennant right there, because Dick Schofield singled and Downing was walked intentionally, loading the bases. But Doug DeCinces flied to right, Grich lined to Crawford to end the inning, and the Red Sox had a reprieve.
"To be involved in a ballgame like this is very emotional," said Baylor. "If we lost this game today, it wouldn't have been fair. Last night we had a ballgame almost won.There would have been a lot of bitterness if we lost (yesterday)."
Instead, there was exhilaration after the Sox' great escape.
"You could see them (the fans) standing and cheering," said McNamara, "and ready to come on the field. To take it away from them like this is pretty exciting.
"I'm tired. When you are on the brink of elimination, you can't make many mistakes. At least I get to put my uniform on Tuesday."
Yesterday the Sox gave starter Bruce Hurst an early cushion. Witt had not made many mistakes in an 8-1 victory in the opener. But this time he did against two batters, and it cost him. Rice shot a breaking ball to right field leading off the second. Witt struck out Baylor and Evans.
But Gedman launched a two-run homer for a 2-0 Boston edge.
Hurst gave one of those runs back in the third when Boone cracked a homer into the the left-field seats.
Then Hurst, who had won Game 2, was deprived of a chance at a second victory by the unlikely events of the sixth.
With two out, DeCinces hit what appeared to be a routine fly ball to right- center. The problem is that no Red Sox player was within 20 feet of it, and it fell for a double. Hurst got ahead in the count on Grich, 1 and 2. But then the veteran infielder lofted a deep fly to center.
Henderson went back to the wall, leaped and got a glove on the ball, which was descending below the top of the barrier. But the ball popped out of his glove, and Henderson crashed into the fence. As he did, he also tipped the ball, and it landed on the other side of the fence for a two-run homer and a 3-2 Angel lead.
"I went after that ball as hard as I could," said Henderson. "My wrist hit the fence. There's nothing you can do about that. The ball hit the heel of my glove. My wrist hit the top of the wall, and it shook out of my glove and out of the park."
After six innings, Hurst was replaced by Stanley, who had become the forgotten man of the bullpen of late. In the seventh, he showed why, giving up two runs on three hits as the Angels shot to a 5-2 lead.
George Hendrick led off with a single, and Devon White ran for him. White was immediately sacrificed to second by Boone, his fifth such bunt of the playoffs. Pettis walked. Batting for Rick Burleson, Wilfong hit a ball that hopped over Stanley's head, and before second baseman Marty Barrett could run it down in short center, Jones had scored, Pettis was on third and Wilfong had a double.
An intentional walk to Schofield loaded the bases. When Downing followed with a sacrifice fly to right, Witt had a three-run lead.
It vanished in the melodramatic ninth as manager Gene Mauch's strategy backfired.
With the score 5-4 and two out, he decided to lift Witt because Gedman had gotten three hits against him. But Lucas hit Gedman. And Henderson, who had figgured to be the goat, delivered.
He worked the count to 2 and 2 and fouled off two pitches. Then he stroked a forkball into the distance. Henderson savored every moment of it. As he ran up the first baseline and watched the ball sail over the fence, he staged an impromptu celebration, leaping twice and dancing in delight -- shades of Carlton Fisk. After he circled the bases, he was given a royal welcome by the entire Red Sox bench.
"I had to step out of the batter's box and gather myself and think about what I had to do," said Henderson. "I was protecting the plate. He threw me a forkball that was down. It was a big hit, and it came at the right time."
That didn't put the Anegls away, but Henderson did on his next trip to the plate. Moore, who was struggling just to survive, opened the 11th by hitting Baylor with a pitch. Evans followed with a single, and Gedman popped a would- be sacrifice bunt down the third baseline. DeCinces scooped it up but couldn't get Gedman. The catcher had his fourth hit; the Sox had the bases loaded.
Henderson then drilled a line drive deep enough to center to score Baylor, and though the Red Sox could do no further damage in the inning against Moore and Chuck Finley, Schiraldi rescued them in the bottom of the inning.
"We were on our deathbeds at 5-2," said Clemens. "The heartbeat meter was a straight line. Hendu (Henderson) goes deep, and it starts beeping again."
"We went from one extreme to the other. We were real down. Now we're emotional and our momentum is back. Now we're taking it back home, and that makes it more fun."