March 19, 2016

A Look Back At 1986 ALCS Game 5: Red Sox 7, Angels 6 (11)

The Society for American Baseball Research (SABR) has just published a book about the 1986 Boston Red Sox.

There Was More Than Game Six includes extensive biographies of every player that wore a Boston uniform that season - from Roger Clemens and Wade Boggs to Mike Trujillo and Dave Sax - as well as recaps of the team's 14 postseason games. (You can read a little more about the book here.)

I rewatched (thanks to YouTube) and wrote about each of the Red Sox's seven American League Championship Series games against the California Angels.

The game recaps in the book are roughly 1,500 words each. Here is a longer version of Game Five (approximately 2,650 words):
Sunday, October 12, 1986 at Anaheim Stadium
Boston Red Sox    - 020 000 004 01 - 7 12  0
California Angels - 001 002 201 00 - 6 13  0
Before there was David Ortiz, there was Dave Henderson.

Before Big Papi thrilled Red Sox fans with his October heroics, the man they called Hendu brought Boston back from the dead in Game Five of the 1986 ALCS. Before Ortiz turned clutch, late-inning and game-winning hits into an art form for the Red Sox, Henderson made a spectacular bid to become the man who would lead Boston to the Promised Land of a World Series championship.

With the Angels one strike away from winning the pennant, Henderson – a backup outfielder obtained from the Seattle Mariners in mid-August – crushed a home run that gave the Red Sox a 6-5 lead. Then, after the Angels tied the game in their half of the ninth, Henderson knocked in the game-winning run with a sacrifice fly in the eleventh. Boston's 7-6 victory sent the ALCS back to Fenway Park for Game Six (and, possibly, Game Seven). (Henderson also homered in the 10th inning of Game Six of the 1986 World Series, what would have been the Red Sox's World Series-winning run if not for the Mets' comeback.)

The California Angels led the series 3-1 and fully expected to clinch the pennant in front of their own fans. Before Game Five, the Red Sox players had cited the Kansas City Royals, who came from being down 1-3 in both the ALCS (against the Toronto Blue Jays) and World Series (against the St. Louis Cardinals) to capture a world championship.

With the Red Sox's backs to the wall, manager John McNamara gave the ball to Bruce Hurst, who had pitched a complete game victory in Game Two. Compared to the media fuss surrounding Roger Clemens starting Game Four on three days of rest, it was barely noted that Hurst was also working on short rest in Game Five. Perhaps one reason was that, unlike Clemens, Hurst was considered timid and not aggressive. "I felt bad when it was said that I was timid because I was Mormon," Hurst said. "I don't think it should be put in that light. I don't think I'm timid and shy. The way I am doesn't mean I don't have a real drive to do well and be competitive."

The Red Sox would be facing Mike Witt, who had gone the distance in California's Game One win. However, Boston drew first blood in the second inning, when Jim Rice led off with a single and Rich Gedman – after barely getting his bat on, and fouling off, a 1-2 pitch – lined a two-run homer into the right field seats.

Hurst ended up pitching six innings, and left the game trailing 3-2. Bob Boone led off the third inning with a solo home run down by the left-field corner. With two outs in the sixth, Doug DeCinces ripped a double into the gap in right-center. Bobby Grich, who had struck out in his two earlier at-bats, drove a 1-2 pitch to deep left-center. Dave Henderson, who had taken over for Tony Armas in center field in the previous inning, raced towards the wall. Henderson timed his leap perfectly and the ball landed squarely in his glove. But his momentum carried him into the wall and his wrist struck the top of the fence. The collision jarred the ball loose and it fell over the fence. It was a two-run homer for Grich – and the Angels led 3-2.

"I thought I had it all the way," Henderson said. "But when my wrist hit the top of the fence it shook the ball loose and it was out of there. I was really disappointed, because I thought I should have caught it."

California added two runs off reliever Bob Stanley in the seventh - nickle-and-diming him on two infield hits - and led 5-2.

Meanwhile, Witt was (again) having little trouble with the Boston hitters. After Gedman's blast in the second, Witt retired the next eight batters and 10 of the next 11. Gedman broke up Witt's string with a one-out double in the fifth, but Armas flied to left and Spike Owen grounded to second. Boston had men on base in the sixth, seventh, and eighth innings, but could not get anyone past first base.

Wade Boggs singled to open the sixth, but he was forced at second by Barrett. Buckner then forced Barrett at second and Rice flied to right. Gedman singled with two down in the seventh (his third hit of the day against Witt), but Henderson struck out. Mike Greenwell, pinch-hitting for Owen in the eighth, singled, but was erased when Boggs hit into a double play.

The Anaheim Stadium crowd was roaring as Witt faced the heart of the Red Sox order in the ninth inning, leading 5-2. Three more outs – and the Angels would clinch their first-ever pennant. On a 2-0 pitch, Bill Buckner looked at a strike and then asked the home plate umpire to check the ball. The baseball was thrown out of play – and Buckner grounded Witt's next offering up the middle for a single. California shortstop Dick Schofield dove to his left, but could not grab it. Dave Stapleton pinch-ran for Buckner, who hobbled off the field on his bad ankles. Jim Rice fouled off two pitches, then looked at strike three on the outside edge.

Don Baylor worked the count to 2-2 and took a very close pitch that was inside and called a ball. Witt's full-count pitch was outside, but Baylor reached out and hooked it, pulling it to deep left. The ball carried and carried, sailing over the fence for a two-run homer. The crowd was quieter, but they knew their Angels still held a 5-4 lead – and when Dwight Evans fouled to third for the second out, they began loudly cheering again.

One out away – and Gene Mauch came out of the dugout to make a pitching change. He wanted left-hander Gary Lucas to face Gedman, who had singled, doubled, and homered against Witt. Gedman had faced Lucas only twice before – July 27, 1986 and in Game Four of this ALCS – and he had struck out both times. It was still a questionable decision.

Witt, who had thrown 123 pitches, said afterwards he was not tired. "I felt like I was pitching from the seventh inning on, on adrenalin mostly. But I was getting people out. . . . I called Boone out. We were going to discuss how we were going to handle [Gedman]. But . . . we never got to discuss it."

Mauch: "I've never had much success relieving Mike Witt. But I've also never seen Rich Gedman do anything but strike out against Gary Lucas. I can handle it this way. If I had left [Witt] in, and Gedman had another hit, I couldn't have handled that."

Lucas threw only one pitch – and it sailed up and in and hit Gedman on the right hand. As the Boston catcher trotted to first base, Mauch made another change, bringing in closer Donnie Moore to face Dave Henderson. Henderson took a ball low, then a strike that was a little higher. When he swung and missed a pitch low and away, Moore and the Angels were one strike away.

Dave Stapleton: "I looked across the field and I could see everyone in the Angels dugout getting ready to celebrate. . . . They had those nice little smiles that you get before you start hugging everyone."

Moore threw ball two in the dirt, and Henderson fouled off two pitches. Moore's 2-2 pitch – the seventh pitch of the at-bat – came in a little low. Henderson swung and as soon as he hit it, he knew. The ball sailed far over the fence in left for a two-run home run – a shot that gave the Red Sox a 6-5 lead. Henderson took three steps out of the batter's box, watching the flight of the ball. As it cleared the fence, he jumped and spun around. And then he began a fast trot around the bases.

Henderson: "The pitch I fouled off was a fastball I should have hit. I had to step out of the batter's box and gather myself, think about what I had to do. With two strikes I had to protect the plate. I really just wanted to reach down and make sure I at least put the ball in play."

Henderson: "The pitch before was a fastball, and I was mad at myself for not doing something with that one. It was a changeup or a forkball. Just trying to get it into play, maybe in the gap . . ."

Moore: "I'd been throwing him fastballs, and he was fouling them off, fouling them off. Then I threw him an offspeed pitch and I shouldn't have thrown it. I should have stayed with the hard stuff. The kind of bat speed he has is offspeed. That pitch was right in his swing."

Henderson: "I knew when I hit it, it was gone."

Moore retired Ed Romero on a fly to right for the third out.

Stanley began the ninth – his third inning of work – by giving up a single to Boone (his third hit of the day). Ruppert Jones went in to pinch-run, and Gary Pettis dropped down a bunt, moving Jones to second. Lefty Joe Sambito came out of the bullpen to face Rob Wilfong, who promptly knocked Sambito's first pitch into right field. Dwight Evans charged the ball and made an accurate throw home, but Jones was too speedy and he slid in just ahead of the ball and tag. The game was tied: 6-6.

McNamara vowed before the game to stay away from Calvin Schiraldi, who had pitched in Games 3 and 4. The manager called on Steve Crawford, who had last worked one week earlier, in the final game of the regular season. Crawford was essentially the last man on the staff, taking the final spot on the playoff roster when starting pitcher Tom Seaver's knee kept him out of the rotation.

Schofield faced Crawford and lined a single to right, sending Wilfong (carrying the AL pennant in his back pocket) to third base. Wilfong was the only baserunner that mattered, so the Red Sox intentionally walked Brian Downing, moving Schofield to second and loading the bases. With both the infield and outfield playing in, Crawford faced DeCinces, who had doubled twice in the game. DeCinces swung at the first pitch and hit a fly ball to short right field. It was too shallow for Wilfong to tag up and attempt to score on Evans's strong arm. Bobby Grich then lined a 2-2 pitch right back to the mound, which Crawford speared easily in his follow-through. Game Five would go to extra innings.

Moore walked Wade Boggs to start the tenth. Marty Barrett forced him at second. Stapleton singled to right-center and Barrett went to third. It looked like a good opportunity for a run, but Jim Rice grounded the first pitch into a double play.

The Angels nearly won the game in the bottom of the 10th, when Gary Pettis hit a drive to deep left field. Rice, with his back to the wall, caught the ball over his head for the third out.

Moore hit Don Baylor to begin the Red Sox 11th. Evans singled to center. Gedman popped up a bunt attempt to third. DeCinces bare-handed the ball on a bounce, but his throw was off target, and the bases were loaded. Henderson swung at Moore's first pitch and flied to center – scoring Baylor and giving Boston a 7-6 lead. Henderson: "I just wanted to get the ball in the air and get a run in."

Schiraldi ended up pitching in the game after all, coming in to face the top of the California order in the bottom of the eleventh. He struck out Wilfong and Schofield, and ended the game when Downing fouled to first. "I was awake all night wondering if I'd ever get a chance to redeem myself," Schiraldi said, referring to his poor performance in Game Four. "This has to be the biggest game of my life."

Henderson had three RBI in Game Five, the same number of RBI he had for the Red Sox since the August 19 trade eight weeks earlier. "Yeah, but they came at the right time." Afterwards, in the clubhouse, Henderson asked, "Where's the brew? My throat's dry."

Henderson was an unlikely hero, making only 54 plate appearances in 36 games for Boston. He hit only .196 during the regular season with the Red Sox and was used mostly as a late-inning defensive replacement for centerfielder Tony Armas.

Earlier in the game, Tony Armas twisted his ankle trying to catch Doug DeCinces's double off the wall in center. He stayed in the game for a few innings, but left after batting in the top of the fifth. Dave Henderson took over in center. [Henderson had fouled a pitch off his leg on Saturday (Game Four). "I was hurting so badly this morning that I couldn't walk. . . . I took aspirin, lots of aspirin. This is no time to take yourself out of anything."]

John McNamara: "This was the most emotional, dramatic and unbelievable baseball game I've ever been associated with."

Calvin Schiraldi: "I got beat with what was definitely not my best pitch Saturday night [Game Four]. I tossed and turned all night thinking of that. I just wanted to get back out there and I told Mac that as soon as I got to the park."

Steve Crawford, the winning pitcher, was nearly in tears: "It was the game of my life. I've never experienced anything like it."

Marty Barrett: "I'll tell you where they lost the game. Mauch made a big mistake by taking Witt out. I don't know why Mauch took him out . . . I guess he was afraid of Richie Gedman hitting a home run. But to me, that's what cost them the game."

Mauch, on replacing Witt one out from the pennant: "That's hindsight and I don't like to look at hindsight."

Don Baylor: "I've been involved in 2,022 major league games and this was by far the best. . . . When you're down to your very last out, the very last pitch, and you turn around and win, there's an awful lot of emotion. All of a sudden, you're a kid again."

Roger Clemens: "That was the best game I've ever seen. . . . I was in the Astrodome in 1980 when the Astros had that remarkable game they had in extra innings. That's the only game I've ever seen even that's comparable to this." [Games Three, Four and Five of the 1980 NLCS (Astros/Philadelphia Phillies) were played in Houston and all three games went into extra innings. It's unclear to which game Clemens was referring (maybe Game Three since the Phillies won Games Four and Five).]

One interesting factoid from Steve Hirdt of ABC: In major league baseball's first 648 postseason games, no team had ever taken a lead of two or more runs into the ninth inning and lost. And then it happened twice within 24 hours. In Game Four, on October 11, Boston held a 3-0 lead in the ninth inning before the Angels tied it up and won in 11 innings. The following day, October 12, the Red Sox rallied against the Angels in Game Five, scoring four times in the top of the ninth, and eventually winning 7-6 in 11 innings. And then it happened a third time, on October 15, when the Astros blew a 3-0 lead in the ninth inning of Game Six of the National League Championship Series, as the Mets came back to win the game (and the pennant) 7-6 in 16 innings.


FenFan said...

Excellent recap! I was following the series via my paper route but did not watch the game live. It was only years later that I watched a replay on ESPN Classic. I can still see Hendu jumping up and down at home plate after hitting the home run like a little kid on Christmas morning.

allan said...

Thanks! It was a lot of fun watching the games again. I remember being pissed after Game 4 (and the Sox were down 1-3) and not being home for the start of Game 5. I think I joined it in the fourth inning or so. Just amazing baseball that October, both LCS and the WS.

If anyone has a real attachment to that 1986 team, they should get this book. In addition to the player bios, there are bios on the manager, coaches, even the broadcasters. Also recaps on six regular season games. It's huge - 8.5 x 11 - and about 400 pages.