The moment the ball left his bat in the 11th inning, Dwight Evans began his trot. His line drive off Edwin Nunez was headed toward the left-field screen and the Red Sox had completed yet another miracle finish at Fenway Park.
He ran slowly and deliberately, fully enjoying the Red Sox’ 9-6 victory over the Seattle Mariners, eagerly anticipating the welcoming committee at home plate, savoring the cheers of a crowd of 16,715.
After crossing home, Evans ran toward the clubhouse and spotted teammate Bill Buckner, the 10th-inning hero whose clutch two-run double had kept the Red Sox from a 6-4 defeat.
“I think I just hit for the cycle,” he told Buckner. “I think that home run gave me the cycle.”
Evans, indeed, had a single, double and a triple to add to his 13th home run of the year. It was his first career cycle, and the first by a Sox player since Fred Lynn did it in May 1980.
“I’m just glad I got it when we had a win,” said Evans. “It’s never happened to me before, and it wouldn’t have meant as much if we’d lost the game.
“It just shows that we’ve got a good team, capable of scoring runs at any time. We need to win some games like this. But it shouldn’t surprise anybody because we’ve got the best lineup in baseball.”
Well, certainly the Seattle Mariners must have been surprised about the finish of last night’s 4-hour, 1-minute marathon, the longest Red Sox game of this season. Twice the visitors seemed to have the game wrapped up - at 4-2 and 6-4 - only to see Boston come back twice to tie it.
Mariner pitchers stranded 16 Red Sox runners in the first 10 innings, but in the clutch Seattle simply could not contain the likes of Wade Boggs, Evans, Jim Rice, Tony Armas, Mike Easler and Buckner. The Sox had won over Toronto, 5-3, in 10 innings last Sunday on an Armas two-run homer - before last night Seattle’s record in extra-inning games was 7-1 - but that was child’s play compared to this finish.
After 7 1/2 innings, the Red Sox seemed destined to go down to a 4-2 defeat. Rookie Al Davis, rapidly becoming known as a Red Sox tormentor, had hit a three-run homer off Sox starter Bruce Hurst to wipe out a 2-1 Boston lead. The game seemed almost out of reach after Seattle manager Del Crandall got a strong inning out of newcomer Salome Barojas. Also, he had his whole bullpen ready.
But on this night the Mariners’ bullpen couldn’t stop anybody, and the four pitchers who followed Barojas all got stung. Mike Stanton took over for Barojas in the eighth after Easler had led off with a double. The Sox then loaded the bases and eventually made it a 4-3 game on a two-out infield single by Boggs.
Stanton was on the mound in the ninth when Rice opened the inning with a double and scored with one out on a single by Easler. The only thing that saved the Mariners this time was Glenn Hoffman’s taking a third strike with two out and the bases loaded.
Seattle regained the lead at 6-4 off Bob Stanley with a bases-loaded walk and a squeeze sacrifice bunt by catcher Bob Kearney.
The lead would be short-lived. Quicker than you could say line drive, the Sox tied it, and Easler made a bone crushing play that must have made the Mariners wonder if they were playing rugby instead of baseball. The line drive was off Boggs’ bat and smashed off the glove of left fielder Al Chambers for a two-base error. It was followed by a ground single to left by Evans that put runners on first and third, It also sent Stanton to the showers in favor of righthander Bob Stoddard.
Things looked promising for the Mariners when Stoddard popped Rice up and struck out Armas. But when he walked Easler to load the bases, it forced Crandall to go to the bullpen for a lefthander, Paul Mirabella.
But then Buckner whacked his clutch two-run double to left to tie the game. Easler tried his best to win it, sprinting home from first on the double, only to be tagged out by Kearney, who got the worst of a head-on collision.
When Stanley got out of the top of the 11th with a classic double play, the crowd began to sense the end was near. Seattle helped with two errors that led up to Evans’ game winner.
Barry Bonnell had moved from outfield to third base, and the flaw in this plan became apparent with one out. Ed Jurak hit a routine grounder to third, but Bonnell sent a rocket to the Red Sox dugout for a two-base error. Hoffman worked Mirabella for a walk, and the bases would have been loaded had not Jurak been so eager to score on a ball hit by Boggs, the next batter, who also hit a grounder to third. Bonnell’s throw pulled Davis off the bag, and he bobbled the ball trying to tag Boggs. Jurak went around third too far and was caught in a rundown and tagged out.
Crandall then brought in Nunez, who had worked in a 9-7 loss to Chicago Wednesday night. With Rice and Armas on deck, Crandall let Nunez pitch to Evans, and it only took one pitch to end the game.
With the home run, Evans became only the 15th Red Sox player to go for the cycle.
“I knew about Nunez,” said Evans. “And I knew he has a good fastball. But I also knew that he’d pitched three innings against Chicago and might not be as quick. I wasn’t going for a home run. I just wanted to make sure I hit the ball hard some place. I got a good pitch to hit.”