When all else fails for the Red Sox, you still know there is Jim Rice. His motto is leadership by example, and over the years his teammates have come to count upon it.
That explains why perhaps the biggest celebration of the Fourth of July holiday was held at home plate at Fenway Park yesterday, with 16,571 fans yelling their heads off. When Rice strolled home with his fifth base hit of the day, a grand slam home run in the 10th inning, the Red Sox had pulled off a 13-9 victory over the Oakland A’s, which ended the third straight marathon between the two teams in as many days.
“I was very tired in the 10th,” said Rice. “The guy (Gorman Heimueller) had struck me out the previous time I faced him on a screwball. But this time, I had my eyes wide open. I wasn’t going to leave it up to Tony (Armas). I said to myself, I’ve got to do something right here. I don’t get paid for overtime.’
“I wasn’t really trying for a home run in that situation. All I wanted to do was get the guy in from third base.”
Rice has done a pretty good job this year of getting runners in from third base, and what the A’s should have remembered is that, when he is hot, few players do it better. Rice picked up six runs batted in with five hits, tying him for the American League RBI lead at 67 with the A’s Dave Kingman.
After going 0 for 6 in a 9-6 loss in the series opener Monday night, Rice snapped out of an 0-for-17 slump by stringing out eight hits in the next nine at-bats, raising his average from .272 to .288.
“After hitting .215 the first month and a half of the season, I’m just happy to be back in the .280s,” Rice said. “I reached my goal of 60 RBIs by the All-Star break. But now I’m disappointed because I could have had 75-80 with any kind of decent streak.”
Rice’s homer was the only logical way to end the three-day affair, in which the average time for each game was 3 hours, 35 minutes.
It was a series in which the pitching exploits will best be forgotten. The two teams accounted for 48 runs, 76 base hits, 12 home runs (five yesterday) and 13 errors.
In each of the games, the Sox had the same game-winning opportunity - two men on, none out.Yesterday, manager Ralph Houk’s strategy was the opposite of what he had tried in the first two games.
Monday, Rich Gedman was ordered to swing away instead of bunting. He fanned, so a fly to left by the next batter, Reid Nichols, was the second out instead of a sacrifice fly. The Sox lost, 9-6.
Tuesday, Gary Allenson had the same opportunity and delivered the game- winning hit in a 6-5 victory.
Yesterday, Wade Boggs executed a sacrifice bunt to perfection and Dwight Evans was walked intentionally to set the stage for Rice.
The Sox had an early 8-3 lead, thanks to some bizarre baseball.
Bobby Ojeda was given a 3-0 lead in the first inning. Rice knocked in Boggs with the first of his four singles, and Mike Easler smashed a two-run homer.
But that was only the prelude. Oakland got three runs back in the second inning on three singles and two errors. Ojeda committed the biggest blunder after singles by Mike Heath and Bruce Bochte. He fielded Tony Phillips’ bunt and threw the ball into left field for one run. Rice picked up the ball and threw to second, which was uncovered, and the second run came in as Phillips went to third. He scored on a groundout.
But the A’s fell apart as the Sox scored five times in the bottom of the second. Glenn Hoffman singled, Davey Lopes misjudged Boggs’ fly ball in what amounted to a three-base error, and Evans got to second on a grounder that shot past Carney Lansford for another error. Rice knocked in the sixth run with his second hit and Armas hit a two-run blast, his 21st homer, to make it 8-3.
After pitching four strong innings, Ojeda blew up in the seventh and the A’s scored four times. Billy Almon hit a solo home run off Ojeda, who left after giving up a single to Rickey Henderson and a double to Mike Davis. Mark Clear came in and promptly gave up Kingman’s 23d home run.
Evans homered in the seventh to make it 9-7, and the Sox then loaded the bases against Heimueller but couldn’t score.
Clear left in the ninth after giving up a run and two hits. He walked Henderson, throwing ball four right at his head, showing his contempt for a man who would try to bunt with a 3-0 count. Henderson stole second and base hits by Mike Davis and Kingman produced the run that made it 9-8.
With runners on first and second, Davis made it a tie game on sheer hustle. Steve Crawford induced Lansford to hit a grounder to second. But the ball took a high hop, and the Sox settled for a forceout at second. Davis, meanwhile, steamed all the home from second, and his effort surprised the Sox so much that he didn’t even draw a throw.
“I’m not sure we could have gotten him at the plate, anyway,” said Marty Barrett. “I heard Hoffy call for the ball, and we were glad to get the out. Better that than runners on first and second and still only one out.” Lansford was caught stealing to end the ninth.
In the 10th, the Sox got the winning run to third with relative ease. Barrett singled off the wall and moved to second when Hoffman reached base on an error by Joe Morgan. Hoffman bunted and Morgan dropped the throw at first.
Boggs then laid down his bunt.
“It’s a little different,” said Houk, “when you have an Evans and Rice coming up instead of a Barrett and Hoffman. In that case, I don’t mind bunting.”