The Possible Dream is one victory away from reality.
With sheer stubbornness and remarkable resiliency, the Red Sox pounded the California Angels, 10-4, last night at Fenway Park and reached the doorstep of the World Series. One out away from elimination on Sunday, they have forced a seventh and deciding game in the AL Championship Series tonight.
Boston will have Roger Clemens on the mound against California’s John Candeleria. After 162 games in the regular season and six in the playoffs, the issue will be condensed into this showdown.
The Red Sox have met challenges all year, and last night was no exception. They trailed in the first inning, 2-0, and saw their starter, Oil Can Boyd, roughed up so badly that he was on the verge of an early and demoralizing exit.
But when Boston bounced back for two runs without a hit in the bottom of the first off loser Kirk McCaskill, the spirit that had carried the Sox to an emotional 7-6 victory Sunday seemed to turn Fenway Park into a house of horrors for the Angels.
The Red Sox broke open the 2-2 game with a five-run outburst in the third inning that chased McCaskill. In all, they reeled off 16 hits, including four by Spike Owen and three by Marty Barrett.
After his shaky first inning, Boyd settled down and turned in six more innings of effective, if not inspiring, pitching. The Can and all his gyrations were not on display. Staying within himself, Boyd allowed nine hits and three runs before giving way to Bob Stanley. When Boyd left, the Fenway Faithful broke into a chant of “Oil Can, Oil Can,” in appreciation of the troubled righthander who got them to where they’ve wanted to be since the opening day of spring training.
The decisive rally wasn’t a classic home run barrage. The Sox cracked out timely base hits and took advantage of California mistakes.
“Both teams have shown they know how to play and win,” said Angels manager Gene Mauch, whose club has squandered a 3-1 series lead. “Now we’ll find out which one knows how to win when they have to win.”
Sox manager John McNamara discounted momentum -- which is now squarely with his team -- as a factor in the one-game duel.
“California is a veteran club,” he said. “They won’t be intimidated. But this club has met every challenge all year long. I don’t think winning or losing has anything to do with history. I wish we could have won it in four games. But when you have two teams so evenly matched, it’s tough. It should be a good game.”
Boyd and the Red Sox hardly looked like winners in the top of the 28-minute first inning. Reggie Jackson and Doug DeCinces each had a run-scoring double off Boyd, who escaped by getting Rob Wilfong on a pop to first in an 11-pitch effort with two out and the bases loaded.
In the bottom of the inning, Boston tied the game with two walks, a run- scoring passed ball by Bob Boone and an RBI groundout by Jim Rice. It was hardly a powerful display. But it did indicate that McCaskill was vulnerable and had little control of his breaking ball.
Boyd seemed to perk up in the second, pitching out of trouble after Gary Pettis singled with one out. In the third, he struck out two and found a groove he kept for the rest of his outing.
“The runs picked me up,” Boyd said. “I knew I had thrown 44 pitches in the first inning. But I tried to stay within myself. I knew a job had to be done and my guys had come to play.”
When McCaskill mowed down the side in order in the second, there was reason to doubt Boyd’s theory. But not in the third, when the Red Sox jumped on McCaskill for six hits and took a 7-2 lead.
Owen got the first Boston hit of the night, a single to center. He moved to second on a single by Wade Boggs. And then the fun began. Barrett came up with orders to bunt. But with two strikes, he swung away and doubled, scoring Owen and giving Boston the lead for good, 3-2.
Bill Buckner was next, and his single up the middle brought home Boggs. Rice grounded into a fielder’s choice for the first out as Barrett was caught in a rundown and tagged out by Boone.
McCaskill might have escaped had it not been for the most bizarre play of the night. It followed a single to right by Don Baylor that should have loaded the bases.
Ruppert Jones charged the ball in short center, and his throw home was cut off by first baseman Bobby Grich. Since Rice had rounded second and Buckner decided to stop at third, the Angels had a couple of options for a play, depending on Grich, who was filling in for ailing Wally Joyner. Grich made the wrong choice, electing to throw to first to get Baylor, who had also made a wide turn. The throw got past second baseman Wilfong, who was covering on the play, and rolled into the photographers’ booth. Buckner and Rice were waved home and Baylor to third. Now it was 6-2.
McCaskill lasted one more batter. When Dwight Evans followed with a single to center, scoring Baylor, McCaskill was replaced by lefthander Gary Lucas. One game late, Lucas struck out Rich Gedman. He also got Dave Henderson to pop to short. But the damage was done, and Boston was on its way to Game 7.
The Sox’ big inning meant big trouble for the Angels. After McCaskill, they used Lucas, Doug Corbett and Chuck Finley in an effort to stem the tide.
Because of that workload, the bullpen isn’t exactly at peak strength. If Candelaria falters tonight, the Angels will have to come up with some fresh arms, and right now they don’t have many. Donnie Moore received two cortisone shots Sunday night, and it remains to be seen whether he can pitch.
“I’m not concerned about it,” said Mauch. “You will see Candelaria, and if you have to, you will see (Mike) Witt, (Don) Sutton and Moore.”
Boyd was humble in victory, saying he’d only paved the way for an even bigger triumph.
“I got my thoughts together the last couple of days,” he said. ‘’Nothing was going to bother me. I came to the park with no doubts. Not to be careful, but to pitch comfortable. Go out and throw the baseball like I can.
“The fifth game gave us such a boost. I knew here the crowds wouldn’t be against us. I knew here we were going to go out and score some runs. Now you’ve got to believe Roger will do it. Big Tex will be ready.”