There’s a lesson in what happened to Red Sox starter Oil Can Boyd last night. Sometimes it is better to let sleeping dogs lie.
Boyd had spoken with confidence Monday while talking about what it took to master the Mets. Unfortunately for Boston, he wasn’t able to get his message across until the second inning last night, and by then, New York had scored four times and was on its way to a 7-1 victory, giving the World Series a sense of competition that was lacking in the the first two games.
Forget about a four-game sweep. There hasn’t been one since the Cincinnati Reds crushed the Yankees in 1976. Duplicating that feat had been the prevalent topic here after the Sox took the first two games of this best-of-seven series in New York. Now if they lose one more at Fenway Park, it will mean a return trip to Shea Stadium, where the Mets are not likely to be so meek the next time around.
Don’t blame it all on Boyd. A 4-0 deficit at Fenway is not an insurmountable deficit. But with former Boston pitcher Bobby Ojeda on the mound for the Mets, Red Sox bats went silent for the first time in three games, and when Ojeda left after seven innings, the Red Sox were out of the ballgame.
Boston had only five hits off Ojeda. Roger McDowell finished up after the Mets pushed a 4-1 lead to the 7-1 bulge. That sent the crowd of 33,595 home in time for the 11 o’clock news.
The Mets let Boyd know right away they could read. Boyd knew it too the moment he gave up a homer to the first man he faced, Len Dykstra. This proved to be more than just a mistake by the skinny righthander. It was a wake-up call for the Mets, who got four more hits in the inning and turned them into three runs.
“I saw what he (Boyd) said in the papers,” said Dykstra. “We didn’t take too kindly to it. The only one that got mastered tonight was him.”
Ojeda, the first man to start a World Series game against the team for which he had pitched the previous season, was also on the spot. But with an early cushion, he settled down into a rocking-chair repertoire of fastballs and offspeed pitches. It was the old Bobby Ojeda, but this time he was doing his best for the Mets.
“I personally don’t pay attention to what is said by other players,” said Ojeda. “But I know some of our guys were affected. They got up tonight, and that is crucial in games like this. They were awake and they played good defense.
“There are a lot of pitchers who throw offspeed pitches, and I know mine get a lot of attention. But all I did tonight was try to pitch my game and let the defense do its thing, rather than adjust to their game.”
Dykstra’s homer was just the spark the Mets needed. They had looked woeful offensively in losing the first two games and had a .190 average for their first eight postseason games.
Dykstra’s homer was followed by singles by Wally Backman and Keith Hernandez. When Gary Carter (three RBIs) doubled to the wall in left-center, Backman scored, making it 2-0.
Boyd got his first out of the inning as Darryl Strawberry struck out. But then disaster struck on a ground ball to third, which led to a rundown play the Red Sox botched so badly that all runners were safe.
Hernandez appeared trapped off third when Wade Boggs fielded the grounder by Ray Knight. To compound matters, Carter was on his way to third, and for a time, both men were within a few feet of the bag.
Boggs threw to the plate, and catcher Rich Gedman took the throw as Hernandez retreated.
With shortstop Spike Owen covering the bag and Boggs running toward
Hernandez from where he had made the initial throw, Gedman gave chase. Boggs caught the ball after Hernandez had passed him, and Hernandez dived back into third safely as Boggs threw belatedly to Owen.
That left only Carter hanging. Carter raced back toward second, and when Owen, who was pursuing the runner, turned his back to check on Hernandez, the Mets catcher made it safely.
Boyd then gave up the two-run single to designated hitter Danny Heep, and the Mets never looked back.
“The big key tonight,” said Mets manager Davey Johnson, “was to start off strong offensively. Getting away from home and having a good off day was good. I know the intensity was as good as we’ve seen all year.
“No doubt about it. Our record is fantastic on the road. When we score first, we hold the lead. We had been in the kind of slump that we hadn’t experienced all year.”
For five innings after the first, Boyd sent the Mets back into a slump. They had jumped on his fastball early, and looked for his sliders. But for a time, Boyd was his old self, retiring 18 of 19 batters in one stretch.
In the meantime, the Sox could reach Ojeda for only one run, Dave Henderson opened the third with a single, Boggs drew a one-out walk and Marty Barrett brought Henderson home with a single.
And the Mets finally got to Boyd for good with two insurance runs in the seventh before finishing their productive evening with a run on Knight’s RBI double off Joe Sambito in the eighth.
It wasn’t a pretty ending for Boyd. He loaded the bases and convinced manager John McNamara to let him gut it out. Instead, he gave up a two-run single to Carter on an 0-2 pitch . . . a cardinal sin as far as McNamara is concerned.
“Can’s adrenaline was flowing,” said McNamara. “And I thought he ‘d settled down after the first inning. But he didn’t make good pitches. They beat us. They were better than we were tonight.”