In Red Sox lore, it will be a homestand that will be talked about for years. With 11 straight victories at Fenway Park, there seems no doubt that this team will go into the history books.
In finishing it off with a 3-2 triumph over the Chicago White Sox yesterday, the Boston Hitting Machines have turned on the Fenway Faithful with the kind of juice expected of them all year.
“It’s still incredible to me,” said Joe Morgan, who set a winning-streak record for new managers. “But remember, it’s not me. It’s the players. They’re doing it, I’d have settled for 7-4.”
Incredible is still the right word. Yesterday, the pieces of the jigsaw puzzle were set in place again. To go along with timely hitting and great defense, the Sox added the ingredient of solid pitching -- five innings by Bruce Hurst, then strong relief performances by Dennis Lamp and Lee Smith, who picked up his 15th save.
“I went out to see Lee in the ninth,” said Morgan, “and I said, ‘Go with the power, baby. Throw the ball as hard as you can, and keep it up.’ “
He may have said the same thing to Hurst and Lamp. Pitching for the first time since July 6, Hurst had control problems, so he used a lot of fastballs among his 95 pitches. He went five innings and picked up the win to improve to 10-4, but not without help. Lamp replaced him and pitched out of a jam in the fifth, doing exactly the same thing -- throwing heat. Then, in the eighth and ninth, Smith put on a simply awesome show, striking out the side in the ninth despite allowing two hits. All came through as advertised.
“I wouldn’t exactly call what happened out there fun,” said Smith. “But it did feel good to see the pitching come through. Ninety percent of the game is pitching.
“If you go out and get 10 runs, and the pitching doesn’t hold them, it doesn’t really matter. But Hurst gave us five solid innings, and then Dennis and I came in and did our jobs.”
Ninety percent of yesterday’s victory was pitching. Boston got 10 hits -- nine off loser Bill Long -- but was shut out after the third inning. But there is an air of confidence about this team that wasn’t there at the All- Star break.
“We’re right where we want to be,” said Mike Greenwell, who gave the Sox the lead for good with a first-inning triple that scored Wade Boggs. “I mean, we’re close, and for a team that was once 9 1/2 games behind, now we know we’ve got a chance.” Yesterday’s victory left Boston only a game and a half behind AL East co-leaders Detroit (which was swept in Oakland) and New York.
“It’s great to see this team back only two years after being in a World Series,” said Greenwell. “It’s great to hear the fans cheering for us. I’m sure they’re happy to see us get close to the Yankees and Detroit again. We want to be contenders and perhaps win a championship. I’m sure they want the same thing.”
Greenwell’s triple was a good example of just how confident the Sox have become. The inning seemed over after a single by Boggs and a walk to Marty Barrett was followed by a double play. Dwight Evans slashed at a 3-0 pitch and hit a line drive that Steve Lyons caught and threw to first, doubling up Barrett.
Undaunted, Greenwell stepped up and hit Long’s next offering into the right-center triangle. It was the seventh time in the last eight games the Sox had put a run on the board in the first inning.
“We got some timely hitting early,” said Morgan, “but after that, Long was pretty tough. But we also got some good pitching. Hurst was a little rusty, but by throwing 95 pitches he got in enough work. Lamp and Smith were outstanding.”
Boston made it 2-0 in the second inning, thanks to Jody Reed and Larry Parrish, the newest Red Sox heroes. Reed opened with a double off The Wall. Parrish followed with a single up the middle, driving in his eighth run in the seven games he has played for Boston.
Chicago got one run back in the third, but in the bottom of the inning, a walk to Evans, a double by Greenwell and two ground outs scored what turned out to be the deciding run.
Hurst left after putting two runners on base in the fifth, having given up 10 hits with six strikeouts and no walks.
“Sometimes you think they should give the win to the guy who deserves it the most,” said Hurst. “Today, that was Dennis Lamp.
“I felt good and I can’t really say I was rusty. I battled for five innings and I gave up a lot of hits, but only two runs. I had decent stuff. But sometimes that isn’t necessarily the difference. I just gotta make the right pitches.”
Lamp said he might nominate Smith for the win, as the stopper picked him up with one out in the eighth inning. Chicago played for a tie, following a walk to pinch hitter Daryl Boston with a sacrifice bunt. Morgan didn’t hesitate to go to Smith.
“I wanted the power for (Ozzie) Guillen, who was the next hitter,” he said. “Smith got him and blew the ball past the next guy.”
Smith created his own jam in the ninth, giving up singles to Dave Gallagher and Harold Baines, sandwiched around a strikeout of Lyons. But even before Morgan ran out to talk strategy, Smith and catcher Rick Cerone had made up their minds to go hard after the next two hitters, Ivan Calderon and Greg Walker. Both struck out, much to the delight of the Fenway crowd.
Smith said it was business as usual. Or, as he thinks business as usual can be.
“I’d had trouble with my slider,” he said. “So I went with two kinds of fastballs, and lately it has worked very well.
“Mostly, it’s a matter of getting work. I hadn’t been able to get an opportunity to work very much until now. I was definitely overthrowing my pitches. Now, I’m getting the work and I have a better feel about throwing the ball, and I’m making better pitches.”