It’s an election year, an Olympic year and a Red Sox year. The Sox ‘78 fears this weekend have given way to the Yankees ‘86 tears, and sometime within the fortnight these Sons of Joe Morgan should taste champagne.
Loyal legions who last winter bought Yankee tickets yesterday were rewarded with a 3-1 Red Sox victory over the Yanks.
Bruce Hurst (18-5) painted a portside Picasso, allowing only three hits and fanning nine. Dwight Evans, the link to past pennant duels, broke a 1-1 tie with a shot into the screen in the bottom of the eighth as Boston increased its lead to 5 1/2 games (biggest of the year) with 14 to play.
When Hurst punched out Jack Clark to end it, the Sox embraced one another on the Fenway lawn as 35,051 chanted “Bruuuuce.” It had that Springsteen feel of 1986. The hungry hearts were finally playing for the home side. The Morgan Magic Number is 10.
“It’s a great feeling,” said Mike Greenwell. “And if we win tomorrow, we can put ‘em way back. If we can put ‘em 6 1/2 back, I don’t see this team losing that many ball games.”
“We need to win tomorrow (today),” Yankees manager Lou Piniella acknowledged.
Elections and Olympics come every four years, but Sox flags usually are spaced out more like comets. The Red Sox haven’t made it to the post-season twice in a three-year period since 1916-18, but it could be happening again.
This hasn’t been the prettiest of series, but Larry Parrish, Mike Boddicker and the other uninitiated now understand what it means when baseball’s Athens and Sparta fight for a flag.
Yesterday’s matinee started slowly, but got better as it went along. Charles Hudson, starting in place of flu-bit Tommy John, stifled the Sox as Hurst frustrated the heavy hitters from New York. From the press box, you could almost hear Clark screaming for fastballs.
Hurst overpowered the heart of the Yankee lineup in the fourth. Don Mattingly led with a single over the middle, but expired at first as Hurst whiffed Dave Winfield, Clark and Gary Ward on 15 pitches. Winfield went out swinging at a low and away forkball. Clark punched out on two off-speed pitches and a fastball, then flung his bat and helmet in disgust. Ward went down swinging at a forkball to complete the hat trick and incite the masses.
“When he’s got his stuff and you guess one thing and he throws another, nobody looks too good,” said Sox catcher Rich Gedman. “People don’t like that.”
There was a long, strange trip in the bottom of the fourth when Mike Greenwell struck out, reached on a wild pitch, stole second, took third on a catcher’s error, was officially caught stealing on a botched suicide squeeze (Todd Benzinger missed the bunt), returned to third when catcher Don Slaught dropped the ball, then finally died on third when Ellis Burks (grounder to first) and Larry Parrish (fly to right) failed to get him home.
The Sox broke up Hudson’s no-hit bid and pushed a run across in the fifth. Jody Reed led with a double high off the wall, took third on a sacrifice bunt by Gedman and scored when Wade Boggs hit a controversial sacrifice fly into the corner in left.
Piniella, who is challenging Tony LaRussa’s record for most appearances on the field in a series, protested the game after Boggs’ sac fly because third base ump Ted Hendry signaled fan interference on the play. Henderson caught the ball in fair territory after Hendry’s signal. According to the umps, Boggs was out no matter what, but they were going to let the run score because there was no way Reed could have been thrown out.
The Yankees got the run back in the sixth. Henderson led with a double to right, took third on Willie Randolph’s bunt and scored on Mattingly’s grounder to first.
That was it until the eighth. Hudson had a cramp in his calf and couldn’t get his curveball over. He fell behind Evans, 2-0, then came in with a fastball. Evans hit a rocket into the screen, good for his 16th homer, his 100th RBI and a 2-1 lead.
“I didn’t want to go 3-0,” said Hudson. “He could have fouled it off, but he didn’t.”
Evans said, “I knew I hit it hard, but it was sinking a little bit and Fenway Park will take a homer away from you sometimes.”
After Evans’ homer, Benzinger lofted a double off the wall and Hudson left due to his cramp. Everready Dale Mahorcic came in, and Parrish crushed a two-out double to the base of the wall (379 foot sign) in center to make it 3-1. No one underestimated the impact of Parrish’s hit.
“That made it a little easier to pitch in the ninth,” said Hurst.
Hurst got Mattingly on a fly to center to start the ninth, then retired Winfield on a grounder to short and fanned Clark.
“That was a masterpiece,” announced Morgan. “Especially against these guys, in this park. I know one thing: He didn’t want to see me on the field before the last out.”
Humble Hurst, a late entry in the Cy Young contest, said, “I felt comfortable, nice and comfortable. I could hear the crowd in the ninth, but I’ve got three guys up there that are more important to me. Usually, the days when I hear the crowd are the days when I’m not looking forward to being out there.”
He looks forward to every start now. He is the Sox stopper. Yesterday, long after his work was done, in the cool of the late afternoon, Hurst took a stroll around the empty Fenway grounds with his sons. It was a quiet moment. The echoes of “Bruuuuce” had faded.
Hurst was pitching like this at the end of the 1986 season, but the job didn’t get done. He and the Red Sox would like a chance to do it right this time.