Is that all there is? Will Fenway Park be dark until April?
The Oakland A’s beat the Red Sox, 4-3, last night to take a commanding 2-0 lead in this best-of-seven American League Championship Series.
What are the Townies’ chances now that they’ve lost two straight on the Fenway lawn with Messrs. Clemens and Hurst pitching? How can fans expect the Sox to go to Oakland down, 0-2, and bring this series back home? Boston went 0-6 in Oakland this year and has lost 14 of its last 15 in northern California.
For maybe the final time in ‘88, the Red Sox were surrounded by all their familiar landmarks. The pulsating Citgo sign lit the ebony sky over the left- field wall, and select lights in the Prudential tower produced a huge No. 1 beyond the right-field stands. Boston Edison did its part; Roger Clemens, Lee Smith and Boston batters couldn’t do theirs.
And there wasn’t much noise in the stuffed stands. Fenway’s frost had a numbing effect on the Red Sox crowd, and the sound of two mittens clapping is soft and muffled. Many of the nervous high rollers merely sat on their hands and waited for something bad to happen.
Bad things happened in the seventh. Staked to a 2-0 lead, Clemens surrendered a two-run homer to human billboard Jose Canseco, then balked Carney Lansford to second base and wild-pitched him to third. Mark McGwire’s two-out single scored Lansford to give the A’s a 3-2 lead.
More bad things happened in the ninth. Rich Gedman had tied it with a homer in the bottom of the seventh, but in the ninth, the A’s pushed another run across with three singles off Smith. No. 9 hitter Walt Weiss struck the game- winner. Oakland stopper Dennis Eckersley had no such problems in the bottom of the ninth.
How hopeless is this? The Red Sox have stopped hitting (nine hits in two games) and couldn’t win with their aces, Bruce Hurst and Clemens, pitching back-to-back at home. Now they have to go to Alameda County Coliseum, where only fools rush in.
Red Sox manager Joe Morgan was asked what he plans to tell his team and said, “I don’t know, what would you tell ‘em? We’re 1-14, we’re down two games, what odds would you put on it?”
“I think we have a great advantage now,” said Canseco. “I see this going at the most three more games.”
Mike Boddicker picks up the torch tomorrow night, and Morgan has to decide whether he wants to bring Hurst and Clemens back on three days’ rest for Games 4 and (if necessary) 5.
For six innings last night, it looked as if Clemens was going to put a stop to the talk that he can’t win the big ones. There has been a lot of local hand-wringing about his health and his ability to win the important games. He seemed to have more excuses than Mary Decker Slaney.
Clemens didn’t need any excuses in the first six innings. He pitched as if he had something to prove and was untouchable until the seventh.
“The way Roger was throwing, I just knew we were gonna shut ‘em out,” said Morgan. “He’s got that dynamite low, outside fastball back.”
Clemens and Oakland righty Storm Davis matched zeroes until the sixth when Dave Henderson’s error allowed Boston to score a pair of unearned runs.
“I thought we were a shoo-in,” said Morgan.
Tollway Joe was wrong. Clemens gave the runs right back when blacksmith Canseco (42 homers in 1988) hit a two-run shot in the top of the seventh.
You do not give the runs right back when you are destined to go all the way. This same thing happened to Hurst in Game 1. The Sox scuffled to tie the game in the bottom of the seventh, but it took Hurst only two pitches to give the lead back in the top of the eighth. The Red Sox are trying, but it is just not happening.
Game 2 was a good night for fastball pitchers. “Anything you hit on the end of the bat on on the fists is bound to sting,” said McGwire (0 for 10 lifetime against Clemens before his crucial single).
There was no warmth provided by the Red Sox. Boston’s batter’s-box freeze- out has reached critical proportions in the last week, and the Sox can ill afford a continuation when they play in Oakland tomorrow.
“We’ve cooled off,” said Morgan. “We’ve got fellows who had pitches right there, but they’re just not getting the good part of the bat on the ball.”
The A’s lead is not insurmountable. Red Sox fans should recall that in 1986, the New York Mets lost the first two games of a seven-game series AT HOME, then went on to win the series. The Mets, of course, did it at the expense of the Boston Red Sox.
Is there one more miracle in the making? Can the sagging Sox go into their chamber of horrors and produce two victories in three games? Can Mike Boddicker do what Hurst and Clemens couldn’t do? Will the Boston bats hit better in a park that is much tougher to hit in than Fenway?
If the answers are no, the Fenway season is over and the Sox have played their last 1988 home game.