“DIARY OF A WINNER”
THE CURSE OF
THE BAMBINO, PART 9
April 19, 1986 ... Suddenly, Fenway Park is the homerless Astrodome and every Red Sox starter is a son of Iron Man Joe McGinnity. Jim Rice bunted over a first baseman for a single, Boston scored two runs on a Don Baylor grounder to short, and Red Sox fans again were spared the horrors of Boston's raging bullpen.
All of the above ended on a happy note for Oil Can Boyd who went the distance and the Sox beat Chicago, 3-2, to move over the line of mediocrity (.500) for the first time all season. Boyd tossed 101 pitches and scattered five hits while picking up his first victory of the season.
The Can's complete game came on the heels of nine-inning efforts by Al Nipper, Roger Clemens and Bruce Hurst. The last time the Sox hurled four straight complete games the pitchers were (gulp) Bob Stanley, Mike Torrez, Chuck Rainey and Dennis Eckersley. There's been quality along with this strong, stubborn quantity. Red Sox pitchers have allowed two runs or fewer in 7 of 11 games this season, and Boston's ERA is a league-best 2.67.
Meanwhile, the vaunted Boston batters are attacking the ball like conscientious objectors. The Red Sox have scored only 13 runs in five games since coming home. They've managed only 24 hits in 42 innings of the homestand. None of the five players who bat third through seventh is hitting higher than .238.
The Sox certainly were lucky to get two in the eighth. If White Sox manager Tony LaRussa is relieved of his assignment soon, he may look back at the eighth inning as the beginning of the end. Richard Dotson carried a 2-1 lead into the eighth. He had retired nine straight Boston batters in the middle innings and looked capable of closing.
Enter Wade Boggs. The Chicken Man wore an 0-for-15 collar to the plate and broke the sad string with a leadoff, first-pitch line double off The Wall. Carlton Fisk made a Yaz-like play on Boggs' hit and might have erased Boston's batting champ at second, but Tim Hulett mishandled Pudge's throw.
Juan Agosto replaced Dotson (109 pitches). Agosto ran the count to 0-and-2 on Bill Buckner (who squared to bunt on the first pitch), then walked him. Bob James replaced Agosto. Rice was next, and he, too, squared to bunt. After Ball 1, Rice popped up a bunt over the head of Bobby Bonilla, who was charging in from first. Everybody on the bases was safe. Everybody in the stands was laughing. Steve Lyons went in to run for Rice.
With the bases loaded and no outs, Don Baylor strode to the plate and drove the first pitch halfway to the Harvard Community Health Plan building -- foul. Then he narrowly missed a double down the left-field line for another foul. After two balls and two fouls, Baylor tapped a grounder up the middle. Guillen fielded the ball and stepped on second for one out. Lyons made a nice tumble slide, and Guillen's throw to first was wide and in the dirt. Boggs already had scored, and Buckner kept running. When the ball rolled away from Bonilla, Buckner made it home with the winning run. Baylor took second on a wild pitch but was stranded when Tony Armas struck out and Gedman grounded to second. On to the ninth.
The Can was still sharp. Bonilla led with a bunt single but was erased when Fisk grounded into a double play. Guillen flied to center to end it.
The Can's toughest moment came in the seventh. Ron Kittle led off with a long single to left. Bonilla pool-cued Boyd's next pitch over third base for a cheap double. Kittle lumbered to third and Boston pitching coach Bill Fischer made a trip to the mound. Fisk (now batting .150) was next, and he hit a harmless, towering fly to shallow left for the first out of the inning. Guillen was walked intentionally, and LaRussa sent Jerry Hairston up to hit. Hairston hit a routine grounder back to Boyd. The Can bobbled it for a moment, then erased Kittle at home, but Gedman's throw to first was late. The immortal Joel Skinner followed with a slow grounder to third. Boggs fielded the ball and dodged around Bonilla, who was called out. Bonilla argued, but it was academic: Boggs' throw to first was in plenty of time to nail Skinner.
The earlier part of the day was relatively tame, unless you consider the confusion outside the park. Many people had tickets that claimed a 1:05 starting time. The time was changed when NBC decided to use this game as a double-header backup. It never got on television. Fans in Boston and Chicago were treated to the 17-inning marathon between the Expos and Cardinals. Thanks, NBC.
The White Sox manufactured a run in the first. John (Magic Moment) Cangelosi walked on a 3-2 pitch, then got a good jump on The Can and stole second. Baseball's answer to Spud Webb (Cangelosi is 5 feet 8 inches, 150 pounds) leads the American League with eight steals and has been caught only once (by Marc Sullivan). Cangelosi took third on a bunt by Wayne Tolleson and scored when Harold Baines grounded to first. In the third, Skinner rapped a one-out triple to right-center and scored on a sacrifice fly to center by Cangelosi.
The Sox got one back in the fourth when Armas scraped the center- field wall for an RBI double. It was Armas' first run batted in of 1986, and it came on his 40th at bat. Two hours later, The Can was babbling about greatness, Rice was remembering his last bunt hit in 1975, and the Red Sox were only a half-game out of first place.
The Red Sox have won three straight and six of nine, but they're not hitting. Wade Boggs snapped out of an 0-for-15 slump yesterday, and the people following him in the order have been worse. Bill Buckner is hitting .205 (9 for 44), bunting fool Jim Rice is hitting .214 (9 for 42), Don Baylor .209 (9 for 43), Tony Armas .238 (10 for 42) and Rich Gedman .231 (9 for 39). In 11 games, the teeth of the Sox' order is hitting an aggregate .219 (46 for 210). The Sox have hit two homers on this homestand: one by Marty Barrett and the other (a grand slam) by Baylor.
Armas' start is unusually bad. He has one RBI in 42 at bats and has fanned 12 times while walking only once.
Ed Romero started his ninth straight game at shortstop. The Sox are still saying that Glenn Hoffman's right ankle injury is the reason, but it's easy to get the impression that manager John McNamara prefers Romero as his shortstop.
Jim Rice's last sacrifice bunt was in August 1980 when he moved Carl Yastrzemski (who had also bunted) to second.