“DIARY OF A WINNER”
THE CURSE OF
THE BAMBINO, PART 9
May 21, 1986 ... The Sox survived two rain delays and bats that were dormant for five innings as they rallied for their fifth straight victory, a 3- 2 decision over the Twins at Fenway Park. Steve Lyons' run-scoring single capped a two-run seventh, making a winner of reliever Sammy Stewart (3-1) and taking starter Bruce Hurst off the hook.
Following interruptions of 1 hour 59 minutes in the top of the sixth and 40 minutes in the top of the seventh, Boston barely beat the American League curfew (no inning can start later than 1 a.m.) in time to beat the Twins. Until the first delay at 9:08 p.m., the Sox had done nothing against Twins starter Mike Smithson, trailing, 2-0.
When the rain subsided at 11:07, Twins manager Ray Miller tried to persuade the umpires that the conditions prevented the game from continuing. Miller's argument didn't work. Neither did his relievers.
After the pitiful performance by his bullpen in the first two games of this series, Miller had no choice but to bring back Smithson following the delay. But after Smithson gave up a leadoff double to Lyons and threw one ball to Barrett, Miller removed him in favor of reliever Mark Portugal. As advertised, the bullpen immediately gave up a run, which was charged to Smithson. Lyons moved to third on a wild pitch by Portugal. He scored on a grounder to short by Marty Barrett, pulling the Sox within 2-1.
In the top of the seventh, rain started again and play was halted, this time at 11:38.
Then time ran out on Minnesota. Jim Rice led off Boston's seventh with a single, and Don Baylor's double off The Wall put runners on second and third. Frank Pastore replaced Portugal, and the first batter he faced, Tony Armas, hit a ball that deflected off the pitcher and over to shortstop Greg Gagne. As Gagne threw out Armas at first, Rice scored, tying the game, and Baylor advanced to third. Pastore intentionally walked Rich Gedman, then struck out Mike Stenhouse, who was pinch hitting for Rey Quinones. But Lyons delivered the go-ahead tally with a single to left.
Joe Sambito took over for Stewart with one out in the eighth, and Bob Stanley earned his sixth save by pitching the ninth, surviving a leadoff single by pinch hitter Al Woods. All of that spared Hurst, but none of it benefited him. And that merely continued a distressing trend for the Boston lefthander, who left after five innings with the score 2-0, Minnesota. By then, he had registered six strikeouts to regain the American League lead with 77, four more than Roger Clemens.
But he also seemed destined for his fourth defeat against three victories, because the same club that had scored 25 runs in two games while he watched from the bench couldn't get a runner past first base while he was working. That was a familiar refrain. Last Friday, Hurst suffered a 4-1 loss to Texas despite striking out 14 batters. And while he has surrendered only eight earned runs in his three defeats, the Sox have supported him with a grand total of one. Still, that couldn't overshadow a successful revival by the Red Sox.
Tom Brunansky did the damage against Hurst, driving in two runs. He delivered the first with a sacrifice fly that brought Kirby Puckett home in the first inning. Brunansky singled in the fifth, again scoring Puckett, who had beaten out a bunt and moved to second on a sacrifice.
Smithson, meanwhile, had things completely in hand. The former Boston farmhand allowed only three hits in the first five innings - two to Bill Buckner and one to Armas.
Hurst got into immediate trouble in the first when he allowed a leadoff single to Puckett and a one-out double to Gary Gaetti. Brunansky lofted a deep fly to center, scoring Puckett and moving Gaetti to third. But after a walk to Tim Laudner, Hurst escaped further damage by striking out Bill Beene. Minnesota threatened in each of the next three innings, but Hurst kept the Twins off the scoreboard.
In the second, Mickey Hatcher singled to left with one out and reached second on a throwing error. But Hurst struck out the next two batters. Brunansky doubled with two out in the third, but was stranded.
Steve Lombardozzi walked with one out in the fourth and got to second on a fielder's choice. Hurst again escaped, making Gagne his sixth strikeout victim, and still trailed, 1-0.
Smithson was throwing harder and better than Hurst up to this point. He gave up a 420-foot double to Buckner with two out in the first, but struck out Rice. Baylor was hit by a pitch in the second, but a double play saved Smithson. Buckner singled to right in the fourth, but couldn't advance as Smithson retired the next two batters.
Rain began to fall at the start of the fifth, and it didn't help Hurst's cause. He gave up a bunt single on the wet grass to Puckett, who was sacrificed to second by Ron Washington. Brunansky then came through again.
Armas led off the bottom of the fifth with a single to right. But catcher Rich Gedman flied to center, and Rey Quinones lined to Lombardozzi, who doubled Armas off first.
With Lombardozzi at the plate leading off the sixth, the rains came. And after that, the Sox offense came to life.