THE CURSE OF
THE BAMBINO, PART 9
"IT AIN'T OVER 'TIL IT'S OVER"...
Another Jim Rice grandslam highlights a
September 7, 1986
were fifteen hits, including the second grand slam in
three days by the sizzling Jim Rice. There were enemy runners cut down at the plate on
successive plays when there was still no score. It was a complete game, no-walk shutout
by Bruce Hurst. It was, quite frankly, Dreamworld Baseball for the 30,359 in
attendance at Fenway Park. The Red Sox bludgeoned Minnesota, 9-0, to conclude a
weekend sweep of the Twins and a fabulously successful homestand, during which
they expanded their lead over Toronto to 6 1/2 games and lowered the magic
number to 20. They have won eight straight and are playing their best all-around
baseball of the season.
The microcosm of the group
effort was the scintillating performance submitted
by Rice, who, in addition to breaking the game open
with his third- inning grand slam off Minnesota
starter Neal Heaton, threw out a runner at the
plate and conducted a Yaz-like clinic with balls
hit off, or anywhere near, the left-field wall.
He'd have to jump over the screen to rob someone of
a homer to have a better day in the field.
But as impressive a show as he put on in the field, it was
the bases-loaded homer that commanded the most attention. After going well over
a calendar year without hitting more than a two-run homer, he smashed two grand
slams in three games, each, ominously, carrying into the Red Sox' bullpen. The
score was 1-0, courtesy of a clever Spike Owen RBI single (he faked a bunt and
ripped a pitch through the empty middle of a rotating infield with Tony Armas on
third), when Rice came up with the bases loaded in the third. Heaton (6-13)
tried to slip a fastball on the outside corner, but Rice rode the pitch up into
the strong wind, the ball carrying over the fence to the intersection of the
bullpens. They were RBIs Nos. 92 through 95 for Rice, who, as usual, says he
isn't keeping count. However, be advised that during the nine-game homestand,
Rice picked up four homers and 14 RBIs. And be further advised that during said
homestand, he fanned exactly one (1) time. This is a terrifying Jim Rice.
The Sox added four more in the fifth. Bill Buckner led off
with a homer off the right-field foul pole, and before rookie Andy Anderson
could retire the side, successive when-you're-hot-you're-hot right-field
bloopers by Armas and Marc (2 for 3) Sullivan had produced three more runs.
Mr. Hurst was a very grateful recipient of this offensive
largesse. He was never in jeopardy after the quirky third in which two runners
died in Sullivan's mitt. With Malden's Steve Lombardozzi on third and Ron
Washington on first with one away in a scoreless game, Puckett chopped a ball to
Wade Boggs, who made a nice throw to Sullivan, who made an even nicer tag and
plate block to erase Lombardozzi. Gary Gaetti promptly spanked one to left, but
when Washington tried to score he was thrown out by Rice.
Hurst's staff-leading third shutout of the season raised
his record to 10-7. The lefthander struck out seven and walked none. It was the
second straight walk-less performance by a Fischer Flinger in as many days, Oil
Can Boyd having accomplished the feat on Saturday.
You'd need a caravan of tractor trailers to cart away all
the cautious postgame clichés uttered by the Red Sox, but no matter how much
they wish to play down the importance of this devastating homestand, the fact
remains that anyone wishing to see baseball played properly could have seen it
in Fenway these past nine days. They did it coming from behind and they did it
by early assaults.
Spike Owen had a three-hit day, the most impressive of
which was a single in the third that accounted for the official game-winning
RBI. There were men on first and third with none out, and Owen came up with
orders to bunt. But after taking a pitch, he saw the Twins rotating into
defensive position, leaving the middle of the diamond open, so he swung and
knocked a single to center.