Todd Benzinger's 10th inning walk-off homer
ON THIS DATE (July 20, 1988) ... The Red Sox were two outs from a disastrous collapse at Fenway Park, yet somehow came away with one of the most exciting and bizarre victories of the season. Most of the 35,313 in the Fenway Park stands will only remember Todd Benzinger's three-run homer with one out in the 10th inning that lifted Boston to a stirring 9-7 triumph over the Minnesota Twins. It gave the Red Sox their seventh victory in as many games under Joe Morgan and their 12th straight home win.
But the homer was only the last chapter of a strange night that included an uninspiring effort by Roger Clemens and the collapse of the bullpen. The Rocket Man, who had struck out 31 in his previous two starts, couldn't make it out of the seventh inning after being given a 5-0 lead.
Dennis Lamp and Lee Smith failed in relief. Smith cost Clemens his 14th victory when he surrendered the run that tied it, 5-5, in the ninth. Then he gave the Twins a 7-5 lead in the 10th. In the bottom of the 10th, a fan crawled along the wire from the left-field stands to the backstop and danced on the screen. After that six-minute journey, Benzinger got the Sox off the tightrope.
Another sideshow may have overshadowed the proceedings. Team captain Jim Rice and Morgan became involved in a shoving match in the runway leading from the dugout to the clubhouse. Rice was furious with Morgan for taking him out of a 5-4 game and sending up Spike Owen as a pinch hitter in the eighth inning. The captain and the manager scuffled briefly, and Rice returned to the locker room to dress. He was still there when Benzinger homered.
The altercation apparently was the result of a misunderstanding. Rice was unaware Morgan had indicated before the inning that he'd send up Owen if Burks reached base. It remains to be seen how this will affect Rice's relations with Morgan, who left no doubt that he is in charge.
Obviously, the Twins didn't. Minnesota removed ace reliever Jeff Reardon in the 10th after Smith gave the visitors the lead by allowing a run-scoring double to Al Newman, then loading the bases and setting the stage for Randy Bush's sacrifice fly off Tom Bolton in the top of the inning.
The Sox gave Clemens a nice cushion early, scoring in four of the first five innings. Parrish smashed a two-run homer in the second, then singled and scored in the fourth as the Sox jumped on Twins starter Charlie Lea and Fred Toliver.
With the five-run lead, Clemens had faltered in the sixth, allowing three runs on four singles and a Kent Hrbek double. He departed in favor of Lamp with two on and one out in the seventh. After bailing out Clemens with a double-play ball, Lamp surrendered a solo homer to Gary Gaetti in the eighth.
When Smith took the mound at the start of the ninth, the Sox owned a 5-4 lead. Not for long. He issued a leadoff walk to Newman, and Dan Gladden's single put runners on first and second. Bush flied to right, sending Newman to third, and Kirby Puckett's sacrifice fly to right tied the game.
After the Sox went down in order in the bottom of the ninth, Smith opened the 10th by hitting Gene Larkin. With Tim Laudner at the plate and pinch runner Mark Davidson on the go, Smith uncorked a wild pitch that moved Davidson to third. Laudner struck out, but Smith walked Greg Gagne. Newman then lined a double down the right-field line, scoring Davidson. The Twins got some apparent insurance after Gladden was walked intentionally, loading the bases. Bush greeted Bolton with a fly to the base of The Wall, bringing home Gagne. Bolton then got Puckett on a grounder to short.
Then came the rally. Jeff Reardon's replacement, Juan Berenguer, walked two of the first three batters he faced. He was replaced by Keith Atherton, who surrendered a double to Jody Reed that made it 7-6 and put runners on second and third. With first base open, the Twins could have pitched Benzinger carefully or, more logically, walked him. Instead, Atherton challenged him with fastballs, and on a 2-1 pitch, Benzinger delivered.
Morgan became only the second Boston manager to win his first seven games, duplicating Steve O'Neill's 1951 feat. If the Sox can continue to pull off revivals like this, they must be taken seriously as contenders in the American League East.