Welcome back to the “10 Greatest Games in Baseball History.” While the last two games were from the World Series, this game will hail from the 1986 ALCS between the Boston Red Sox and the California Angels. Without further ado, let’s get into Number Eight.
8. 1986 Game Five: Red Sox 7, Angels 6 (11 innings)
The 1986 ALCS featured two very good teams in the Red Sox (95-66) and the Angels (92-70). Both teams had won their divisions, respectively, and gave us a great seven game series. Bruce Hurst would take the mound for the Sox against the visiting Mike Witt and the Angels. The Red Sox were down three games to one, needing to stave off elimination.
After a quick first inning, Boston drew first blood on a Rich Gedman two-run homer. It stayed that way as both pitchers dueled into the third inning. In the top of the third, Bob Boone homered to cut the deficit in half, as it was now 2-1, Sox. Again, we had to wait for more scoring as Hurst and Witt dueled it out. When the bottom of the sixth came around, the Halos finally got to Hurst. They tagged him for two runs on a Bobby Grich two-run homer that hit off of center fielder Dave Henderson‘s glove and bounced over the fence. Now the Halos had the lead, 3-2, leading into the seventh inning of play.
Finally! A Pitching Change!
Going into the bottom of the seventh, the Red Sox made a pitching change. Hurst had given up three earned runs in six innings of work. He was replaced by reliever Bob Stanley, who immediately got touched up for two earned runs, making the score 5-2 in favor of the Angels. It wasn’t until the top of the ninth when the real fireworks happened.
In the top of the ninth, Angels starter Bobby Witt was still twirling a gem of a game. With the Halos leading 5-2 they decided to leave Witt in to finish the game, but it didn’t go as planned. First baseman Bill Buckner singled to start the inning and was immediately removed for a pinch runner. After getting a strikeout, Witt surrendered his second gopher ball of the game, this time to Don Baylor. The lead was cut to one, and it was now 5-4 in favor of the Angels.
After inducing a pop out of Dwight Evans, the Halos replaced Witt with lefty specialist Gary Lucas to face the left-handed hitting Gedman, who had already homered earlier. On the first pitch of the at-bat, Lucas plunked Gedman and was immediately removed without getting an out. The Angels brought in Donnie Moore to face Dave Henderson. On a 2-2 count, Henderson homered to left, scoring Gedman and putting the Sox up by one. Lucas was charged with the blown save.
After closing out the ninth with a fly ball, this game moved to the bottom half with the Angels down one. After a single by Rob Wilfong that scored Ruppert Jones, the game moved right along into the 10th inning. Moore worked a somewhat clean inning for the Angels, stranding the go-ahead run at third. Steve Crawford matched that effort in the bottom half of the inning, sending us to at least one more inning of play.
In the top of the 11th inning, Baylor was once more on base, this time via hit by pitch, and was advanced by both an Evans single and a Gedman sacrifice bunt. Dave Henderson capitalized — again — in the clutch and drove home Baylor to make it 7-6 in favor of the Red Sox. After a fly ball and a groundout, the score stayed that way heading into the bottom of the 11th. The Red Sox brought in Calvin Schiraldi to close out the game. As a result, the Sox got a clean inning from him, and took the victory, 7-6.
The Red Sox were in a hole early in the 1986 ALCS, trailing three games to one. After winning Game Five, the Red Sox found their momentum. As a result of this newfound momentum, the Sox went on to win the next two games, both of which weren’t close, to reach the World Series.
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