Boston Red Sox Memories: Remembering the 1986 ALCS
October 7, 1986 was a beautiful fall day in New England and with Roger Clemens (24-4 in the regular season) on the mound matched up against Angels ace Mike Witt (18-10), it looked like we’d be in for a real treat and a pitcher’s duel. Unfortunately it didn’t live up to that promise. There were a couple of interesting pregame things I didn’t know or remember as the series started which I was reminded of on the broadcast.
First, Clemens had been hit with a line drive on his left arm in the second inning against the Baltimore Orioles on October 1 and left the game, but he said before Game One that he wasn’t feeling any ill effects from it. Second, Boggs was nursing a nasty hamstring pull suffered toward the end of the season. It was enough to cause him to miss the final series of the regular season, but he was in the starting lineup for every game of the postseason.
Clemens cruised through the first inning but ran into trouble in the second. He struck out the first two batters he faced but then walked two, gave up an RBI single to Ruppert Jones, an RBI double to rookie phenom Wally Joyner, and another single to Brian Downing. When the dust settled the Angels were up 4-0. In the next inning, Spike Owen made a throwing error with two on which allowed another run to score.
It was pretty clear from the beginning that Clemens was amped up and overthrowing. I can’t blame him since it was his first ever postseason start, but after the first inning it was obvious he was just trying to blow guys away with his speed as he hardly mixed in any of his offspeed stuff. After the fourth inning, though, he settled down and threw much better.
The Red Sox got their only run in the sixth when Marty Barrett drove it in with a single after Witt got into his only real trouble of the game; with two outs, he walked a batter and gave up a single before Barrett drove in the run. Up to the sixth inning, Witt had been dealing and was no hitting the Red Sox.
Clemens gave up another run in the eighth before being lifted and replaced with Joe Sambito who loaded the bases and gave up a two-RBI single to Downing.
Clemens’ final line was 7.1 IP, 10 H, 8 R (7 ER), 5K, 3 BB on 143 pitches.
Meanwhile, Witt threw a complete game and only allowed five hits and the single run. The 8-1 loss was mirrored by the very underwhelming showing from the Red Sox bats. It seemed as though they were a little overwhelmed by the postseason. The Sox hadn’t been to the postseason since the one game playoff in 1978 and hadn’t been to the ALCS since 1975.
Apart from Rice and Evans, none of the other Red Sox were on the team in 1978 and most (with the exception of Buckner and Baylor) had never been in the postseason before. It looked like it affected Owen in particular as even after his error, most of his throws were off the mark and only saved by Buckner stretching and jumping to catch them.
It wasn’t a good start for the Red Sox, losing the opening game at home behind the best pitcher in baseball in 1986 (Clemens won both the AL Cy Young and the AL MVP awards that season). The Red Sox got steamrolled in Game One and needed to come back strong the next day to salvage a split before hitting the road.