Boston Red Sox Memories: Remembering the 1986 ALCS
The epic Game Five is the one everyone remembers most about this series, but Game Four was almost as good and gets my vote as the second best game of the series. Red Sox manager John McNamara, going with a three-man rotation for the series, brought Clemens back on three days rest and he went up against 300 game winner and future Hall of Famer Don Sutton. Unlike the expected pitcher’s duel that never materialized in Game One, we were treated to one in Game Four.
Clemens had definitely learned from his mistakes in the series opener and it showed as he struck out two batters in each of the first three innings. Sutton kept the Red Sox off the board as well until the sixth inning when Buckner doubled with two on and two outs to make it 1-0 Boston. After knocking Sutton out of the game in the seventh, the Sox picked up two more in the eighth to make it 3-0.
Owen led off the inning with a single, moved to second on a fielder’s choice and to third on a wild pitch. Barrett drove him in with a single and then himself scored on a passed ball and an error to make it 3-0. Everything seemed to go wrong for the Angels in this inning and it looked like the Red Sox were well on their way to tying the series. Clemens entered the ninth inning with a 3-0 lead, three outs away from getting the Red Sox back into the series.
He gave up a lead off solo home run to Doug DeCinces and then got an out to get within two outs of the complete game victory. After giving up back to back singles, though, McNamara pulled him and brought in Calvin Schiraldi to close the game.
Clemens’ final line was 8.1 IP, 8 H, 3 R, 9 K, 3 BB.
Schiraldi surrendered an RBI double to Gary Pettis (on a misplayed ball that Jim Rice lost in the lights) to make it 3-2 and then intentionally walked Ruppert Jones to load the bases and try for the double play.
He then struck out Bobby Grich for the second out and had two strikes on Brian Downing before an eerie harbinger of things to come in the World Series occurred. One strike away from tying the series, Schiraldi hit Downing with his next pitch, allowing the tying run to score. Reggie Jackson grounded out to end the inning and the game went into extras. Angels reliever Doug Corbett pitched perfect tenth and eleventh innings and Schiraldi did the same in the tenth but not in the bottom of the eleventh.
Angels backup catcher (and current Red Sox bench coach) Jerry Narron led off with a single and was advanced to second on Pettis’ sacrifice bunt. After intentionally walking Jones, Schiraldi gave up the game winning RBI single to Bobby Grich and improbably, the Angels won the game 4-3 and took a commanding 3-1 lead in the series.
By the way, Wally Joyner missed this game (and the rest of the series) with a staph infection on his leg; had he played, the Angels might have had an easier time winning the way Joyner had been hitting in the series. The final three innings of this game had so many parallels with Game Six of the subsequent World Series that it was spooky, even down to Schiraldi blowing a game that Clemens left late with the lead.
Still, no one could have known in the immediate aftermath that it would be so foreboding. Even though the Red Sox lost, this was a fantastic game in every way and easily second only to Game Five as the best of the entire series.