You’re probably rolling your eyes at yet another member of the 1986 Red Sox making a list of mine (Marty Barrett made part one of this underrated list), but Bruce Hurst was one of the best left-handed pitchers the Red Sox ever had and not only deserved to be mentioned as one of the top Red Sox players of the 1980s, but should be on this underrated list as well.
Like many players, unless you saw him pitch or have a deep understanding of team history, Hurst gets overlooked when the discussion turns to the best pitchers the Red Sox have had. First coming up to the big leagues in 1980 and spending the first nine seasons of his career in Boston, Hurst was a promising but inconsistent pitcher and who put up a 42-46 W-L mark with a 4.59 ERA from 1980 through 1985.
He put it all together in the magical 1986 season when he went 13-8 with a 2.99 ERA and 167 strikeouts (while missing six weeks during that summer on the disabled list with a groin injury). He was even better in the 1986 postseason where he went 1-0 with a 2.40 ERA in his two ALCS starts. In the ill-fated World Series, he went 2-0 by out-dueling Ron Darling in Game One (a 1-0 Red Sox victory) and then throwing a complete game to win Game Five by a score of 4-2.
By the end of Game Six when the Red Sox were one strike away from winning the World Series, it was down to Hurst or Marty Barrett as to who would be named World Series MVP (most believed it would be Hurst). Instead, the Mets came back to win the game and forced Game Seven. Hurst was pressed into service on short rest when scheduled starter Oil Can Boyd got drunk and was so hungover on the day of the game that he couldn’t pitch.
Hurst pitched admirably and only gave up one hit through the first five innings, but he got tired in the sixth and the Mets got to him, scoring three runs to tie the game. He was pulled and got the no-decision as the Sox went on to lose the game and series. For the rest of his time in Boston he was an excellent pitcher and went 18-6 in his final Red Sox season of 1988.
Overall with the Red Sox, Hurst compiled an 88-73 W-L record, a 4.75 ERA, and 1043 strikeouts. From the mid-1980s onward he was excellent and provided a fantastic one-two punch at the front end of the rotation with Roger Clemens. While forgotten by many Red Sox fans (especially those too young to have seen him pitch), Hurst was one of the finest lefties the team has ever had.