Originally posted on Fenway West  |  Last updated 10/26/11

The Sox' walk in the clouds continued on a chilly Saturday night, October 18, as Bruce Hurst hurled 8 innings in a 1-0 shutout of the Mets at Shea Stadium. It put Boston up by a game in what was being called the Shuttle Series. Larry Whiteside wrote :"It certainly wasn't a classic. The winning rally  was a product of a walk to Jim Rice, a wild pitch and an error.....but capitalizing on such occurrences has become routine for a Boston team that expelled the ghosts of past failures by coming back to win the American League championship and is now intent on ending a World Series drought that dates back to 1918."

Dan S called the game "a tad dull", but it didn't matter. Hurst allowed 4 hits, walked 4 and fanned 8, while the Mets' Ron Darling surrendered 3 safeties and also struck out 8, before giving way to Roger McDowell. All 9 hits in the game were singles. The only real drama came when reliever Calvin Schiraldi walked Daryl Strawberry to open the ninth. But Dave Stapleton, who for the first and only time in this series replaced Bill Buckner in the late innings, threw to second on a sacrifice attempt to get Strawberry. Schiraldi finished off the inning by retiring Wally Backman on a fly and fanning pinch hitter Danny Heep to earn the save.

The next evening was to be a battle of giants-Doc Gooden vs. the Rocket. It fizzled when Sox bats pounded out 18 hits off Gooden and four relievers. The 8-5 thumping gave Boston a 2-0 lead and a double home-field advantage. "It can be stated without fear of contradiction, "wrote Shaughnessy, " that the New York Mets are not going to win the 1986 World Series in four or five games. In fact, if the Mets do come back to win the series, they'll be only the second team in 83 years to win after losing the first two games at home."

Gooden, beginning to come off his golden boy pedestal, surrendered 8 hits and 6 runs. It was still scoreless in the third when the Mets unraveled. A walk and an error were followed by 3 consecutive hits for a 3-0 advantage. Henderson, still the hero, blasted one in the fourth to make it 4-zip. Dewey Evans' two-run homer in the fourth made it 6-2 and sent Doc to the showers. Clemens, on three days rest, was also off and failed to last 5 innings. It didn't matter. Steve Crawford hurled 1 2/3 and got the win and Bob Stanley, who Shaughnessy would later describe as "forlorn", pitched 3 scoreless innings for the save.

To add to the joy of Boston fans, the Pats went to Pittsburgh and lashed the struggling Steelers, 34-0. Behind long-forgotten qb Bubby Brister, the home squad gained only 54 yards through the air.

Up 2-0 and with the next three games in Fenway, Sox Nation was flying high. There was even talk of a sweep. But here a mistake was made. Oil Can Boyd, game 3 starter,was allowed to be himself. According to Shaughnessy's book One Strike Away ; "He talked to the media for half and hour and dazzled newspapermen who had never heard Canspeak....Unlike the homogenized seven-minute press conference in Anaheim, the Sox let the Can be the Can and the results were refreshing and flammable. 'I feel I can master these guys', said Boyd."

A fatal mistake. It immediately woke the Mets up. On a Fenway Indian Summer (I hope I am not being politically incorrect here) night, the Mets smashed the Can for 5 hits and 4 runs in the opening inning of a 7-2 victory. Lenny Dykstra homered to open the game. Before the frame was over, there was a botched play, 3 more hits, and 3 more runs for a 4-0 lead. The Sox never threatened against ex-teammate Bobby Ojeda, who allowed just 5 hits and a run in 7 innings. Boyd settled down for a while, but in the seventh, a bases-loaded pinch single by Gary Carter on an 0-2 count finished Oil Can and the Sox. Boyd's statement came back to haunt him. "The only one that got mastered tonight was him, " remarked Dykstra.

McNamara then made a widely-criticized move. Instead of using Hurst on three days rest, he chose to go with
Al Nipper Wednesday in game 4, though Nip had not been on the mound in 17 days. It Tom Seaver had been available, I believe he would have beaten his old teammates and the Sox would have had a 3-1 lead. They would then have had the ability to close the series at home with Hurst on Thursday. If it were not for Tom's injury, Buckner might be remembered only as a big offensive contributor in the season when the Sox finally broke the Curse.

Nipper's season ERA of 5.38 was not quite Lackeyesque, but not far behind. It was the highest since a hurler named Hal Gregg had started with a 5.87 mark in the Yankee-Dodger series of 1947. Al didn't do a bad job. Carter smashed a three-run homer in the third, and the Sox hitters could do little with Darling, the pride of Millbury, Ma. and Yale. Nipper left down 3-0 after 6, and Crawford surrendered two more the eighth to clinch it. Rich Gedman had 3 hits, but Buckner and Wade Boggs were a combined 0 for 10. As for starting Nipper, McNamara explained; "The last game Hurst pitched in the AL Playoffs with only three days rest in California, we didn't think he was as strong as normal." Mac was right. If not for Henderson's heroics, he would have been the losing pitcher in game 5.

With four days off, Bruce would come to the rescue in a 4-2 complete-game win. He allowed 10 hits, but stranded 8 runners. His teammates came to life with 12 safeties, including 2 each by Boggs, Henderson, Rice, and Don Baylor. Gooden continued to fade, surrendering 9 hits and all 4 runs in four innings. A Rice triple, singles by Baylor and Evans, and a Hendu double off reliever Sid Fernandez gave Hurst a 4-run lead, and it was enough.

Boston was now on their way to Shea Stadium to end it, but there was still a long way to go. A piece by Leigh Montville chronicles Buckner's numerous physical problems: "I've been taking anti-inflammatory drugs for 10 years now. I know they aren't good for you...I have shots. I've had all kinds of cortisone shots." On and on it went. Yet Buckner would be you-know-where in the tenth inning of Game 6.


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