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Angels Take a 3-1 Edge With Grit and Grich : Down in 9th, 3-0, They Tie It, Then Beat Red Sox in 11th, 4-3

October 12, 1986|MIKE PENNER | Times Staff Writer

If Bobby Grich is indeed writing the final chapter to his major league career during these American League playoffs, the first draft through three games and 10 innings of the fourth game had been one for the paper shredder.

Grich had been the focal point of the Angels' Game 2 defeat--the fielder who couldn't catch Dwight Evans' pop fly behind second base and the runner who couldn't hold up at third base.

In Game 3, Grich had gone 0 for 4.

And in Game 4 Saturday night, Grich had plunged to new depths. A botched double play ball, a crucial error and five outs in five at-bats--including a strikeout in the bottom of the ninth.

Grich's glitches were the theme of the evening.

But in the bottom of the 11th, both Grich and the Angels gained redemption. Ending an 0-for-10 skid, Grich singled to left field off Boston reliever Calvin Schiraldi to score Jerry Narron from second base, capping an improbable comeback that resulted in a 4-3 Angel victory over Boston before a crowd of 64,223 at Anaheim Stadium.

And now, the Angels hold an impressive advantage in this best-of-seven series. They lead, 3 games to 1, and today at noon, they have their best starting pitcher, Mike Witt, facing Boston's Bruce Hurst, who is working on three days' rest for the first time this season.

The Angels could be only hours away from their first World Series berth.

"I'd love to close this thing and get some more champagne flowing around here and save us that trip back to Boston," Grich said. "It would be a tremendous way to go into the World Series."

In a season that will be remembered as the Year of the Comeback, the Angels may have eclipsed all prior efforts with Saturday night's game. Forget Charlie Hough and the passed balls. Forget Dick Schofield's grand slam off Willie Hernandez. Forget Wally Joyner's stunning shot into the Yankee Stadium seats off Dave Righetti.

Remember this one.

As Angel Manager Gene Mauch put it, "It was as gratifying for us as it was devastating for them."

Entering the bottom of the ninth, the Angels were gasping for breath--and grasping for anything, really--against the man known as Boston's tops, Roger Clemens. Red Sox Manager John McNamara's ears had been burning over his decision to start Clemens on three days' rest after Clemens' 143-pitch workload in Game 1, but for most of Game 4, that question seemed as irrelevant as the Angels' bats.

Through eight innings, the Angels had five hits and no runs against Clemens. They began the bottom of the ninth trailing, 3-0.

Time to book that chartered flight back to Boston.

Then Doug DeCinces drove a 1-and-0 pitch over the center-field fence leading off the ninth, and the shutout was history. Clemens continued to zero in on a victory as he got George Hendrick to ground out to third base. He would not, however, get another out. Dick Schofield singled to left field. So did Bob Boone. The tying run was on base--prompting both managers to make moves.

McNamara replaced Clemens with Schiraldi, the rookie who saved nine games and fashioned a 1.41 earned-run average in less than half a season. Mauch replaced Boone with a pinch-runner, rookie Devon White.

That brought up Gary Pettis, the home run hero of Game 3 and the stroker of two singles against Clemens. Pettis hit another ball deep to the outfield, this one to left and, significantly, high in the lights.

Left fielder Jim Rice squinted into those lights and momentarily lost sight of the ball. By the time Rice re-focused, all he could do was scramble back in vain for a ball that would bound far over his head.

Schofield scored, White took third and Pettis was on second with a double. Boston's lead was 3-2.

McNamara then called for Schiraldi to intentionally walk Ruppert Jones. Bases loaded, one out.

Grich was the next batter. In four at-bats against Clemens, Grich had struck out twice, grounded to short and flied to center. With the fleet White on third, all Grich needed was a medium-range fly ball to tie the game.

Grich struck out again, dropping his batting average in these playoffs to .154.

Down to their last out, the Angels sent Brian Downing to the plate. Two pitches later, Downing was down in the count, 0 and 2.

He then took a pitch high for ball one. And then Schiraldi's 1-and-2 delivery hit Downing on the leg, giving Downing a painful, but critical, run batted in. White was forced home, and the Angels, stunningly, had tied the score.

Downing, as they say, had taken one for the team.

"It isn't really anything I did," he said. "I'll take it. I get hit a lot (17 times during the regular season). It was a great time to get hit."

Reggie Jackson then attempted to untie the score, but the Mr. October hero routine wasn't what it used to be on this occasion. Jackson grounded to second, and as he crossed first base after Bill Buckner gloved Marty Barrett's throw for the third out, Jackson raised his arms into the air and kicked at the dirt.

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