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The World Series : New York Mets vs. Boston Red Sox : Series Drags On as Red Sox Drag Themselves Around Basepaths

October 27, 1986|ROSS NEWHAN | Times Staff Writer

NEW YORK — Bill Buckner, the Boston Red Sox first baseman, runs the bases as if on Heartbreak Hill in the Boston Marathon.

Buckner can be excused. He has bone spurs in his left ankle and a strained Achilles' tendon in his right.

What is there to say about the rest of the Red Sox except that this may be the slowest team to appear in a World Series in recent memory. It can also be said that an absence of speed crippled the Red Sox's chances to wrap up this Series short of a seventh game.

The Red Sox move one base at a time and often have trouble scoring from second on anything less than a double.

Said NBC's Vin Scully early in the Series: "Watching the Red Sox on the bases is a lot like taking acupuncture one needle at a time."

Of course, if Buckner had driven in more than one run in the six games and Jim Rice and Rich Gedman had driven in even one, the Series would now be over and the only question concerning the Red Sox's speed would be how fast they could get to the bank.

But this is a team that can't make something happen if something isn't happening.

Consider the seventh inning of Game 2:

Rice drilled a leadoff single to center. Dwight Evans followed with a single to center, Rice stopping at second. Gedman followed with a single to center, Rice stopping at third. Dave Henderson singled to right. Rice scored, but Evans stopped at third. Spike Owen singled to left. Evans scored, but Gedman stopped at third.

Five straight hits had produced only two runs and left the bases loaded, which is how the inning eventually ended.

The Red Sox have now averaged 10 hits for the six games but are scoring an average of only 3.6 runs. They have set a Series record, stranding 63 runners.

"It's just something we have to live with, something I've had to be aware of," third base coach Rene Lachemann said, alluding to the lack of speed Sunday.

"My philosophy has to be that I can only gamble when we're ahead or in certain two-out situations."

Leading 1-0 in the ninth inning of Game 1, Lachemann gambled and lost. He tried to score Evans from second on a one-out single to left by Henderson and watched Kevin Mitchell nail Evans at the plate.

The Red Sox still won, 1-0.

In Game 6, however, two critical examples of Boston's poor speed may have been overlooked amid the astonishing, 10th-inning comeback by the Mets.

Both involved Rice.

The Red Sox had Wade Boggs at second and Rice at first with two outs in the first when Evans drilled a double off the left-field fence. Boggs scored easily, but Lachemann had to hold Rice at third, where he remained as Gedman ended the inning with a fly to right.

In the seventh, now leading 3-2, Lachemann tried to score Rice from second on a two-out single to left by Gedman. An accurate throw by Mookie Wilson nailed Rice easily.

Lachemann may have erred considering the hot-hitting Henderson and Spike Owen were up next, but he said Sunday that he felt it was worth the risk, with two outs and the Red Sox already leading.

He said that in both cases, Rice coming from first on the Evans double and from second on the Gedman single, "a Lenny Dykstra or Wally Backman would have scored, but we don't have that kind of speed. On our club, only Henderson has better than average speed, and the shortstop (Owen) when he gets going."

Boston is particularly ponderous through the heart of the lineup with the hobbled Buckner, who is 36; Rice, 33; Don Baylor, 37; Evans, 34, and the 27-year-old Gedman, a typical, thick-thighed catcher.

The Red Sox were last in the American League with only 41 stolen bases, which is consistent with their historical image. They were also 11th in the league in home runs, which is not.

"Our forte was good pitching, decent defense and consistent offense," General Manager Lou Gorman said, alluding to the type offense that produced a lot of doubles if not the home runs of the past.

"If we pitch well, defend to our capability and get that consistent hitting, we can play with anyone. If we don't, we have problems. Speed is an important asset that we'd like to have, but it wasn't a major factor in our season. I mean, with or without it, we were one pitch away from winning a world's championship Saturday night."

There is another consideration.

"As much as we might like to add some speed," Gorman said, "where do I put it? Who do I replace? Boggs, Rice, Evans, Gedman, Barrett? Those guys are all fixtures. You're talking about centerfield and shortstop, but I think Henderson might steal some bases if he played regularly (in center), which would leave shortstop, and that's a consideration if I could find somebody who could give us a better combination of speed and defense than Owen.

"I'm not going to stand pat, but what we're looking at is improved depth off the bench and a left-handed pitcher who might spot start and pitch relief."

There have been rumors that the Red Sox may ultimately pursue the speed represented by Tim Raines, who is expected to leave Montreal as a free agent, or the Mets' Mookie Wilson, who is expected to leave New York through a trade.

Gorman, an Executive of the Year candidate via his 1986 acquisitions of Baylor, Owen, Henderson and Tom Seaver, said it is too soon to deal in specifics. Like the Red Sox runners, he can't be rushed.

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