Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Round 2: Red Sox (4) upset Tigers (1) by going to the wire in 5 games.

GAME 1 - Tiger Stadium
Santiago vs McLain
Red Sox 2, Tigers 1

Jose_Santiago-1968fOut of nowhere Jose Santiago had the game of his life (8 IP / 1 ER) to outduel 1968 AL Cy Young Winner Denny McLain (9 IP / 2 ER).  With the game tied at 1-1 Rico Petrocelli singled with one out in the top of the 9th.  Former Yankee Elston Howard turned the clock back and doubled to put runners on 2nd and 3rd.  The Boomer, George Scott hit a shot to the warning track that Willie Horton easily camped under.  Petro tagged up and easily scored to make it 2-1 Red Sox.  Santiago, who was light out, was lifted for a pinch hitter and replaced by Sparky Lyle who was able to get his slider working when he needed it the most.  With runners on 1st and 2nd and only one out Lyle got Norm Cash to hit into a tailor made 3-6-3 DP to end it and draw first blood in favor of the boys from Beantown.
Red Sox lead series 1-0

Culp vs Wilson
Tigers 8, Red Sox 2
"The K-Line"Al_Kaline-1968

On the heels of a big 6 run bottom of the 3rd the Tigers beat up on Boston starter Ray Culp and coasted easily to victory.  Veteran All-Star Al Kaline was a perfect 3 for 3 with a triple.  Pitcher Earl Wilson (6 IP / 2 ER) also chipped in a homer.  Jim Northrup also went deep.  John Wyatt and Lasher were perfect in relief of Wilson over the final 3 innings.
Series tied 1-1

GAME 3 - Fenway Park
Lolich vs Ellsworth
Red Sox 4, Tigers 2
"To Ells and Back"

Dick_Ellsworth-1968dTime and time again the Tigers would call on the "Fat man", Mickey Lolich, to save their season.  In a short 5 game series game 3 is pivotal and Detroit needed Lolich to come up big.  Instead aging veteran Dick Ellsworth (8 IP / 2 ER) was the hurler of the day.  Lolich gutted his way through 6 innings while fanning 9, but he walked 5 and allowed 3 runs on 7 hits.  His performance was gutsy, but the Tigers needed "lights out" and today wasn't one of those days for him.  Carl Yastrzemski (3-4) had an RBI and a run scored to support Ellsworth.  Strange and Lyle combined to close out the Tigers in the bottom of the 9th.
Tigers lead series 2-1

Sparma vs G. Bell
Tigers 9, Red Sox 7
"Horton gives a Who"

Tiger starter Joe Sparma was victimized for 4 runs in theWillie_Horton-1968 second and promptly removed.  Pat Dobson gave up 3 more in the 6th and just like that the Tigers season was all but dead down 7-0 with 3 frames left.  At that moment the #1 seed got the wake up call and began using their lumber as weapons.  3 runs in the top of the 7th ended Gary "Ding Dong" Bell's day.  Bell was pitching a shutout for 6 innings, but couldn't get the 3rd out in the 7th before being sent tot he pine.  In the 8th the Tigers posted another 3 spot and just like that it was a one run game.  Boston sent Lee strange out in the 9th to close it out and preserve the one run lead.  After getting Green to fly out to lead off the inning, Strange butchered a comebacker from Mickey Stanley, then walked Kaline.  The crushing blow would be a 3 run shot by Willie Horton, who padded his late inning heroics resume after hitting a 2 run shot the previous inning.  Fred Lasher, who pitched a perfect 8th inning duplicated his efforts in the 9th to get the win and give Detroit an improbable comeback victory.
Series tied 2-2

GAME 5 - Tiger Stadium
Santiago vs McLain
Red Sox 4, Tigers 2

Yaz going deep
In a rematch of game 1 starters the unheralded Jose Santiago once again got the best of Denny McLain and the Red Sox upset the Tigers to head to the final 4.  Santiago, who threw 8 shutout innings fanned 5, walked 3 and allowed just 1 run on 2 hits.  On the other side of the ledger McLain gave up 4 runs in 8 innings, not exactly the kind of linescore you expect from a man who won 31 regular season games en route to one of the most dominating pitching performances in the modern era.  Some may speculate that Denny might have had a wager or two on the game or owed someone something, but this reporter emphatically can not believe that with a huge spotlight shining on him on the grandest of stages, that he would not give it his all.  Boston built their lead with a two out solo shot by Yaz in the first and another two out blast in the 4th, this one from Hawk Harrelson.  Then in the top of the 8th the gopher ball did McLain in twice.  First Reggie Smith went deep with one out and then Yaz duplicated his inning one result with his 3rd hit of the game (he also doubled in the 6th).  Like so many times the previous season, during the Red Sox "Incredible Dream" run, Yaz came up big in all the big moments.  All that was left to do was to have Santiago close the door on the Tigers in the 9th, which sounds a lot easier to do than it is.  Getting those final 3 outs are the toughest, especially when you are facing a team that is going for it's 3rd consecutive tournament championship.  Champions do not go down easily.  To quote the vernacular of boxing, "you have to knock out the champ".  Boston's 4 homers and Santiago's 8 shutout innings put the champ on the ropes, but champ was going to go down swinging that's for sure.  The 9th started out with Al Kaline grounding weakly to second for the first out.  When Willie Horton walked on 4 successive pitches Juan Pizarro was brought on to get lefty Norm Cash, who popped out to first.  Down to their last out the Tigers were still swinging just like champs do.  Bill Freehan doubled off the wall in left center to put runners on 2nd and 3rd.  Lenny Green singled to right center to plate both runners andSparky_Lyle-1968 make it a 4-2 game.  Bill Wert hit a bullet into left to put runners on the corners.  Those 3 successive hits came at the expense of Jim Lonborg, who was so fantastic the previous season (1967), yet so horrible this year.  Lonborg would have been the sentimental choice to get the final out, but Boston had no margin for error with the tying run now on 1st.  Sparky Lyle, who wound up saving all 3 Boston wins in the series, was brought on to face Earl Wilson, who can flat out rake.  Forget that Wilson is normally a pitcher.  In 1968 he hit 8 homers and the Lyle didn't want any part of him and his ability to win this game with 1 swing, so he gave him an intentional pass.  That brought up Dick McAuliffe with the bases loaded and two outs.  With the season on the line McAuliffe worked the count to 3-2 then proceeded to foul off a succession of strike 3 pitches hoping to stave off elimination and not make the final out of the series.  Finally a Lyle slider was grounded to Joe Foy at third.  Foy fielded it cleanly and pegged a bullet to Scott at first for the final out.
Red Sox win series 3-2

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