June 21, 2017

The Sensational 70s - Royals Double Down On Red Sox

The 1977 Kansas City Royals used 4 doubles to produce 4 runs which broke a 1-1 tie and enabled them to cruise to a 6-1 victory in Game 4 of their ALCS with the 1975 Boston Red Sox. The series is now deadlocked at 2-2 with a pivotal Game 5 on the horizon at Fenway Park.

Kansas City has brutalized Boston pitching with 34 hits in the last two games as they rattled off 19 hits in their Game 3 slugfest loss.

Boston's early 1-0 lead quickly evaporated in the second as John Mayberry continued to wield a sizzling bat, clubbing an opposite field solo shot to draw the Royals even. Mayberry is batting .438 in the ALCS with 3 homers. He also drove in 2 runs to push his RBI total to 10 in the series. 

Kansas City's starter Andy Hassler put the Red Sox in lock down mode after surrendering a first inning run going eight strong innings. Hassler allowed 7 hits and struck out 3 to give the Royals their second quality start of the series.It was thought that Boston had the advantage in the starting pitching department coming into this series, but they have only mustered one quality outing in four games. Rick Wise barely met that criteria in Boston's Game 2 win going 6 innings while allowing 3 earned runs.  Throughout the series, both starting rotations have been badly ravaged. Kansas City starters have a 2-0 record with a 5.76 ERA while Boston's starting corps stand at 1-2 with a 7.85 ERA.

Hal McRae's RBI double in the third inning to drive in George Brett ended up to be the deciding factor. McRae then came in to count on a dropped pop fly in short left field by Rico Petrocelli. After collecting 3 hits in this one, McRae is now 10-18 in the series scoring 5 times and drilling 2 doubles. 

In the following inning, Freddie Patek doubled to drive home Tom Poquette, and George Brett then hit his second double in as many innings to score Patek and chase Boston starter Roger Moret from the game trailing 5-1.

Moret was pummelled for 9 hits in 3.1 innings for 4 earned runs. Used as a spot starter throughout the season, the Red Sox hoped the left-handed Moret could quiet the Royals' left -handed bats of Mayberry, Porter and Brett, but was unable to deliver.

Game 5 will see a repeat of the battle of the aces. Boston now will look for Bill Lee to reverse an ugly postseason as he'll look for revenge against the Royals' Dennis Leonard who bested Lee in Game 1.

June 07, 2017

The Sensational 70s - Cowens' Clunker Costs Crowns

A harmless fly ball off the bat of Rico Petrocelli clanked off the glove of Royals' Al Cowens in the seventh inning to cap the fourth and final lead change and the Red Sox hung on for a wild 10-9 barnburner win. Boston now leads the ALCS 2-1 over the '77 Royals.

It was a game of duck n' chuck as both clubs' starters were battered early and often. In 9.1 combined innings pitched between Boston's Luis Tiant and Kansas City's Jim Colburn, they allowed 14 hits, 11 earned runs and 7 free passes. Unlike Tiant, Colburn was unable to survive the fifth as he issued 6 of those 7 walks which led to his undoing as three of those baserunners scored. To make matters worse, Colburn has only pitched 9.1 innings in two starts this post-season and has issued 9 walks to go along with a miserable 9.64 ERA.

The scoreboard read 7-6 after only five innings with Tiant on the winning side of things as Carlton Fisk made up for his second-inning miscue with a RBI single to put Boston in front for the second time. Tiant would not see the sixth as Boston manager Darrell Johnson had enough after he surrendered a 6-4 lead in the top of the fifth on a RBI ground rule double by Al Cowens and a two-out RBI single by Tom Poquette. 

Both starters were under siege immediately. Kansas City had pounced on Tiant in the first on back to back two-out doubles by John Mayberry and Darrell Porter for a 3-0 lead. Mayberry remained red hot as his two-run double, along with a RBI single in the eighth gives him 8 RBI so far in this ALCS to compliment his blistering .500 batting average.Boston roared back on a two-run homer by Fred Lynn in the home half of the first to narrow the Royals' lead to 3-2, Kansas City added an unearned run in the second as Frank White advanced to second on a two-base throwing error by Carlton Fisk. Hal McRae brought him in with a RBI single.With his three hits in this game, McRae raised his playoff batting average to .433 tying Darrell Porter for second on the Royals.

The Red Sox came within a run of the Royals once again in the third on a Dwight Evans solo homer making the score 4-3. Then Boston then pulled in front for the first time in a   three-run third on the strength of a looping jam shot two-run single from Carl Yastrzemski to give Boston that 6-4 lead that Tiant was unable to hold.

After a scoreless sixth, the Royals came up with two more clutch two-out RBI in the top of the seventh to erase the Red Sox 7-6 lead. Kansas City totaled six two-out RBI in the contest as Boston pitchers were unable to put Royals' hitters away. The Red Sox sent lefty Tim Burton came on to nullify John Mayberry and he also got Darrell Porter to fly out. Tom Poquette kept the Royals afloat with a double off Burton, so Boston countered with Jim Willoughby who has been their top reliever out of the pen in these playoffs. Uncharacteristically, Willoughby walked Freddie Patek and was nicked with back to back RBI singles by Frank White and George Brett giving the Royals an 8-7 advantage.

This see-saw affair continued as Boston came right back in the bottom of the seventh to take the lead for good. On three consecutive hits, they loaded the bases off Royals' reliever Larry Gura. Doug Bird was summoned by Kansas City manager Whitey Herzog, and he struck out Dwight Evans. Carlton Fisk then drove an outside fastball from Bird over the head of Royals' right fielder Al Cowens and it one-hopped the fence for a ground-rule double scoring two runs. Fisk is now second on the Red Sox in these playoffs in RBI (8) and batting average (.333). 

Cowens' misplay of Petrocelli's routine fly ball for Boston's tenth run proved to be very costly. Kansas City picked up a run on Mayberry's RBI single in the top of the eighth off Boston closer Dick Drago to close the gap to 10-9, but they couldn't come all the way back this time going down in order in the ninth.

Despite Willoughby's struggles in this one, both he and Drago have tossed 12 innings combining for 3 wins, 5 saves and a 2.25 ERA. Boston's Dick Pole has also helped solidify the pen pitching 5.2 innings and posting a 1.59 ERA  with 6 strikeouts.

Game 4 will see Boston send Roger Moret up against former Red Sox Andy Hassler as Kansas City will try to even up the series ensuring a return trip to Kauffman Stadium. The highlights below the scorecard focus on the big hits produced by Lynn, Yastrzemski and Fisk

May 24, 2017

All-Time Greats - Red Sox Roll as Rice Rakes

For those that may wonder "How would an all-time Red Sox lineup stack up against some of the other all-time franchises in the majors?", you may enjoy following along with my "All-Time Greats" playoff series. I have decided to use only players from the live-ball era, so you won't see players who played their entire careers in the dead-ball era like Cy Young or Shoeless Joe Jackson with their franchise teams. For me, the discrepancies between the two baseball eras are too pronounced to blend the players. However, players that began their career in the dead ball era but had productive years in the 1920s like Ty Cobb, for example, are featured in this roster set. I actually made an "all dead-ball" team, placing players like Young and Jackson on the Arizona Diamondbacks just to say I included all of the greatest players in the game in this set.

This particular playoff mode features American League all-time teams from the Orioles, Yankees, Red Sox, Indians, and Tigers. The National League includes teams from the Dodgers, Cardinals, Pirates, Giants, and Braves franchises. After the wildcard playoff, the Braves and the Orioles were eliminated so the NLDS playoffs have the Cardinals against the Dodgers while the Pirates take on the Giants. In the American League, The Red Sox are hosting the Tigers, and the Yankees will face the Indians in the ALDS playoffs. Because this is a Red Sox blog, obviously I'll be featuring all of Boston's games, but you may also see some updates from the other series as well.

In Game 1 at Fenway Park, Jim Rice torched Detroit pitching for a pair of homers to lead the Boston Red Sox to a 8-3 drubbing of the Tigers to begin their ALDS series. Rice tallied 6 RBI in a game that featured long ball prowess by both clubs. One of Rice's homers was a 7th inning grand slam that paved the way for the series lead. Rice clubbed 8 grand slams in his hall of fame career, and also led the American League in homers three times - 1977 (39), 1978 (46), and 1983 (39). In that 1978 campaign, Jim was chosen as the American League MVP finishing third in the league in batting (.315) and was tops in RBI with 139.

Two franchise legends toed the rubber in this one as Roger Clemens battled Detroit's Hal Newhouser. Clemens is tied with fellow hall of famer Cy Young for career franchise wins with the Sawx as both men notched 192 wins. He and Young are also co-leaders in shutouts with 38 apiece, but Clemens stands alone in the strikeout category with 2590. During his 13-year tenure as a Red Sox, "Roger the Rocket" was a 5-time all-star, a 3 time 20 game winner and also picked up 3 Cy Young awards.

Newhouser spent 15 years of his hall of fame career with the Tigers between 1939 - 1953. The lefty was a 6-time all-star and was a 4-time 20 game winner with 3 consecutive 20 game winning season from 1944-1946. In that three-year span, he won an incredible 80 games and was named American League MVP in 1944 and 1945, becoming the first pitcher to ever to win back-to-back MVP awards. "Prince Hal" also is the all-time franchise leader in WAR with a mark of 59 and had his #16 retired by the Tigers in 1997.

Both clubs traded massive salvos in the first six innings. Rice wasted no time against Newhouser in the first, drilling a two-out two-run shot to dead center field to give Boston a 2-0 lead. It remained this way until the fourth when Tigers' left fielder Willie Horton matched Rice with a two-run bomb of his own to even things up. The home run derby continued in the fifth as ninth place hitter Dustin Pedroia took Newhouser over and out to lead off the fifth making the score 3-2. Detroit once again countered with Miguel Cabrera launching a solo moonshot off Clemens in the sixth.

Newhouser was lifted in the seventh after Pedroia collected his second hit of the game - a one-out double to left center field. Lefty reliever John Hiller, who is the all-time Tiger leader in games appearing in 545 contests, was then called upon. This would be one game too many as he was lambasted as Boston rattled out 4 consecutive hits. Pedroia would score on Hiller's watch making the score 4-3. This closed the book on Newhouser who suffered the loss. With the bases loaded, the last batter Hiller faced was Rice who twisted an outside fastball around the Pesky Pole in right that closed out the scoring.

Clemens picked up the win tossing 7 complete innings giving up 5 hits while logging 8 strikeouts. Dick "The Monster" Radatz finished the final two innings rendering the Tigers hitless and firing 3 punchouts with his high-octane heater. 

Dick Radatz earned the nickname "The Monster" after a game at Fenway against the Yankees in 1963 where he struck out American League MVPs Mickey Mantle, Roger Maris and Elston Howard on 10 pitches. Radatz was a two-time all-star in 1963 and in 1964 earning Fireman of the Year honors. In his first four seasons in Boston, Radatz won 49 games and saved 98. He also struck out 608 batters in 538.1 innings. Radatz sits third all-time in saves for the Red Sox with 102.

The probable pitching matchups for this series are as follows:
*(if necessary)

Game 2 - Detroit, Justin Verlander (177-109, 3.49) @ Boston, Pedro Martinez (117-37, 2.52)
Game 3 - Boston, Luis Tiant (122-81,3.36) @ Detroit, Denny McLain (117-62, 3.13)
*Game 4 - Boston, Jon Lester (110-63, 3.64) @ Detroit, Max Scherzer (82-35, 3.52)

May 18, 2017

The Sensational 70s - Royal Revival Blanked by Boston Bullpen

Jim Willoughby fired two scoreless innings which allowed Boston to cling to a 4-3 lead going into the ninth, and the '75 Red Sox would tack on two more runs in the final frame to take Game 2 of their ALCS 6-3 over the '77 Kansas City Royals. The series is now even at one game apiece as the scene shifts to Fenway Park.

Boston roughed up Royals' starter Paul Splittorff for 7 hits and 4 earned runs in only 5 innings of work. Two of those runs came on mammoth solo homers by Jim Rice and Carlton Fisk as the Red Sox cruised to the sixth with a 4-1 lead.  Rice continued to be an offensive force as he is hitting .542 in these playoffs with 4 homers and 9 RBI. For Fisk, it was his third round-tripper of the playoffs

Kansas City manager Whitey Herzog called on lefty Larry Gura for the sixth, and he was masterful, tossing three scoreless frames facing only 10 batters to lower his post-season ERA to 1.59. The only hit mustered by the Red Sox was a leadoff double by Jim Rice in the eighth inning.

Red Sox starter Rick Wise would only last one more inning than Splittorff. He was solid for the first 5 innings but ran into difficulty in the sixth. Royals' DH Hal McRae ignited the rally with a leadoff double and came around to score on John Mayberry's RBI single. This was Mayberry's second RBI of the game as he drilled a solo blast to right-center field in the second inning. Mayberry is 4-8 in the ALCS with 2 homers and 5 RBI. Darrell Porter pushed a run across on a fielder's choice to close the gap to 4-3.

Wise handed the ball off to Willoughby for the seventh, and he delivered, retiring 6 Royals in order. Willoughby has now tossed 5 scoreless innings in the playoffs and was a key piece of the Red Sox playoff run logging 82.2 innings in the regular season as the setup man with a stingy 2.05 ERA. The win pushed Wise's record to (2-0) as he's won both his outings in the postseason.

Boston regained their mojo in the ninth after Gura was lifted in favor of Steve Mingori. Boston battered Mingori for two singles and a home run which accounted for 2 runs to put the game out of reach.

The Red Sox will look to Luis Tiant in Game 3 to keep their winning ways intact while the Royals intend to counter with Jim Colburn.Tiant is (1-0) in two starts in the playoffs with a microscopic 0.68 ERA. Colburn only went 5 innings in his only playoff start but was second on the Royals staff with 15 wins during the regular season.

In the National League, the NLCS will begin in Los Angeles with the '77 Dodgers taking on the '79 Montreal Expos. The Dodgers roared back in their NLDS after dropping the first game to the '76 New York Mets reeling off three consecutive wins feasting on a porous Mets' bullpen. The Dodgers scored 11 runs in those wins after the sixth inning.  

The Expos trailed Game 5 of their NLDS in Cincinnati as the '75 Reds led 4-1 going into the eighth, but the visitors tied the game on a three-run homer by Gary Carter. Andre Dawson added a three-run blast of his own in the eleventh to shock the favored Reds and seal their NLCS birth.

May 04, 2017

The Sensational 70s - Leonard Renders Sawx Lumber Limp

After a rocky start, Royals' ace Dennis Leonard slammed the door shut on the Red Sox attack and John Mayberry drove in three runs, including a solo homer, that proved to be the game-winning run as the 1977 Kansas City Royals opened up their ALCS against the 1975 Boston Red Sox with a 6-4 victory.

The fans at Kauffman Stadium were just settling into their seats when Jim Rice cast a pall over the crowd by belting a  two-run homer off Leonard in the top of the first inning. It was Rice's third homer of the playoffs and pushed his RBI total to 8.  The Sawx slugger is also batting a blistering .500 (10-20 with 2 doubles).

Leonard, a 22 game winner during the Sensational 70s campaign, then wielded his magic for the next 6.2 innings allowing only 4 baserunners - 3 hits and a hit batsman. In fact, after Carl Yastrzemski followed up Rice's two-out homer with a  single, Leonard went on to set down 10 Red Sox in order.

The Royals struck back quickly scoring 4 runs in the first three innings in rather innocuous fashion. Three of the four runs driven in were by infield groundouts, and the Royals did not manage an extra base hit. Sawx starter Bill Lee was the victim of the Kansas City bloodletting as he lasted only 4 innings in a very uneven outing. Lee surrendered 6 hits and granting 2 free passes in his abbreviated 66 pitch appearance. Three of the runs charged to Lee were earned.

Dick Pole was the first man out of the pen for Boston and Mayberry touched him up for the game-winning strike. The Royals added one more in the seventh to make the score 6-2.

The Red Sox offense stirred in the eighth adding a pair of runs to the ledger. Cecil Cooper drove in Denny Doyle who reached on a failed double play attempt by the Royals and advanced to scoring position on an errant throw by Royals' shortstop Freddie Patek. This would spell the end of the day for Leonard, and Fred Lynn immediately greeted Kansas City reliever Doug Bird with a RBI double to bring Cooper around and close the gap to 6-4.

After Royals' closer Marl Littell got Yastrzemski to pop out to the catcher to begin the ninth, he allowed consecutive singles and then plunked pinch-hitter Bernie Carbo to load the bases. The rally was thwarted as Rick Burleson grounded into a 6-4-3 twin killing to give Kansas City the victory.

In these playoffs, Lee has made 2 starts throwing a total of 10 innings while being nicked for 6 runs. Boston will need their 17 game-winner to right the ship in this series if they hope to advance to the Fall Classic.

In Game 2, Boston will send Rick Wise to the mound in an attempt to even the series. Kansas City will counter with Paul Splittorff.