October 15, 1986: Red Sox complete epic ALCS comeback over Angels

This article was written by Allan Wood

The Boston Red Sox clinched their 10th American League pennant by winning their third straight elimination game — overcoming a one-game-to-three deficit and advancing to the World Series for the first time in 11 years. Roger Clemens, working on short rest for the second time in the series, pitched seven innings, allowing only one run and four hits. Red Sox second baseman Marty Barrett tied an American League Championship Series record with 11 hits and was named the series’ Most Valuable Player.

There was little doubt about the outcome of this game. The Red Sox led 3-0 before the California Angels collected their first hit and they drove Angels starter John Candelaria from the mound with four runs in the fourth inning. (However, all seven runs charged to Candelaria were unearned.)

“The Red Sox ascended to what was thought to be an unreachable height last April,” wrote Joe Giuliotti in the Boston Herald. “The victory by the team that was supposed to finish fifth, climaxed a long, uphill struggle that saw them turn back every challenge during the regular season and again in the playoffs.”1

Tim Horgan of the Herald called Game Seven “a mere formality” and said the Red Sox have “become so coldly proficient that the pennant-clinching game was curiously devoid of suspense and emotion. … Even the Red Sox’ victory celebration was as orderly and decorous as the game itself. There’s a professionalism bordering on ruthlessness in this ballclub that’s tough to describe, but heartening.”2

Boston DH Don Baylor believed that the Red Sox’ remarkable comeback in the ninth inning of Game Five, when the Angels were one strike away from winning the pennant, “broke their morale. I really don’t think they ever recovered from it. … I think they were pressing, really trying to convince themselves that 1982 wasn’t on their minds.”3 In the ALCS that season (a best-of-five), the Angels lost the pennant when they dropped three straight games to Milwaukee after winning the first two. (Baylor was a member of the Angels that season.)

Marty Barrett: “Since we came back from the grave Sunday, the pressure has been on the Angels. … We’ve been playing with the house’s money.”4 Barrett called the Red Sox’ performance in the ALCS “the greatest comeback ever. We were dead in Anaheim, absolutely dead. I think that’s why we played so loose.”5

Dwight Evans, who homered in the seventh, said: “Before the game I said we had to go out and kick, grab, bite, scratch, punch, and do whatever we had to do to get there. And we did.”6

Jim Rice began the second inning by reaching second base on a throwing error by California shortstop Dick Schofield. Don Baylor — the only Red Sox batter to hit safely in all seven games — singled to left and Rice held at third. Evans worked an eight-pitch walk to load the bases. Rice scored on Rich Gedman‘s grounder to second. Candelaria fell behind Dave Henderson, 3-and-1, then put him on intentionally. After Spike Owen popped up for the second out, Wade Boggs singled up the middle, scoring two more runs.

Boston stranded runners at second and third in the third inning, then put the game away in the fourth. Henderson reached third when his fly to deep center was dropped by Gary Pettis. He then scored on Owen’s single to right, a sinking line drive that Ruppert Jones could not catch. Candelaria struck out Boggs and got Barrett to fly to center, but he walked Dave Stapleton (who had pinch-run for Bill Buckner in the previous inning). Jim Rice then blasted a three-run home run off the left-field light tower, giving the Red Sox a 7-0 lead and ending Candelaria’s outing. Rice scored eight runs in the series, an ALCS record.

Clemens allowed only three hits, one walk, and two hit batsmen through seven innings, and the Angels managed to get only two runners past first base in that time. When Clemens allowed a leadoff single to Ruppert Jones in the eighth, Boston manager John McNamara went to the bullpen. Calvin Schiraldi gave up a single to Rick Burleson on his first pitch. He struck out Brian Downing and Reggie Jackson — with the Fenway Park fans roaring on every strike — before allowing a two-out hit to Doug DeCinces that brought home California’s only run of the game.

Schiraldi struck out the side in the ninth — mowing down Gary Pettis and two pinch-hitters, Jack Howell and Jerry Narron — putting an exclamation point on the Red Sox’ victory. “The adrenaline was flowing like it never has before. I was just throwing strikes, and they weren’t swinging at them.”7 Schiraldi added that in the final inning, he had “to stop every now and then to catch [my] breath.”8

The Fenway Park crowd of 33,001 had been celebrating since the sixth inning. When Evans hit a solo home run in the seventh, giving Boston an 8-0 lead, loud chants of “We want the Mets!” broke out. (The Mets had clinched the National League pennant with a 16-inning victory over the Astros earlier in the day.)

After seeing the Angels’ fans signs in Game Four (e.g., “Another Boston Choke”), Red Sox fans countered with their own, using the initials of the station broadcasting the series: “Angels Bats Choke,” “Atta Boy Clemens,” “Anaheim Bus — Catch It.”

“Coming back home meant a lot to the ballclub,” Jim Rice said. “We consider our 34,000 just as strong as their 64,000. Playing in your own backyard gives you a lift.”9

Red Sox manager John McNamara said that Clemens was “under the weather” and he spoke to his starting pitcher after every inning, beginning in the fifth. “After the seventh he said he was getting a little wobbly. He said he could give me one more inning but I wasn’t going to let him stay out there if he retired Jones. We were just waiting for Schiraldi to get ready.”10

Clemens: “In the fifth inning I knew I wasn’t going to be able to finish. I could feel myself getting dizzy. … I felt weak and knew I needed good pitches to get the maximum out of my legs to get those innings in. I had to really drive.”11 Clemens ended up throwing 93 pitches in his third start of the series.

The Angels, who had been one pitch away from their first-ever pennant, were crushed. “I don’t have a hell of a lot to say,” manager Gene Mauch said. “Except that I hurt like hell for those players. They laid their hearts out there and it got stepped on. Eight months of hard work.”12

The Angels played the final four games without Wally Joyner, their outstanding rookie first baseman, who batted .445 in the first three games but suffered a bacterial infection in his lower right leg.

Donnie Moore, the losing pitcher in Boston’s epic Game Five win, retired the Red Sox in order in a meaningless eighth inning. “I accept the fact that I am the goat of the series,” Moore said. “It’s just going to have to be something I live with.”13

Marty Barrett believed that the Angels’ spirits were broken when they lost Game Five. “They were in their dugouts with the security guards, the way we were tonight. I heard their batboys already had the champagne uncorked. They had it. They had it dangling in front of them.”14

“We’ve had so much magic this year,” Wade Boggs said. “Look at the ways we’ve won. Something weird’s always happened when we needed it. Always.”15

The front page of the Boston Herald said it best: “Bring On The Mets!”


This article appeared in “The 1986 Boston Red Sox: There Was More Than Game Six” (SABR, 2016), edited by Leslie Heaphy and Bill Nowlin. Read more game stories from the book at the SABR Games Project by clicking here.







1 Joe Giuliotti, “Champions!,” Boston Herald, October 16, 1986: 104.

2 Tim Horgan, “Welcome to the End of an Era,” Boston Herald, October 16, 1986: 95.

3  George Kimball, “Dignity, Destiny,” Boston Herald, October 16, 1986: 91.

4  Tim Horgan.

5 Lesley Visser, “Barrett’s Game Second to None,” Boston Globe, October 16, 1986: 46.

6  Joe Giuliotti, “Sox Rout Angels,” Boston Herald, October 16, 1986: 90.

7 Charles Pierce, “Fenway Showdown Becomes a Carnival,” Boston Herald, October 16, 1986: 93.

8 Leigh Montville, “It’s a Flag for Fenway; Next, a New York-Boston World Series,” Boston Globe, October 16, 1986: 1.

9  Dan Shaughnessy, “Finally, Rice Has Spotlight,” Boston Globe, October 16, 1986: 45.

10 Joe Giuliotti, “Sox Rout Angels.”

11  Roger Clemens, “Clemens Credits Team Support for His Success,” Boston Herald, October 16, 1986: 92.

12 John Powers, “Another Bitter Pill for Mauch,” Boston Globe, October 16, 1986: 49.

13 Charles Pierce, “No Party for Fallen Angels,” Boston Herald, October 16, 1986: 94.

14 David Cataneo. “Barrett Proves He’s Valuable Property,” Boston Herald, October 16, 1986: 96.

15 Leigh Montville.

Additional Stats

Boston Red Sox 8
California Angels 1
Game 7, ALCS

Fenway Park
Boston, MA


Box Score + PBP:

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