Hurst held the Mets, who batted only .189 in the Houston playoffs, to just four hits and struck out eight in his eight innings. He set Strawberry down on three straight curveballs in the sixth with nobody out and two runners on, the Mets' slugger standing there transfixed with his bat on his shoulder, a posture he would resume the following night with two men aboard in the fifth inning against Sox reliever Steve Crawford. Hurst, an unassuming man mistakenly thought by some in the Boston hierarchy to be too timid for the rigors of big league pitching, revealed after this signal triumph that he is yet another disciple of the split-fingered fastball guru, Roger Craig. Another of his pupils, Houston's Mike Scott, bedeviled the Mets in the NLCS. The irony is that Craig is an original Met.
Hurst, curiously enough, learned the pitch from Craig in 1984 when the present San Francisco manager was still employed in the American League as the Detroit pitching coach—unprecedented generosity to an opponent. The split-finger, or forkball, as Hurst prefers to call it, gave the Boston pitcher a third pitch to go with his good fastball and sweeping curve. And his split-finger has been especially effective against righthanders. Six times this past season, opposing AL teams have loaded their batting order with nine righthanders, and six times the Sox won, Hurst gaining credit for four of the wins.
Hurst is also a player with a sense of history. When he was asked after his World Series-opening win if he knew who the last Red Sox pitcher was to throw a 1-0 shutout in the first game of a Series (in 1918), he replied without pause, " Babe Ruth. He holds all of our Series records." Presumably, Hurst also knew that 1918 was the last year the Sox won a Series. The 1-0 game was the 20th such score in Series history, the fifth to open a Series and the first since Jack Billingham of Cincinnati beat the A's in 1972.
Hurst didn't get a complete-game shutout only because McNamara lifted him in the top of the ninth for Greenwell with the bases loaded. Greenwell is a low-ball hitter and Mets reliever Roger McDowell is a sinkerball pitcher, McNamara explained, and besides, Hurst had thrown 133 pitches and, batting for the first time in Lord knows when, he had thrice struck out in the game. "I knew where my neck was," said McNamara. "And my body might have been in the Charles River." Greenwell flied out to end the inning, so that part of the gamble failed. But Calvin Schiraldi, Boston's late-inning stopper since the middle of July, closed out the ninth inning, although he needed a fine force play on a sacrifice attempt by first baseman Dave Stapleton to bail him out after Strawberry walked. The save came at the right time for Schiraldi, who was one of the players traded by the Mets to the Sox last winter for Bob Ojeda, an 18-game winner this year. "I knew," said Schiraldi, "that eventually the trade would be good for the Red Sox." Like Hurst, Schiraldi was once accused of lacking intestinal fortitude.
Schiraldi also got some help in the ninth from Owen, his old Texas Long-horn teammate. After he walked Strawberry, Owen went to the mound and told the pitcher, "You've been here before, Nibbler. Just go get it." The nickname Nibbler dates back to Schiraldi's days as a starter, when he tried to be too fine with his pitches. Now that he's the short man, Schiraldi just rears back and fires, and the results have been sensational.
Owen and Schiraldi and Roger Clemens go back a ways. Four years ago they all played for Texas in the College World Series; Owen was a junior who had just been drafted in the first round by Seattle, while the two pitchers were sophomores. Right after the Longhorns were eliminated, Schiraldi and Clemens were saying goodbye to Owen in the parking lot of Rosenblatt Stadium in Omaha. "We knew we had played our last game with Spike," Clemens recalls. "I had tears in my eyes because he was our leader and we thought we would never play together again." The next year Texas did win the College World Series behind Clemens and Schiraldi, and the two were drafted by Boston and New York, respectively. It took some strange twists of fate, the trade with the Mets last November and a trade with Seattle in August, to bring them back together for the World Series.
A minicontroversy arose in the ninth inning of Game 1 when Dwight Evans was thrown out at the plate by leftfielder Kevin Mitchell. Evans was trying to score from second on a Henderson single past third baseman Ray Knight, but later he said he was tripped rounding third by Knight, who was lying on the ground after diving for the ball. "I stepped on his leg and lost a step," said Evans. "It so happened Mitchell threw the ball well. I was frustrated by Knight, but the umpire didn't see it. There was nothing I could do. I don't know if it was an ethical play, but it worked and nobody saw it so it was a smart play. I'd do the same thing in his spot." Knight said, "If I did trip him, it was unintentional. I thought I felt him step on my leg, but I didn't do anything like that on purpose. I'm not that smart."
Darling versus Hurst had been a proper duel, but Sunday's "dream" matchup between wonder pitchers Dwight Gooden of New York and Clemens of Boston promised to be one of the best in World Series history. Instead, it was one of the worst. "We thought after last night, this would really be a low-scoring game," said Boston's Wade Boggs, who hit two doubles and made three brilliant fielding plays in the game, "but we got 18 hits, so I guess we blew that theory." Clemens, a 24-game winner, did not last the fifth inning, having given up three runs on five hits and four walks. Gooden, the inimitable Dr. K, was gone by the sixth, after allowing six runs and eight hits. Gooden, who had a 1.06 ERA in the playoffs, probably shouldn't have been out there that long, but Johnson let him hit in the fourth inning, with the Mets trailing 4-2 and with two runners on base. In the fifth, Gooden gave up a titanic two-run homer to Evans, onto the awning above the auxiliary press box in the leftfield bleachers, that iced the game for Boston.
Gooden seemed so uncertain to Barrett that "he was almost like a hitter who steps out of the box, trying to think what to do next." The Red Sox may have unnerved Gooden a little in the second inning when they asked umpire Jim Evans to examine his glove hand. It seems that he had a bandage on his middle finger because of a cut, and the Red Sox thought Dr. K was doctoring the ball when he rubbed it up with both hands. But Evans found no sandpaper or foreign substance, although Gooden did have to remove the tape.
Clemens, said his catcher, Gedman, "was just a little run-down. He pitched a lot of innings [22? in the playoffs] in a short time." Said Clemens, "I still felt I could get people out, but I'm not going to jeopardize a lead." Teammate Evans observed, "It takes so much to get here, that by the time you do, you have some tired arms—on both sides."