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GAME 6
Peter Gammons
April 06, 1987
It was time for a new season, but the question under discussion was from the old: Do you send Don Baylor up to bat for Bill Buckner?
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April 06, 1987

Game 6

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"I was in the clubhouse swinging a bat and was never told that I was going to bat," says Baylor. "Although I did hear that [McNamara was talked out of the move] from another player."

McNamara contends that he didn't want to pinch-hit for Buckner with a lead and that previously he replaced Buckner with Dave Stapleton at first only after Buckner had been removed for a pinch runner. But, in fact, Stapleton had gone in for defense in several postseason games. "We didn't hit for Buckner during the season," said McNamara. "Why then?"

But he also didn't have Baylor on the bench all season. While Baylor had batted only .230 against lefthanders, he was a major reason the Red Sox were there. His homer preceding Henderson's in the fifth game of the playoffs against the California Angels was the biggest hit of the season, and he had transformed the "me" mood of the clubhouse to a "we." Baylor certainly believed he should have batted. When a reporter said after the game, "I guess Buckner doesn't get hit for there," Baylor replied, "Why?"

"It's stupid to even debate about my hitting there," insists Buckner. "I hit the ball pretty hard, too." He did, and Dykstra ran it down in left center. It was still 3-2. Orosco was done, and so was Clemens. And Buckner was still in the game to play defense.

For all of Boston's weeping and teeth-gnashing over the 10th, the Red Sox were fortunate to get that far. In the bottom of the eighth, Mazzilli batted for Orosco and pulled Schiraldi's pitch into right for a single. Then the black flies—Dykstra and Wally Backman—went to work. Dykstra laid down a perfect bunt, and Schiraldi picked it up and bounced a throw to second in the dirt. Backman laid one down, too, and Schiraldi fielded it again, cautiously throwing to first for the out. But the tying run was on third and the go-ahead run on second. Schiraldi walked Hernandez intentionally to load the bases.

Schiraldi went to 3 and 0 on Carter, and as the NBC camera homed in on his face, Calvin looked exactly like a 24-year-old rookie who has suddenly realized that half the nation is watching him. "It just so happened that when I screwed up, it was the World Series," he said.

Johnson gave Schiraldi a break. He flashed Carter the green light to swing, and Carter, ever the hero, swung at a waist-high fastball, hitting it hard to Rice in leftfield. Mazzilli scored easily from third, and the game was tied 3-3. With two outs and Dykstra on third, Strawberry fried out to end the inning.

Then Johnson pulled the double-switch, putting Aguilera in Strawberry's spot and keeping Mazzilli in the game in right. Afterward, while the rest of the Mets rejoiced, Strawberry blasted the manager. "I didn't notice him doing anything spectacular," Johnson said.

The Met manager wasn't off the strategic hook yet. The Mets had runners on first and second with no outs in the ninth after Schiraldi walked Knight and Gedman misplayed Wilson's bunt. The next hitter was Elster. "That's a tough place to ask a rookie to get down a bunt against a guy like Schiraldi," explains Johnson. "A .167-hitting backup shortstop had better be able to bunt," says another manager. But Johnson wasn't taking any chances, especially after Elster had already messed up two balls at shortstop. So he sent up Howard Johnson to bunt. HoJo's stab at the first pitch looked like a pelican diving for a fish. "I didn't like the looks of that," says the manager, "so I took off the bunt. I did the same thing with Orosco in the eighth inning of the seventh game; he singled up the middle for the final run and no one said anything." When Johnson tipped strike three into Gedman's glove for the first out, the second-guessers howled. Mazzilli lined out. Dykstra flied out—and it was on to the 10th.

At precisely 11:59 p.m. Henderson, leading off, rifled an Aguilera pitch off the leftfield scoreboard. "Hendu" might have achieved cult status in Boston, what with his home run in the fifth game of the ALCS, and now this one. With two outs Boggs doubled to left center and the redoubtable Barrett singled him home to give the Red Sox a 5-3 lead. All the Red Sox needed were three outs. Schiraldi may be considered a once-around-the-order short reliever, but he had closed out two of the last three playoff wins, as well as the Series opener, and the Red Sox were going to stick with him.

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