1975 American League Championship Series
The Oakland Athletics had finished first in the AL West, 98-64 and seven games ahead of the Royals. They were also the reigning world champions, having won the World Series two years running – in 1973 and 1974. The Red Sox won 95 games and finished 4 ½ games ahead of the Orioles. Fred Lynn was the Rookie of the Year and MVP, but Jim Rice was out with the broken left hand he’d suffered on September 21.
The league had broken into two six-team divisions beginning in 1969, but this was the first time the Sox had advanced to the postseason since 1967. They held an edge over Oakland in the regular season , with a team average of .275 to .254, and led in runs scored, 796-758, but the A’s had by far the better pitching staff by earned run average, 3.27 to 3.98.
The first game of the best-of-five American League Championship Series was at Fenway Park and Luis Tiant was waiting. He put down the A’s for the first four innings without allowing a hit, while Boston took a 2-0 lead in the second on a misplayed single to left field, which was so badly misplayed that Carl Yastrzemski just kept on running all the way around the bases and scored, and then two more errors which followed that. In the seventh, the Sox added five more runs on five hits, two stolen bases by Juan Beniquez, and a sacrifice fly. Of the seven runs the Red Sox scored only two were earned; Ken Holtzman started and took the loss. The only run Oakland got came in the top of the eighth, an unearned run on an error by Scott Cooper at first base. Tiant had thrown a three-hitter.
The only 20-game winner on either staff (Vida Blue, 22-11 with a 3.01 ERA) took the mound for Oakland in the second game. Reggie Cleveland (13-9, 4.43) was the Red Sox starter in the second game and he gave up three runs in the five innings he pitched, kicked off by a two-run Reggie Jackson HR. It was 3-0 Oakland, when Denny Doyle singled and Yaz homered in the bottom of the fourth. A Carlton Fisk double and a Fred Lynn single, and Blue had given up four straight hits and was taken out of the game. Fisk later scored on Petrocelli’s double play to tie the game. Fisk singled in Yaz in the sixth. Petrocelli led off with a homer in the seventh, and Fred Lynn singled in Beniquez in the eighth. The 6-3 win went to Roger Moret in relief. Reliever Rollie Fingers was the losing pitcher.
The venue shifted to the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum and A’s manager Al Dark sent Ken Holtzman out again, facing Rick Wise in Game Three. The Sox took a 1-0 lead in the fourth, Rico Petrocelli singling in Lynn, and ran it up to 4-0 in the fifth with an RBI single by Doyle. Holtzman couldn’t finish the fifth, and Jim Todd was brought it to pitch to Fisk, who singled in another run. Paul Lindblad took over to face Lynn but uncorked a wild pitch that allowed Yaz to score from third. The A’s scored once in the sixth and twice more later on, but Boston had meanwhile added another run, and Darrell Johnson’s Sox had swept the A’s, ready to head home to host the Cincinnati Reds in the World Series.