1990 League Championship Series

Sweeps seemed almost the order of the day with Oakland. They’d been swept in the 1975 ALCS and then again in 1981. Come 1990, the A’s were headed toward its third World Series in a row, under manager Tony LaRussa. They’d swept the Red Sox in the 1988 ALCS, but then lost the World Series to the Dodgers, salvaging some respectability by winning one game. In 1989, they’d swept the Giants in the Series. The Blue Jays had managed to win one game in the ALCS. Now they were back for more with a 103-59 season, winning a full 15 games more than their LCS opponent, the 88-74 Boston Red Sox. They couldn’t have known in at the time the 1990 postseason began but there were two more sweeps coming.

The Red Sox, of course, were looking to get back at the Athletics for taking four straight from them in ’88. Many of the same men were still with the team. The Boston ballclub’s batting average was .272, significantly better than Oakland’s .254, but the Athletics were superior in pitching. When it got to the late innings, no one was likely to score off Eckersley who saved 48 games with an earned run average of 0.61 (that is not a typo). Bob Welch was 27-6 with a 2.95 ERA. Dave Stewart was stingier with runs: 2.56 and a 22-11 record. Boston had Clemens (21-6, with an excellent 1.93 ERA) and Mike Boddicker (17-8, 3.36) and Jeff Reardon for a closer, with a 3.16 ERA.  For whatever reason, he’d never pitched well when matched up against Stewart.

That pattern looked to be broken in Game One at Fenway Park, as the two went head-to-head and Clemens threw six innings of four-hit shutout ball. A solo home run by Wade Boggs saw the Sox with a 1-0 lead into the seventh, when Red Sox reliever Larry Andersen let the score get tied on a sacrifice fly. The first batter in the eighth singled off Andersen, and he was replaced. A stolen base and a single by Jose Canseco scored the baserunner and Oakland was ahead, 2-1. Unlike 1988 when Eckersley earned a save in every LCS game, putting down the Red Sox in the ninth didn’t get him one in 1990 – because Oakland scored seven more runs in the top of the ninth off Jeff Gray and Dennis Lamp. Stewart got the win, 9-1, but it wasn’t a save situation.

Boston got one run in Game Two, on a sacrifice fly in the bottom of the third. They were held otherwise scoreless by Welch – and Eck did earn a save in this one. It was again a close game, 2-1 after eight. The A’s added a pair of insurance runs in the top of the ninth. Dana Kiecker had started for the Red Sox. He’d been 8-9 with a 3.97 in the regular season. He rose to the occasion and pitched exceptionally well, six innings with just one run in the top of the fourth when Harold Baines singled in Willie McGee, who’d doubled to lead off. It was almost an all-Baines show; in the seventh, his groundout brought in Mike Gallego for a 2-1 lead, and in the ninth his double scored McGee again. The A’s won, 4-1. Reliever Greg Harris, who’d faced four batters and given up three singles (and the winning run) was the loser.

The score in Game Three was identical, the game played at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum with Mike Moore (13-15, 4.65) pitching against Mike Boddicker. Boston took an early 1-0 lead, again on a sacrifice fly.  Oakland didn’t take as long to get their runs, with two in the fourth and two more in the sixth, all on “small ball” (with the fourth run even coming on Terry Steinbach’s steal of home plate – he was out, but Red Sox catcher Tony Pena was charged with an error, one of three by Boston). There wasn’t an extra-base hit in the game by the A’s, and only two of the four runs Boddicker saw score in a complete-game loss were earned.

The A’s went for the sweep, and got it with a 3-1 win in Game Four. The Red Sox had managed to score one run - and only one run - in each game. This one was a Clemens vs. Stewart game, and Dave Stewart’s only problem was when Ellis Burks doubled and Jody Reed singled in the top of the ninth. Clemens had been gotten to for three runs in the bottom of the second on two singles, an error, a fielder’s choice scoring a run, a walk, and then – off his replacement, Tom Bolton, a double by Gallego to score two more.

The A’s went to Cincinnati for the World Series. They were swept by the Reds, but that may not have made the Red Sox feel any better. They’d now lost 10 consecutive postseason games dating back to Game Six in the 1986 World Series.

By Bill Nowlin
1990 ALCS, Boston Red Sox, Dennis Eckersley, Oakland Athletics


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