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The 1986 American League Championship Series was a back-and-forth battle between the Boston Red Sox and the California Angels for the right to advance to the 1986 World Series. The Red Sox came in with a 95–66 record and the AL East division title, while the Angels went 92–70 during the regular season to win the AL West.


Boston Red Sox vs. California Angels

Game summaries

Game 1

Tuesday, October 7, 1986 at Fenway Parkmarker in Boston, Massachusettsmarker

Angels left fielder Brian Downing went 2-for-5 with four RBI and Mike Witt pitched a five-hit complete game, as California cruised to an 8–1 win.

Game 2

Wednesday, October 8, 1986 at Fenway Parkmarker in Boston, Massachusettsmarker

The next day, the tables were turned. Bill Buckner scored the winning run in the fifth inning on a Dwight Evans double, and the Red Sox tacked on insurance runs in the seventh and eighth. Boston claimed a 9–2 victory and tied the series at one game apiece.

Game 3

Friday, October 10, 1986 at Anaheim Stadiummarker in Anaheim, Californiamarker

In the seventh inning, Dick Schofield homered for California to give the team a 2–1 lead. Gary Pettis followed shortly thereafter with a two-run home run of his own. The Halos won by a score of 5–3 and took a 2–1 series lead.

Game 4

Saturday, October 11, 1986 at Anaheim Stadiummarker in Anaheim, Californiamarker

Roger Clemens, the Game 1 loser for the Red Sox, started Game 4, and was solid for most of the game. Boston put up a run in the sixth, and two more in the eighth on two hits, a wild pitch, a passed ball, and two error, but left the bases loaded. In the bottom of the ninth, Doug DeCinces led off with a home run. After the next batter grounded out, Schofield and Bob Boone singled. After coming within two outs of a complete game, Clemens was removed, and Boone was replaced with a pinch runner. Pettis, batting next, doubled to score Schofield. Ruppert Jones was intentionally walked to load the bases, a fatal mistake, as two batters later, Downing was hit by a pitch, bringing in the tying run.

Angels relief pitcher Doug Corbett pitched a perfect tenth and eleventh innings, and California broke through in the bottom of the eleventh. Jerry Narron scored on Bobby Grich's one-out single, giving California a 4–3 win and a 3–1 series lead.

Game 5

Sunday, October 12, 1986 at Anaheim Stadiummarker in Anaheim, Californiamarker

Heading into Game 5, California looked set to earn their first-ever trip to a World Series. Grich, the previous night's hero, homered to give the Halos a 3–2 lead in the sixth inning; Red Sox center fielder Dave Henderson had tried to leap at the wall to catch Grich's long fly ball, but ended up deflecting it over the fence. Rob Wilfong appeared to put the final nail in Boston's coffin with an RBI double in the seventh, and the Angels led 5–2 after eight innings.

In the ninth, Witt was two outs away from his second complete game victory of the series when Don Baylor hit a two-strike, two-run home run to pull the Red Sox within one run. After retiring the next batter, Witt was replaced by left-hander Gary Lucas. With his very first pitch, Lucas hit batter Rich Gedman, and was replaced by Donnie Moore. The Angels closer brought his team within one strike of its first-ever AL pennant, but Henderson caught hold of a Moore forkball and launched a home run into the left field stands, stunning the hometown crowd and greatly redeeming himself for his earlier miscue. Boston had taken a 6–5 lead.

The lead would not last, however, as in the bottom of the ninth, Boone singled, and Jones pinch-ran for him. Pettis sacrificed Jones to second, and Wilfong singled him home, tying the game. Schofield then singled, sending Wilfong to third, and Downing was intentionally walked to load the bases with only one out. All of Boston's top-half heroics would have been washed away with a mere sacrifice fly at this point. But instead, DeCinces only managed to hit a short fly ball to right field. Grich's subsequent line-out to pitcher Steve Crawford ended the inning.

The teams settled down and the tenth inning was again scoreless, but the Red Sox loaded the bases in the top of the eleventh for Henderson. He hit a sacrifice fly, scoring Baylor with the go-ahead run. Calvin Schiraldi then retired the Halos in order in the bottom of the eleventh, completing a shocking comeback and breaking the hearts of Angels fans.

Game 6

Tuesday, October 14, 1986 at Fenway Parkmarker in Boston, Massachusettsmarker

Still reeling from their Game 5 loss, the Angels took an early 2–0 lead, but the Sox tied the score without a hit in the bottom of the first. Any remaining heart that California had appeared to have been crushed by a six-hit, five-run rally in the third inning. Boston went on to win 10–4 to tie the series.

Game 7

Wednesday, October 15, 1986 at Fenway Parkmarker in Boston, Massachusettsmarker

The Red Sox clinched the American League championship with three unearned runs in the second inning and a three-run home run from Jim Rice in the fourth. The Angels never mounted a comeback, and Boston won 8–1 to win the series four games to three, providing another bitter defeat for the Angels.

Composite box

1986 ALCS (4–3): Boston Red Sox over California Angels


By virtue of winning the ALCS, the Red Sox advanced to the 1986 World Series, where they faced the New York Mets, with memorable results. Like the Angels in the ALCS, the Red Sox found themselves one strike away from winning the World Series, yet could not hold the lead. Taking a 5–3 lead into the bottom of the tenth inning of Game 6, the Red Sox gave up three runs, culminating in an infamous ground ball through the legs of Bill Buckner to hand the Mets a 6–5 victory. The Mets would go on to win Game 7 and the Series.

As for the Angels, Donnie Moore was regarded the goat of the series for giving up Henderson's home run in Game 5, and then his game-winning sacrifice fly two innings later. Moore was blasted by the sports media, as well as the fans. He sank into depression and alcoholism over the next two years, and committed suicide on July 19, 1989.

In retrospect, most people consider the 1986 postseason to be one of the best (if not the best) postseasons of all time, as it not only was exciting but also made up for a lackluster regular season, in which the Red Sox, Angels, Mets, and Houston Astros all won their divisions handily.

In 2002, the Angels would finally have their moment(s) of glory. They would win the American League Wild Card, as well as their Division Series (dethroning the four-time defending A.L. champion N.Y. Yankees in four games), their first-ever pennant (over Minnesota in five games), and their first-ever World Series title (over San Francisco in seven games).

In 2004, the Angels and Red Sox would meet again in the American League Division Series. And again, the Red Sox would take this series in a sweep of three games. The Red Sox would eventually go on to defeat the New York Yankees for their first pennant since 1986 and also win their first World Series title since 1918 against the St. Louis Cardinals.

In 2007, the Angels and Red Sox met for the third time in the playoffs, playing each other in the ALDS. The Red Sox easily won this series in a sweep, continuing their domination of the Halos in the postseason. The Red Sox would go on to win another world championship that year.

Since Game 4 of the 1986 ALCS, the Angels had not won a postseason game against the Red Sox, having lost eleven straight until Game 3 of the 2008 ALDS. Also, the Red Sox have won all four playoff meetings against the Angels.

In 2009, the Angels finally broke through and defeated the Red Sox in a clean sweep in the ALDS.

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