Tuesday, September 25, 2018

The 1978 AL East Playoff Game 9/25/18

Hey baseball fans!

We are nearing the end of the 2018 MLB regular season and although the AL seedings have been pretty much decided, the NL is completely crazy. It's so crazy that we could see a four-to-five team tie for the Wild Card spots! That would require a bevy of tiebreakers and although the tiebreaker I'm about to describe wasn't as insane in terms of participating teams, it's much more insane in terms of magnitude.

The year is 1978. The Yankees are coming off a World Series championship in 1977 and are looking to repeat as MLB champs. But the Red Sox have other ideas. Thanks to an MVP season by Hall of Famer Jim Rice and yet another solid campaign from Carlton Fisk, the '78 Sox were in the driver's seat for a majority of the season in the AL East. In fact, in mid-July, the Yankees were 14 games back of Boston for the AL East crown! Why do I sound so worried about my Yanks at this point, you ask? Well, in 1978, Major League Baseball hadn't implemented the Wild Card yet, so it was either a team won the division or didn't make the playoffs.

But New York mounted a furious comeback, going 53-21 in the team's final 74 games, while Boston only went 38-36. The highlight of this comeback was a Yankees four-game sweep of the Red Sox at Fenway late in the season. The Yankees outscored the Red Sox 40-9 over the four contests and the series was dubbed "The Boston Massacre" by the press. By season's end, both rivals were tied for the top position of the AL East, meaning that for the first time since 1948, a playoff game would be played to decide who would make the playoffs.

Game 163 did not start off the way the Yankees had planned, despite having 1978 AL Cy Young award recipient and 24-game winner Ron Guidry on the mound. Hall of Famer Carl Yastrzemski led off the bottom of the second with a homer and Rice hit an RBI single to center field in the sixth. But in the top of the seventh, things started to look up for the Yankees. With two runners on base, Bucky Dent, a contact-hitting shortstop who had hit only five homers the entire season, smacked a ball over the Green Monster, giving the Yankees a 3-2 advantage! Thurman Munson doubled later in the inning, scoring Mickey Rivers, and Hall of Famer Reggie Jackson led off the top of the eighth with a homer to essentially clinch the game for the defending champs. The Red Sox rallied off Goose Gossage in the bottom of the eighth to make it look closer, but the Hall of Fame reliever eventually closed the game for the Yankees, giving them their third consecutive AL East title. The final score was 5-4.

Bucky Dent, who is now referred to as this game's hero, also ended up winning World Series MVP. So indeed, the Yankees did go back-to-back in the Fall Classic. It would be their last championship before an 18-year drought. Thanks for reading this post and I hope you enjoyed it. Check back soon for more of "all the buzz on what wuzz."

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