Mark McGwire, Ron Hassey, Carney Lansford and Dave Henderson homered as the Oakland Athletics poured on the power Saturday night, rallying from an early five-run deficit to beat the Boston Red Sox 10-6 for a 3-0 lead in the American League playoffs.
The Athletics, continuing to dominate Boston at the Oakland Coliseum, moved within one victory of the World Series. No baseball team has ever overcome a 3-0 gap in postseason play, and Oakland could complete a sweep today when Dave Stewart opposes Boston's Bruce Hurst.A hotly contested call on a hard slide at second base cost Boston a run in the fifth inning with Oakland ahead 6-5, and the Athletics' bullpen held on, with Dennis Eckersley setting an AL playoff record and tying the major-league mark with his third save of the series.
After pitchers ruled the first two games at Fenway Park - a hitters' paradise - the batters suddenly got their revenge at one of the best pitchers' parks in the majors. Not even the twilight start could help Oakland's Bob Welch or Boston's Mike Boddicker. Neither survived the third inning.
Hassey, who also doubled and drove in three runs, and McGwire each got three of Oakland's 15 hits. McGwire homered for the second successive game and got Oakland within 5-1 in the second. Lansford connected for a two-run shot later in the inning, and Hassey's two-run homer put the Athletics ahead 6-5 in the third and finished Boddicker.
Jose Canseco, who homered in each of the first two games, was the only Athletics starter without a hit on Saturday.
Lansford, who singled in the eighth, scored ahead of Henderson's two-run homer in the eighth.
The Athletics have won all seven games against Boston in Oakland this year and are 15 of 16 since July 3, 1987. Oakland is 12-3 overall against the Red Sox this season.
Boston, held to just one earned run on 10 hits in the first two games, broke out of their slump with 12 hits on Saturday. Wade Boggs got three hits and drove in two runs and Mike Greenwell hit a two-run double and solo homer. But the team that led the majors in scoring and batting average this season could not do enough to stop Oakland, the second highest-scoring club.
Eckersley, whose 45 saves were the most in the majors, was Oakland's sixth pitcher and went two innings. His three saves tied the record set by Pittsburgh's Dave Giusti in 1971.
Gene Nelson pitched 3 1-3 scoreless innings in relief of Welch for the victory, and Boddicker, who had not allowed a run in 19 post-season innings, took the loss.
While the hitters pounded away, a play in the Boston fifth made the most noise. With one out, Dwight Evans walked and took third on Rich Gedman's single.
Jody Reed followed with a grounder to Lansford at third, who threw to second baseman Mike Gallego for a force. The crowd of 49,261 groaned as Reed beat the relay to first and Evans came across with the apparent tying run.
But second base umpire Ken Kaiser ruled that Gedman made an illegal rolling block into Gallego and called the runner out, making for a double play that left Oakland ahead 6-5.
Mild-mannered Boston manager Joe Morgan led a charge to Kaiser for a protest and eventually six Red Sox and four umpires were embroiled in an argument at second base. Hurst was ejected, the first player ever tossed from a playoff game for protesting.
Replays indicated Gedman threw a rolling block into Gallego, a cause for interference. The replays also clearly showed Gallego had released the ball when Gedman hit him.