Doug DeCinces' home run off Roger Clemens started an eighth-inning Angels rally in Game 4 of the 1986 ALCS. The Angels won the game 4-3 in 11 innings and went into Game 5 needing one more victory to go to the World Series.
"This was not the team of '82, by any means. The 1982 Angels team was, man for man, the best team I ever played on, we just didn't have the pitching to go with it. In '86, things just came together.
"Game 4 was a real high. I hit a home run off Clemens. Roger was blowin', you know, throwing a great game, and we were losing. He threw me a down-and-in fastball, and I hit it for a home run to kind of break the ice a little bit. We came back to win, and that put us in a position, if we had won Game 5, to go to the World Series.
"Heading into Game 5, we thought, 'Hey, this is there for the taking.' We took the wind out of their sails in Game 4, especially with Clemens throwing the way that he was. We thought we had it.
"Mike Witt was awesome in Game 5. When Gene Mauch went to take him out in the ninth inning, with two outs, I was in total disbelief.
"Bill Buckner had hit a little dribbler that got by Witt up the middle, just squeaked through for a base hit. Then Baylor came up and hit a down-and-away curveball for a home run. Well, Don Baylor's done that numerous times. It was a good pitch -- it didn't mean Mike Witt was losing anything, by any means at all.
"The next guy up was Dwight Evans, and he hit a popup to me in foul territory. When I caught that ball, Mike Witt was about 10 feet from me, and I flipped him the ball and said, 'This is the one we've been waiting for. It's your game, go get it.'
"You can see when a player is focused. You can look into somebody's eyes and know that, hey, this is a done deal. Witt was ready. There was no better guy, no better situation. We were on our way.
"Then, out of the corner of my eye, I see Marcel Lachemann jump up and come out onto the field. My first reaction was, 'Oh, don't disrupt him now, he's zoned, leave him alone.'
"When Lachemann lifted his left arm to call in Gary Lucas out of the pen, I was thinking, 'What?! What are you doing?!'
"Rich Gedman was coming up, and he was a good hitter, and he'd hit Witt that day. Still, we only needed one out. Witt was our best pitcher and he looked sharp and was running on adrenaline.
"Lucas hit Gedman, of course. But you have to understand, Gary Lucas, like everybody else, was standing and watching up until that point. He gets a late phone call down in the bullpen that says, 'Hey, loosen up, you're in.' He got about six pitches there and eight pitches out on the field.
"We asked a guy who was a set-up man to go out there on the mound in the ninth and get the biggest out in Angels history. Lucas was thrust into the situation, where a guy like Witt was zoned into the situation.
"Then came Dave Henderson's home run. It was hard to watch Donnie Moore pitch to him. We all knew Donnie had had a cortisone shot the night before, and when he came into the game, we were all saying, 'Are you kidding? You can't ask him to come in.'
"Donnie was a gutsy pitcher, and he wanted the ball, but, unfortunately, physically he wasn't able to do the job. His ball was just kind of floating up there. He didn't have zip to his fastball, and his split-finger was floating, because he didn't have good arm action.
"When Henderson hit the home run, it was like the life being sucked out of you. You get to one strike from the World Series and everything is right there for you. You're just hoping the ball gets hit to you, so you can make a play. But he hit it where nobody could make a play.
"After Game 5, we were the most defeated and deflated team I ever saw. We tried to regroup, and we started off Game 6 well. We had Oil Can Boyd on the ropes, but he got away from us, and when we lost that game, the momentum was fully switched.
"In Game 7, we couldn't get anybody out. Balls were getting hit all over the place. It was very difficult to accept. We had a chance in Game 6 but we were out of Game 7.
"I still think about the series. I think about the opportunity I had to drive in a run in the bottom of the ninth inning in Game 5, after Henderson's home run. I tried to hit a fly ball and I hit one to right, but I didn't hit it deep enough. Every once in a while, I still wonder if I should have just tried to hit the ball instead of trying to guide the ball.
"That sits wrong with me. If I could have that pitch back and do something different with it, I would love to do that."
Doug DeCinces is a developer in southern California. His son Tim is a minor league prospect for the San Diego Padres.
|Doug DeCinces says that after Game 5, his Angels "were the most defeated and deflated team I ever saw."||