Monday, November 7, 2011

1973 ALCS: Hunter beats the Birds

How They Got Here
For the third straight season, the Oakland A's were in the playoffs. The defending World Champions didn't have much of a challenge winning the subpar American League West.

Against most teams, the A's pitching staff of Vida Blue, Catfish Hunter, Ken Holtzman and reliever Rollie Fingers would have given them a huge edge in a short series. Not against Baltimore, though. The Orioles didn't make the postseason in 1972 after three straight World Series appearances, but they were back in 1973. And with Jim Palmer, Dave McNally, and Mike Cuellar, they were a rare team that had a pitching edge over Oakland. Plus, the Orioles had won the ALCS over the A's in 1971.

Jim Palmer took control of Game 1, shutting out the A's and Blue in Game 1. Oakland bounced back behind Hunter and Fingers to win Game 2, then won Game 3 in 11, as both Holtzman and Cuellar each threw complete games. In Game 4, the A's jumped on Palmer, knocking him out in the second and taking a 4-0 lead into the seventh inning before the Orioles scored five runs in the last three innings off Blue and Fingers, forcing a deciding Game 5.

The Game
At home for Game 5, the Athletics had Catfish Hunter back on the mound with a chance to give them a shot at the World Series. The Orioles countered not with Game 2 starter McNally but with Doyle Alexander. That didn't turn out well, as Oakland scored once in the third and twice in the fourth to knock Alexander out of the game. In his place was Palmer, still fresh after pitching only one inning the previous game.

But it didn't matter. Hunter had three runs to work with, and he was in control. He only struck out one Oriole batter all game, but Baltimore never got more than one runner on base in a single inning. None of those runners came across to score. Hunter had himself a complete game and the A's had themselves a second straight American League championship.

After dispatching the Orioles, the A's were supposed to have an easier time against the sub-par Mets. But the Mets put up a surprisingly tough fight, pushing the A's to seven games before Oakland finally prevailed for their second straight championship.

What I'm doing.

The list so far:

15. 1973 ALCS: Baltimore vs. Oakland
16. 1985 ALCS: Kansas City 6, Toronto 2
17. 2007 ALCS: Boston 11, Cleveland 2
18. 1991 NLCS: Atlanta 4, Pittsburgh 0
19. 1973 NLCS: New York 7, Cincinnati 2
20. 1987 NLCS: St. Louis 6, San Francisco 0
21. 1988 NLCS: Los Angeles 6, New York 0
22. 2004 ALCS: Boston 10, New York 3
23. 1986 ALCS: Boston 8, California 1
24: 1996 NLCS: Atlanta 15, St. Louis 0

Still to come:
1972 NLCS: Cincinnati vs. Pittsburgh
1972 ALCS: Detroit vs. Oakland
1976 ALCS: Kansas City vs. New York
1977 ALCS: Kansas City vs. New York
1980 NLCS: Houston vs. Philadelphia
1981 NLCS: Los Angeles vs. Montreal
1982 ALCS: California vs. Milwaukee
1984 NLCS: Chicago vs. San Diego
1992 NLCS: Atlanta vs. Pittsburgh
2003 NLCS: Chicago vs. Florida
2003 ALCS: Boston vs. New York
2004 NLCS: Houston vs. St. Louis
2006 NLCS: New York vs. St. Louis
2008 ALCS: Boston vs. Tampa Bay

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