Bruce Hurst was in his room at the Grand Hyatt in New York when he got the call exactly 25 years ago. Because of a rainout, Boston Red Sox manager John McNamara was switching to him as his starter for Game 7 of the World Series against the New York Mets.
“It’s what you prepare for your whole life,” Hurst said Wednesday after Game 6 between the St. Louis Cardinals and Texas Rangers was postponed. “If you can’t get ready for that, nothing can get you ready to pitch.”
If the Cardinals force a seventh game, now scheduled for Friday, ace Chris Carpenter could find himself in the same situation as Hurst: pitching baseball’s biggest game on short rest. Asked about his possible Game 7 starter, St. Louis manager Tony La Russa avoided a direct answer and instead joked about which pitcher he would send to the interview room Thursday before Game 6.
“If Bob Gibson is there, we’ll send Bob,” La Russa said of the 75-year-old Hall of Famer.
Jokes aside, La Russa and pitching coach Dave Duncan must decide whether to bring back Carpenter on short rest for only the second time in his big league career. He would be the first pitcher to make three starts in one Series since Arizona’s Curt Schilling in 2001.
“I was told by Carp that he would be ready to go,” La Russa said. “I think I mentioned to somebody he’s very competitive, and he’d pitch Game 7 had we played today. I don’t think that’ll change tomorrow if we win.”
The Mets and Red Sox were tied 3-all in the 1986 Series when rain forced Game 7 to be pushed back a day. Dennis “Oil Can” Boyd originally was slated to start for Boston, and he had tears in his eyes when McNamara informed him of the change.
Hurst, the Game 1 and Game 5 winner, took a 3-0 lead into the sixth inning against Ron Darling, who was pitching on regular rest but also making his third start of the Series. Hurst then allowed a two-run single to Keith Hernandez and an RBI groundout by Gary Carter, and didn’t get a decision as the Mets won 8-5.
“Adrenaline takes over, but that burns out pretty quick and then you’re left with what you have,” Hurst said.
Darling allowed three runs in 3 2-3 innings, giving up second-inning homers to Dwight Evans and Rich Gedman. The extra rest was harmful instead of helpful.
“It gave me 48 hours instead of 24 hours to mentally get ready for the game. By the time we got to Game 7, I was mentally exhausted,” he said Wednesday. “I literally grinded down my teeth in those 48 hours.”
Since that night, only Minnesota’s Frank Viola (1987) and Jack Morris (1991) and Schilling have made three starts in one World Series. Chances are, La Russa already has shared his thoughts with Carpenter if not the public.
Trailing 3-2, the Cardinals will start Jaime Garcia against Colby Lewis in Game 6 on Thursday night. La Russa’s Game 7 choice comes down to Carpenter, Game 3 starter Kyle Lohse on five days’ rest or Game 4 starter Edwin Jackson on regular rest.
“You can’t look for Game 7 before you look at Game 6,” Cardinals slugger Albert Pujols said. “I bet you the players aren’t thinking about that. Our job is to be ready to face whoever is on the mound.”
On the last night of the regular season, Carpenter helped St. Louis win the NL wild card, tossing a two-hit shutout and throwing 106 pitches in an 8-0 win at Houston as Atlanta lost to Philadelphia. Coming back on three days’ rest, he lasted just three innings and 65 pitches in Game 2 of the NL division series against the Phillies.
That was the only time in his major league career that the 36-year-old Carpenter, who has overcome several arm injuries, started on three days’ rest.
He allowed three runs in the first and one in the second, then was lifted for a pinch-hitter in the fourth as the Cardinals began to rally for a 5-4 victory. It was the shortest outing of the year for Carpenter, whose 237 1-3 innings led the NL during the regular season.
During the last two decades, starters on short rest are 9-8 with a 2.78 ERA in the World Series, with their teams going 12-15, according to STATS LLC.
Texas manager Ron Washington isn’t hedging on his decision for a potential Game 7. He’ll bring back Matt Harrison on five days of rest rather than Derek Holland on regular rest.
Holland took a two-hit shutout into the ninth inning for a 4-0 victory in Game 4. Harrison, let down by his defense, managed only 11 outs in a Game 3 loss.
“It means a lot. I’m glad he has that trust in me,” Harrison said. “I’ll treat it like any other day.”
Rain has caused some switches over the years.
In 1962, three straight days of wet weather pushed back Game 6 in San Francisco, but both teams stayed with their scheduled starters and Billy Pierce pitched a two-hitter to beat the Yankees and Whitey Ford 5-2. Then, in a rematch of Game 5, New York’s Ralph Terry pitched a four-hitter to defeat Jack Sanford and the Giants 1-0.
In 1975, Boston’s Bill Lee and Cincinnati’s Jack Billingham were scheduled to start Game 6 at Fenway Park before a three-day storm. By the time play resumed, Boston brought back Luis Tiant, who won Games 1 and 4, and Cincinnati went with Game 3 starter Gary Nolan. Billingham relieved in the third inning, and the Red Sox went on to win one of baseball’s greatest games, 7-6 on Carlton Fisk’s 12th-inning homer. Lee started Game 7 against Don Gullett, and neither got a decision as the Reds won 4-3.
When rain hits, managers get to tinker. Asked whether he would use Carpenter in relief for Game 6, La Russa immediately replied: “No chance.”
A moment later, he revised his response.
Then he stated the No. 1 thought on his mind.
“We’ve got to get to 7,” he said.