Dick Schofield then singled Wilfong to third, and Boston relief pitcher Steve Crawford issued an intentional walk to Brian Downing. With one out, the bases were loaded. And DeCinces, with 96 RBIs and the Angels' best clutch hitter after the All-Star break, stepped to the plate.
All DeCinces needed was a sacrifice fly. Or a walk. A 300-foot fly ball or a free pass and everyone would forget about Witt and Mauch and Lucas and Moore.
DeCinces swung at Crawford's first pitch. He hit a fly ball. But it was a short fly ball and it went to right field, to Evans, who still has one of the strongest throwing arms in baseball.
Wilfong had no choice but to hold at third base.
"I remember how high it went," DeCinces recalled. "I was praying, ' Please carry.' It took an eternity for the ball to come down. And it had to go to Evans, of all people. It was tough to accept. I wish I had a chance to do it again."
If he had, would DeCinces play it differently? Crawford was a rookie making his first postseason appearance, and he had yet to retire a batter--yielding Schofield's single and walking Downing. Was he nervous? After the game, Crawford joked, "If there was a toilet on the mound, I would have used it."
Some criticized DeCinces for jumping on Crawford's first pitch, for not waiting out the rookie and possibly working him for a walk or a wild pitch.
Ask DeCinces about it and he snaps: "Are you second-guessing my at-bat?
"In that situation, I know Crawford throws a sinker, and I've got to look for a ball I can get in the air. I can't hit the ball on the ground. That could mean a double play and the inning's over.
"I had to look for a fastball, a pitch I could drive. Crawford came in with a fastball on the first pitch, and I just missed. I did my job--I got the ball in the air. It just wasn't far enough."
DeCinces looks back on Game 5 and says: "A lot of little things got overlooked."
Such little things as:
--Wilfong holding at first after driving in Jones with his single to right. When Evans' throw went through to home plate, Wilfong had the opportunity to advance to second--where he might have scored the winning run on Schofield's deep single. Instead, Wilfong stayed at first and wound up getting stranded at third.
--Pettis' long fly ball in the bottom of the 10th. The drive forced Jim Rice back to the wall--his back was actually pressed against the wall--before the Boston left fielder could reach up and haul the ball down. It was inches away from a home run or, at the very least, from a run-scoring double.
--Moore loading the bases in the top of the 11th by hitting Baylor with a pitch, giving up a single to Buckner and throwing away a sacrifice bunt by Gedman. That was enough to set the stage again for Henderson, whose sacrifice fly finally brought home the winning run.
The Angels had lost, and more than a game, it turned out. By failing to finish off the Red Sox in five, the Angels were forced to venture back to Boston, where Dennis (Oil Can) Boyd, Roger Clemens and Fenway Park were lying in wait. A demoralized Angel team never had a chance. Boston won Games 6 and 7 by a combined score of 18-5.
Game 5 was the opportunity the Angels had waited a quarter century for. Those who played in it will remember it for the rest of their lives.
"We reached out and touched it," Witt said. "If you ask the guys, to a man, none of them have forgotten Game 5. I haven't.
"And until I get to the World Series, I'll never forget about it."