Without even setting foot on a rain-drenched field at Shea Stadium yesterday, the Boston Red Sox took a critical step forward in their drive to the pennant of the American League's Eastern division.
For the second day in a row, rain washed out the crucial matchup between the Sox and the New York Yankees, draining away virtually all hope the Baltimore Orioles had of catching the Fenway front-runners. By virtue of the two day long cloudburst, the Red Sox evaded a confrontation with 22 game winner Catfish Hunter, who will now move on with his Yankee teammates to face the Orioles tomorrow night.
As of now, the magic number for the Sox stands at four, and the squad closes out its season with a four-game set against the Cleveland Indians at Fenway Park beginning tonight.
"I'll definitely be able to pitch four right-handers against Cleveland," Boston manager Darrell Johnson said yesterday, "something I've been wanting to do right along. The rain also means that Luis Tiant will get some extra rest for his back."
In quest of a pennant-clinching sweep, the Sox will probably send Reggie Cleveland to the mound tonight, followed by Luis Tiant tomorrow night, Dick Pole Saturday afternoon and Rick Wise on Sunday.
The only sour note for the Red Sox is that the Indians have won nine of 14 encounters between the two teams this season.
But with the Orioles struggling against fate and Catfish Hunter, and the Red Sox coming home with a much-needed two-day rest, it appears that Hurricane Eloise will have the last laugh in the A.L. East race.