1971 American League Championship Series
|Dates:||October 3 – 5|
|Umpires:||Hank Soar, Larry Napp, Lou DiMuro, Jake O'Donnell, Ron Luciano, Bill Kunkel|
|1971 World Series|
The 1971 American League Championship Series was a matchup between the East Division Champion Baltimore Orioles and the West Division Champion Oakland A's. The Orioles swept the A's in three games, despite the fact that each team had won 101 games. The Orioles won their third consecutive pennant in the process, but would go on to lose the 1971 World Series to the Pittsburgh Pirates.
This was the first of ten ALCS series between 1971 and 1981 that featured either the Oakland A's or the Kansas City Royals. The only time neither team appeared in the ALCS during that period was in 1979 American League Championship Series.
Oakland A's vs. Baltimore Orioles
Baltimore won the series, 3–0.
|1||October 3||Oakland A's – 3, Baltimore Orioles – 5||Memorial Stadium||2:23||42,621|
|2||October 4||Oakland A's – 1, Baltimore Orioles – 5||Memorial Stadium||2:04||35,003
Dave McNally, a 20-game winner for the fourth season in a row, survived a rocky start to win the opener. He trailed, 3–0, after four innings pitched, giving up three doubles and a triple. The A's had McNally tottering in the second inning. With two runs home, a runner on second and none out, second baseman Dick Green came to bat. It was at this point that A's manager Dick Williams made the first of several ultra-cautious moves which were to fuel criticism of his playoff strategy. He ordered Green to sacrifice, which put runner Dave Duncan on third with one out.
The next batter was Blue, whose bunting ability is well known, Vida tried to squeeze the run home, But the O's had guessed correctly on what was coming. McNally pitched out and Duncan was nailed in a rundown. Blue proceeded to strike out, and the A's splurge was over. McNally gave up another run in the fourth, but that ended the A's scoring forays. Meanwhile, 24-game winner Blue yielded just one run and three hits during the first six innings.
However, disaster overtook Vida in the very next frame. Frank Robinson led off with a walk and Boog Powell struck out. Brooks Robinson's single sent Frank Robinson to second, after which Andy Etchebarren's fly to right advanced Frank Robinson to third. Now there were runners on first and third with two down, and Blue appeared likely to quell the flurry without damage. After all, he'd beaten the O's twice in two tries during the season. And the next hitter was shortstop Mark Belanger, hardly a nemesis to any pitcher. But Belanger rifled a single to center to score Frank Robinson and ignite thunderous cheering from the crowd of 42,621.
Then Curt Motton, pinch-hitter hero of a '69 Oriole playoff victory over Minnesota, stepped up to bat for McNally. Curt slammed a double to the left-field corner, plating Brooks Robinson and tying the score. Center fielder Paul Blair followed with the blow that doomed Blue, a two-run double to left. Reliever Eddie Watt blanked the A's the last two innings and Oakland was one game down. Skipper Williams was subjected to further sharpshooting for his failure to remove Blue, or even visit the mound, during the seventh-inning barrage.
Catfish Hunter held Baltimore to seven hits, but unfortunately for him, four of them were home runs. Boog Powell walloped two, Brooks Robinson and Elrod Hendricks the others. Cuellar displayed his usual pitching artistry, a baffling assortment of curves and change-ups which the A's solve for a mere six hits.
Typical of the A's super-cautious approach to their task was an incident in the sixth inning when they were trailing, 2–1. Reggie Jackson led off against Cuellar with a double. Cleanup hitter Tommy Davis was up next and to the surprise of everyone in the park, he bunted. The next two hitters were easy outs. Davis' sacrifice, it turned out, was not ordered by Williams.
Jim Palmer's performance in the deciding game was not among his most noteworthy—he permitted three home runs, two of them by the slugging Jackson and the other by Sal Bando. But all three shots were struck with the bases empty, and Palmer had more than enough to pitch Baltimore's pennant clincher for the third straight year. Loser of his only two starts against Baltimore during the season, Diego Segui reached the fifth inning of Game 3 with the score 1–1. Then he met his "Waterloo". The crusher was Brooks Robinson's two-run single. It came after Williams ordered an intentional pass to Hendricks. loading the bases.
Bando's homer cut the A's deficit to 3–2 in the sixth. But in the seventh, Frank Robinson's double and Darold Knowles' wild pitch put Baltimore out of danger. The Orioles collected 12 hits off Segui and his four successors, with Don Buford's triple and two singles leading the way.
- Collier, Gene (September 27, 1993). "Pirates, Phillies Have Owned the Outgoing NL East Division". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. p. D1.
- "1971 ALCS Game 1 - Oakland Athletics vs. Baltimore Orioles". Retrosheet. Retrieved September 13, 2009.
- "1971 ALCS Game 2 - Oakland Athletics vs. Baltimore Orioles". Retrosheet. Retrieved September 13, 2009.
- "1971 ALCS Game 3 - Baltimore Orioles vs. Oakland Athletics". Retrosheet. Retrieved September 13, 2009.