Flashback Friday: Orioles win ALCS game with homers and bunts
Oct. 4, 1969
Two 12th-inning bunts proved to be the difference in the playoff opener for the Earl Weaver-led Baltimore Orioles on this day in 1969.
Paul Blair delivered the decisive blow in Game 1 of the 1969 ALCS with a two-out suicide squeeze that scored Mark Belanger with the fourth and deciding run versus the Minnesota Twins at Memorial Stadium. Belanger led off the inning with a single, moved to second on a sacrifice bunt, and took third on a groundout.
(For anyone wondering about this outcome given Earl Weaver's distaste for the bunt, here's a breakdown of how often and why Weaver bunted.)
It took a Boog Powell long ball to give the O's the opportunity to play small ball in extra innings. Powell led off the bottom of the ninth inning by homering off Twins starter - and 20-game winner - Jim Perry. Powell had 37 home runs the during the regular season. Frank Robinson and Mark Belanger homered off Perry earlier in the game, which means every Orioles run came by way of the long ball until the deciding squeeze play.
Blair's bunt was his only hit through the first two games of the 1969 ALCS, both of which the Orioles won in extra innings. Blair then rallied for an ALCS record five hits in Game 3 - including two doubles and a home run - in an 11-2, series-clinching victory at Metropolitan Stadium. (Hideki Matsui, 2004, and Carl Crawford, 2008, have since matched Blair's playoff effort.)
Blair posted career highs in hits, runs, doubles, home runs, RBI, slugging percentage, and OPS in 1969. His 13 sacrifice bunts led the Orioles, who totaled 74 such bunts during the regular season.