December 31 – Happy Birthday Rick Aguilera

Rick Aguilera first tried to win the Boston Red Sox a World Championship in 1986. Back then, the tall right-hander was pitching for the New York Mets and in Game 6 of that year’s World Series, it was Aguilera who gave up the three hits and two runs to Boston in the top of the tenth inning. Things didn’t work out for the Red Sox back then but nine seasons later, Aguilera found himself in a Boston uniform after being traded at mid season by the Twins in what was the final year of his Minnesota contract.

That 1995 Red Sox team was fighting the Yankees for an AL East Division crown and they were doing it with guys named Stan Belinda and Ken Ryan as their closers. When they grabbed Aguilera, the consensus opinion was that it was a brilliant move by Boston’s front office. The San Gabriel, CA native had evolved into one of the game’s top closer during his six-plus seasons as a Twin, saving 192 games in that time. After joining the Red Sox, he lived up to that reputation, saving 20 games in 21 chances and helping Boston run away with the AL East crown by seven and a half games over second-place New York.

Boston would be facing the Indians in that year’s ALDS. Since he had surrendered those two runs back in ’86, Aguilera had pitched close to lights out fall ball baseball since including his 5-save, 1-victory postseason performance that helped the Twins capture a ring in 1991. In Game 1 in Cleveland, Boston had just scored a go-ahead run in the top of the eleventh inning on Tim Naehring’s home run when Kevin Kennedy called in his ace to close out the game. Instead, he gave up a crushing game-tying home run to slugger Albert Belle, the first hitter he faced and then was replaced by Mike Maddux after surrendering two more singles and pulling his hamstring. The Indians would go on to win that game in the thirteenth inning and sweep the Red Sox out of postseason.

That appearance would be Aguliera’s last in a Red Sox uniform. That December, he re-signed with the Twins. Minnesota then tried to turn him into a starter in 1996 but put him back in the closing role the following year. He retired after the 2000 season, his 16th in the Majors, with an 86-81 record and 318 lifetime saves.

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