By Joe Haakenson, AngelsWin.com Contributor -
AUG. 26, 2002
GAME 130 - ANGELS AT RED SOX
BOSTON -- It won't go down as the most dramatic home run in Red Sox history. It won't even be remembered as the most dramatic home run by a Red Sox player against the Angels. But Johnny Damon's leadoff homer in the bottom of the 10th won't soon be forgotten, either by the sellout crowd of 32,869 at Fenway Park, or the players from both teams.
The Red Sox scored four runs in the bottom of the ninth to tie the game, and in the 10th, Damon homered off Angels reliever Scot Shields to give the Red Sox a 10-9 win and a split in the four-game series.
The loss dropped the Angels three games behind first-place Oakland in the American League West and one-half game behind Seattle in the wild-card race. Boston is three games behind Seattle.
During the game, the Red Sox announced the voting of the franchise's most memorable moment, and to no one's surprise it was Carlton Fisk's game-winning homer in Game 6 of the 1975 World Series. The Angels haven't forgotten another memorable Red Sox homer, that one hit by Dave Henderson in the 1986 ALCS when the Angels were within one strike from reaching the World Series.
Damon's homer might not have been as big, but it still provided a jolt to the Angels.
``Right now, this one stings a little,'' Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. ``But unless we wake up (today) and have two losses, this loss has no more meaning.''
As the Angels packed their bags for the cross-country flight back home, they tried to put it in perspective.
``It's one loss,'' first baseman Scott Spiezio said. ``If you lose by one game (at the end of the season) you go back and look at all the games you felt you should've won. But we're not there yet.''
Damon's homer might not have even been a homer at all, at least that's what Angels right fielder Orlando Palmeiro said, and he was closest to the ball. The ball appeared to hook into the stands just beyond the foul pole in right field, which is only 290 feet from homeplate. The short wall past the foul pole runs almost parallel with the right-field line.
``I don't know if the ball went over or not,'' Palmeiro said. ``I just saw a lot of hands reaching out. It might have made it by six inches, but I don't know if it went out at all. You just see a bunch of hands and it disappears.''
Predictably, the Red Sox were calling the win the biggest of the season.
``This is the most exciting game I've ever played in my life,'' Red Sox right fielder Manny Ramirez said.
It was Ramirez who began the ninth with his fifth hit of the game, after getting two homers and two singles in his first four at-bats. His single in the ninth came with the Red Sox down, 9-5. After Cliff Floyd followed with a single, Scioscia replaced Al Levine with Troy Percival. Percival gave up a single on a 0-2 pitch to Shea Hillenbrand that loaded the bases.
Tony Clark walked, forcing in a run to make it 9-6. After Jason Varitek struck out, Trot Nixon hit a sacrifice fly to make it 9-7. The Red Sox had runners on first and third with two out, with pinch runner Rickey Henderson representing the tying run at first.
Percival said he had trouble with his slide-step in the bullpen, so even with Henderson on first, he went with his high leg kick during his delivery. That allowed Henderson to steal second without a throw.
``I didn't want to sacrifice quality of pitch right there,'' Percival said. ``(The slide-step) wasn't really working for me well in the bullpen.''
A couple pitches later, Rey Sanchez knocked a 3-2 pitch into center field to tie the game. Sanchez was thrown out trying to stretch it into a double.
Going back to the start of last season, the Angels were 130-1 when leading after eight innings. The only loss came April 21 of this season when Oakland's Greg Myers hit a three-run homer in the ninth to win it, 6-5.
BOSTON -- Even though a strike could begin in three days, many Angels haven't made contingency plans. It's not that they don't think it's possible, just that they don't want to think about it, period.
What will they do on Friday if there is no baseball?
``I'll take the kids to school,'' manager Mike Scioscia said. ``And we have some in-house stuff we could do, like go see (Triple-A) Salt Lake. ... Let's not talk about that, let's talk about baseball.''
Pitcher Kevin Appier said he'd spend the day with his wife. Pitcher Jarrod Washburn said: ``I haven't thought that far ahead. What would I do with myself? I'd probably be saying that all day.''
Shortstop David Eckstein said he would not sit around the house.
``The first thing I'd do is try to find a place to work out, then try to find a field,'' he said.
Angles player representative Scott Schoeneweis said there's no reason to panic even though the deadline is approaching.
``These things get done when these things get done,'' he said. ``When pushed to the precipice, it doesn't take three days (to reach an agreement).''
Second baseman Adam Kennedy's batting average entering Monday's game against the Red Sox was .308, which ranked as the 10th best in the American League, except for one problem.
Kennedy was eight plate-appearances short of the required total to be recognized among the league leaders. A player needs to have 3.1 plate appearances per his team's games played. Going into Monday, Kennedy had 392 PAs and he needed 400 to qualify. He'll need 502 by the end of the season to qualify.
``There's a reason you have to have a certain amount ... because it's tougher to maintain an average like that the more at-bats you get,'' Kennedy said. ``I'm just trying to get it done when I have the opportunity. Everybody would like to be in there every day.''
Kennedy isn't in there every day because Scioscia has two different lineups -- one he uses vs. right-handed pitchers and one vs. lefties. When a lefty is pitching, Kennedy and DH Brad Fullmer take a seat in favor of Benji Gil and Shawn Wooten.
``You have a battle within yourself to stay in a groove and a rhythm when you aren't in there for a while,'' he said. ``I don't want to get in the mode of not wanting to hit off left-handers, but right now with our bench, this is how it is.''
Right fielder Orlando Palmeiro bruised his ribs and had the wind knocked out of him while making a catch and hitting the short wall in foul territory in the fourth inning Monday. All eight of his teammates ran to him, as well as Scioscia and the Angels trainers.
Palmeiro, though, remained in the game.
``There's no padding there, and I dropped right on the metal,'' Palmeiro said. ``By the time everybody got out there, I knew I'd be OK because I got my wind back.''
Tim Salmon, on the disabled list with a bone bruise in his left hand, hopes to begin working on strengthening exercises today or tomorrow and begin swinging a bat again after that.
Salmon hasn't started a game since Aug. 10, when he was hit on the hand by a pitch in Toronto.
``(Sunday) night was the first night I said, `Woah, this is feeling better,' '' Salmon said. ``Maybe I'm getting way ahead of myself, but I'd like to think (he can return to the lineup) on the homestand.''
Chone Figgins didn't bat and didn't play in the field Sunday, but he was one of the Angels' standouts in Sunday's game, pinch running in the ninth inning and scoring the go-ahead run.
Figgins' mother and brother arrived in Boston Saturday and got to see him make his major league debut Sunday.
``My mom couldn't stop crying,'' Figgins said.