By Joe Haakenson, AngelsWin.com Contributor -
SEPT. 17, 2002
GAME 151 - ANGELS AT A’S
OAKLAND – As he strutted off the field after getting the last out in the eighth inning Tuesday night, Angels pitcher Jarrod Washburn glared into the dugout and said, ``Give it to me.''
The ``it'' Washburn was referring to was the baseball for the ninth inning. Washburn, working on three-days rest for the first time in his major league career, was in a zone, much like the one Oakland A's starter Mark Mulder was in.
The two matched each other inning-for-inning, putting up one zero after another. Mulder tied a career high with 12 strikeouts. Washburn didn't allow a hit after the third inning and didn't allow a single baserunner to reach second base. Neither pitcher walked anybody.
But after Mulder got out of the ninth, Washburn, having made 107 pitches, remained on the bench. Ben Weber took the mound in the bottom of the ninth in Washburn's place and retired the side in order.
Tied at 0, the game went into extra innings, but it didn't stay tied long.
With A's closer Billy Koch in the game, Angels right fielder Tim Salmon connected with a knee-high, 96-mph fastball, drilling it into the left-field seats for his 20th home run of the season with one out in the 10th inning for a dramatic 1-0 victory over the A's before 25,894 at Network Associates Coliseum.
The win moved the Angels (95-56) one game ahead of the A's (94-57) in the American League West with 11 games to play, including two more between the teams tonight and Thursday. The Angels reduced their magic number to clinch a playoff spot to four.
After Salmon's homer in the top of the 10th, Angels closer Troy Percival got the ball in the bottom of the inning and struck out Jermaine Dye for the first out of the inning. But Percival walked David Justice on a 3-2 pitch, the first walk in the game issued by any pitcher on either team.
With Eric Byrnes running for Justice, the A's sent up Greg Myers to pinch hit for Randy Velarde. It was Myers, a neighbor of Percival's in Riverside, who hit a game-winning, three-run homer off Percival on April 21.
This time, Percival won the battle, getting Myers on a flyball to the warning track in left-center that was caught by center fielder Darin Erstad for the second out.
Terrence Long then flied out to left to end the game, and Percival had his 40th save of the season and the 250th of his career.
``That was probably the best-pitched game on both sides I've ever seen,'' Percival said. ``Both guys didn't miss a spot all night.''
With the game riding on the arms of the teams' bullpens, it came down to one swing by Salmon.
``Oh, I was jacked, I was pumped up,'' Salmon said. ``You should probably ask my teammates to find out if anyone has any broken fingers (from the high-fives).''
Mulder revealed early he was on his game, striking out the side in the first inning. The Angels' best chance to score against him came in the third inning when they put runners on first and third with nobody out, but Mulder escaped.
Meanwhile, Washburn was just as good. He gave up one single in each of the first three innings, but none of them got as far as second base. He finished by retiring 16 of 17 batters, the only batter to reach base being Tejada, who struck out but reached on a wild pitch.
``That was an incredible game, almost like a prize fight,'' Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. ``Both pitchers kept coming and coming.''
After the eighth, Scioscia, looking ahead, felt Washburn had done enough and went to the bullpen.
``I knew there was no way but I thought I had to try,'' Washburn said of trying to convince Scioscia to leave him in the game.
In the end, it was the right decision.
``You talk about playoff games, I can't imagine a playoff game being any more intense,'' Salmon said. ``There might be more media, but these games against the A's have been incredible.''
``It definitely was one of the highlights of my career,'' he said. ``It was fun.''
OAKLAND -- The Angels are keeping a close eye on rookie pitcher John Lackey, who has struggled in his past two starts.
Lackey, who was called up in June to replace Scott Schoeneweis in the starting rotation, was 8-3 with a 3.32 ERA in his first 14 starts with the Angels. But in his past two starts, both against Oakland, Lackey has failed to last more than five innings.
Lackey wasn't the losing pitcher in either game, but he gave up five runs in 4 1/3 innings last Wednesday, and a season-high five walks in five innings Monday.
Lackey has pitched 200.1 innings this season, including 101.2 innings at triple-A Salt Lake, the most in his brief professional career. But neither Lackey, nor manager Mike Scioscia, nor pitching coach Bud Black believes fatigue is a factor.
``I don't think so,'' Black said. ``His stuff is holding up. There's nothing to indicate he's tired. On the other hand, he's in uncharted waters. Every time a rookie pitcher pitches in September for the first time, you have to break the seal.''
Then why has Lackey struggled the last two times out?
``The only thing I can speculate, and I'm not in his head, is that maybe he's trying to do too much,'' Black said. ``I've expressed that to him. If he is, then he's made a mistake. That's why we're watching him, and monitor him between starts.''
Scioscia said Lackey will make his next scheduled start, Saturday in Seattle vs. the Mariners. But because of a day off on Monday, they have some flexibility and it's possible Lackey could be moved in the rotation.
``There's nothing Lackey is showing that shows he can't get back into a rhythm,'' Scioscia said. ``(Monday) he made some terrific pitches to get out of jams, but consistency is what we need.''
Pitcher Aaron Sele, out since Aug. 20 with a partially torn muscle in his right shoulder, threw between 45-50 pitches in a simulated game Tuesday. Sele said he felt no pain in the shoulder and ``went after it as aggressively as you can.''
Sele, though, does not have enough time to rebuild strength and stamina to start again this season. And it's doubtful the Angels would include him on the playoff roster as a reliever, because they'll likely carry only 10 pitchers.
``I haven't changed my mindset -- I'm preparing to pitch again this year,'' Sele said, ``in whatever role they deem I'm fit.''
Scioscia is less inclined to go with the righty-lefty matchups down the stretch, opting for the hot hand. It was evident Tuesday when left-handed hitting Adam Kennedy started at second base instead of Benji Gil against A's lefty Mark Mulder.
The same could be true on Thursday when the Angels face right-hander Tim Hudson. Normally, that would get a start for Brad Fullmer at DH. But Fullmer is hitting .281 in September, compared to Shawn Wooten's .385. Wooten has hit .353 vs. righties all season.
Left fielder Garret Anderson, who missed games Sunday and Monday with a sore right hamstring, returned to the lineup Tuesday.
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