By Joe Haakenson, AngelsWin.com Contributor -
SEPT. 12, 2002
GAME 146 - A’S AT ANGELS
ANAHEIM – One out away from yet another dramatic, come-from-behind win, the Angels were jolted into realizing they are not the only team having a remarkable season.
With an Edison Field crowd of 31,304 on its feet anticipating the final out, Oakland A's third baseman Eric Chavez ripped a home run that tied the game at 6 and silented the crowd in a heartbeat.
Not to be outdone, the Angels showed they too have a flair for the dramatic. In the bottom of the ninth, Darin Erstad doubled with one out and stole third. After David Eckstein walked, Adam Kennedy popped out to shallow left for the second out. But Scott Spiezio hit the very next pitch off A's closer Billy Koch -- a 94-mph fastball -- off the wall in right-center to give the Angels a 7-6 win and a share of first place with the A's in the American League West.
The Angels took three of four in the series from the A's, who came to town having won 22 of 23 but couldn't shake the Angels during their 20-game winning streak.
``We had heard they had a lot of respect for our club coming into this series,'' Angels right fielder Tim Salmon said. ``We were able to confirm some of their suspicions.''
The Angels had rallied from a 5-3 deficit with single runs in the fifth, seventh and eighth innings to go ahead.
Alex Ochoa, subbing for a resting Erstad, homered in the seventh to tie it, and Orlando Palmeiro's pinch-hit RBI single in the eighth gave the Angels a 6-5 lead.
The ninth inning, usually reserved for closer Troy Percival, instead went to Brendan Donnelly. Percival had pitched in four of the previous six games and needed a rest. Donnelly appeared up for the challenge, retiring John Mabry and Miguel Tejada to bring the Angels to the brink of their 13th win in 14 games.
But Chavez spoiled the party with his 32nd homer of the season, if only temporarily.
``It was business as usual,'' Erstad said of the mood in the Angels' dugout after Chavez's homer. ``The guys on this team don't need pumping up or extra talk. We play the game until it's over. This club might not have the talent other teams have had in the past but it has the character. It's difficult to find a group of guys in this day and age that plays the way we do every day.''
In the bottom of the ninth, Angels manager Mike Scioscia sent up Erstad to pinch hit for Ochoa and he lined a double to right field. On a 1-0 pitch to Eckstein, Erstad, running on his own, stole third.
``That was the play of the day,'' Spiezio said. ``When Erstad gets off the bench and hits a double, it brought our whole bench up to another level. Then he stole third, and we were only 90 feet away.''
The Angels nearly put on the squeeze bunt with Eckstein at the plate with the count 3-0, but concerned about a pitchout, they didn't. Eckstein eventually walked. After Kennedy's popout, Spiezio took advantage of his opportunity.
``It's a great feeling,'' Spiezio said. ``They (his teammates) hit me on the head (during the celebration on the field) this time around, but I'll take it every time.''
Angels starter Mickey Callaway had his worst outing with the Angels since being called up on Aug. 25. He lastes only 3 2/3 innings and gave up five runs (four earned) and six hits. It was the first time this season he's allowed more than two earned runs in a game.
After Callaway gave up a run in the top of the first, back-to-back homers by Garret Anderson and Shawn Wooten in the bottom of the first put the Angels up, 3-1. But the A's went ahead 5-3 with a four-run fourth, knocking Callaway out of the game.
The Angels bullpen responded again, this time getting 2 2/3 scoreless innings from Al Levine and 1 2/3 scoreless innings from Scott Schoeneweis before Donnelly took the ball in the ninth.
``I don't want to look too far back but that was a heckuva series,'' Scioscia said.
ANAHEIM -- The Angels want to be careful not to get too far ahead of themselves, but they have begun considering potential playoff rosters. Barring a complete collapse, the Angels will reach the playoffs for the first time in 16 seasons.
They are likely to go with a 10-man pitching staff, nine of which are locks: Starters Jarrod Washburn, Kevin Appier, Ramon Ortiz and John Lackey, and relievers Troy Percival, Ben Weber, Brendan Donnelly, Scot Shields and Scott Schoeneweis.
The 10th spot will come from either Mickey Callaway, Dennis Cook, Aaron Sele or Al Levine. Cook, Sele and Levine all have battled shoulder problems at one time this season and Sele is currently on the disabled list.
Sele was signed to a three-year, $24-million contract to be one of their starters, but it seems his only chance to pitch for the Angels in the playoffs is as a reliever because it's doubtful he can build up enough arm strength to start.
``I'll be fine with whatever they tell me,'' Sele said. ``If they say my job is to bring out the water, I'll bring out the water. Obviously, I'd like to start, but I'll do whatever's best for the team.''
Levine had been Percival's top set-up man the previous two seasons, but shoulder problems have affected him all season and he's struggled lately. Manager Mike Scioscia said Levine's shoulder is fine but is simply having trouble locating his pitches.
``He relies on the action on his ball and command,'' Scioscia said. ``Right now it's not consistent.''
With a reduced pitching staff the Angels can add a bench player, giving speedy infielder Chone Figgins a good chance to make the roster, joining bench players Jose Molina, Shawn Wooten, Benji Gil, Orlando Palmeiro and Alex Ochoa.
Washburn will make his first start tonight since the news of him being investigated for sexual assault became public. But Washburn, who was never arrested or charged, made two starts knowing an investigation was taking place. He won both.
``Physically, no question he feels good,'' Scioscia said. ``Mentally, I still think it could weigh on him. But I think he's strong enough, when he gets out there, to focus on pitching.''
Washburn has four starts left in the regular season, needing three to become the first Angel pitcher to win 20 games since Nolan Ryan in 1974.
Center fielder Darin Erstad was not in the starting lineup Thursday, so he could ``catch his breath,'' according to Scioscia. Erstad began the night with two hits in his previous 14 at-bats. Garret Anderson moved from left to center and Alex Ochoa started in left.
Second baseman Adam Kennedy, despite hitting .500 (5 for 10) on the homestand, was not in the lineup with the A's throwing left-hander Mark Mulder. Benji Gil got the start instead.
Major League Baseball conducted coin flips Wednesday to determine sites in the event of a tie for the A.L. West or A.L. wild-card spots. If the Angels and A's tie for the West title, the Angels will host the A's. If the Angels and Mariners tie for the wild-card berth, the Mariners will host the game. If needed, the games would be played Monday, Sept. 30.
SEPT. 13, 2002
GAME 147 - RANGERS AT ANGELS
ANAHEIM – Considering earlier in the week Jarrod Washburn was the subject of a police investigation, the tension of pitching in a pennant race Friday night had to be relatively minor. Having been cleared of any involvment in a crime, the Angels' lefty could focus on pitching against the Texas Rangers, who were fresh off a four-game sweep of the Seattle Mariners.
Washburn responded with 7 1/3 strong innings, allowing only one earned run and five hits, leading the Angels to a 3-2 win, the 14th in their past 15 games.
The Angels had to win to stay even atop the A.L. West with the Oakland A's, who shut out the Mariners, 5-0, on Friday. The A's and Angels lead the Mariners by eight games in the wild-card race with 15 games remaining.
For Washburn, the outing was his longest in his past six starts, and improved his record to 18-5. Only three other American League pitchers -- Barry Zito, Derek Lowe and Pedro Martinez -- have won as many.
As Washburn was removed from the game with one out in the eighth, many in the Edison Field crowd of 35,345 gave him a standing ovation, and Washburn responded by tipping his cap to them.
``I'm glad I pitched well enough to get one,'' Washburn said of the ovation. ``Before the game I heard a lot of support and positive things. It meant a lot to me to get that. The fans have been great all year.''
Washburn admitted that he didn't know what to expect from the fans, his start Friday coming only two days after the Orange County District Attorney decided not to file charges after reviewing allegations of a sexual assault.
``I was a little anxious to see what kind of reaction there would be,'' he said. ``But they answered it pretty quickly when I went out to warm up for the game.''
Angels manager Mike Scioscia admitted before the game that he wondered what kind of focus Washburn would have. But it was answered early in the game.
``Mentally he was great and in the dugout he was focused,'' Scioscia said. ``He didn't go out there with any baggage.''
Ben Weber (two-thirds inning) and Troy Percival (38th save) relieved Washburn and combined to retire all five batters they faced. Percival worked a 1-2-3 ninth getting Alex Rodriguez, Rafael Palmeiro and Ivan Rodriguez.
The Angels offense made a lot of noise without scoring a lot of runs. They had runners on base in every inning, but struggled with runners in scoring position, going 2 for 11. Right fielder Tim Salmon did have a double in the game, but he also struck out three times, stranding five baserunners, including four in scoring postion.
However, they did score enough to take a lead into the latter innings. A sacrifice fly by David Eckstein and an RBI single by Garret Anderson in the third inning accounted for two runs, and Adam Kennedy's RBI single in the fourth plated a third run.
``We did what we had to do,'' Scioscia said. ``We had some good situational hitting but we left a lot of guys on base (11). We struggled with that the last couple games, but fortunately we got enough.''
Washburn retired the first two batters of the game but gave up a single to Alex Rodriguez and a double to Palmeiro. And when Anderson's throw from left field to second got away from second baseman Adam Kennedy, Rodriguez broke for home.
Kennedy's throw was in time but catcher Bengie Molina dropped it and Rodriguez gave the Rangers a 1-0 lead.
After the Angels took a 3-1 lead, former Angels Todd Greene homered off Washburn in the fifth to cut it to 3-2. Washburn finished by retiring the final nine batters he faced.
``When he got that standing ovation, I know we were all proud of him,'' Kennedy said. ``It's nice to have him back.''
Washburn's 18 wins are the most by an Angels pitcher since 1991 when Mark Langston (19), Chuck Finley (18) and Jim Abbott (18) did it.
``It's great company,'' Washburn said. ``It means a lot to me to even be mentioned in the same breath with them.''
ANAHEIM -- The Angels are 5 for 5 this season in squeeze-bunt attempts, the last one coming in Wednesday's game even though the A's were expecting it. It's just a part of an Angels offense that does all the little things.
The Angels lead the league in team batting average, hits, hit-by-pitches and fewest strikeouts. They're second in the league in sacrifice bunts and sacrifice flies. The squeeze bunt is simply another offensive weapon for a team that ranks just 11th in a league of 14 teams in home runs.
``It's a cat-and-mouse game,'' manager Mike Scioscia said of calling for a squeeze. ``You try to pick a good pitch. You want to get a count where the pitcher is concerned with getting the ball over the plate.''
In Wednesday's game, David Eckstein got the bunt down off A's pitcher Cory Lidle, scoring Adam Kennedy, who didn't break for the plate too early and give it away.
``That play is extremely complicated and tough to execute,'' Scioscia said. ``And those guys made it look easy.''
Eckstein has been involved in all five of the squeezes this season, either as the runner on third or the bunter. He said just the threat of a squeeze can give an offense an advantage.
``It's definitely our goal to make teams think about it,'' he said. ``You get pitchouts for balls and more fastballs to hit. We can put pressure on other pitchers without having to wait for the three-run homer.''
Rangers catcher Todd Greene did the Angels a favor with a game-winning homer in the ninth inning against the Mariners earlier in the week. Greene, who was drafted by the Angels in 1993 and played for them from 1996-99, said earlier this season he'd like to return to the Angels at some point in his career.
Greene said he holds no hard feelings towards the Angels for releasing him in the spring of 2000 because it gave him an opportunity to realize the highlight of his career -- playing in the World Series last season with the Yankees. He got into two games and had a double in two at-bats.
Greene got another unique opportunity: He caught President George W. Bush's ceremonial first pitch before Game 3 of last year's World Series at Yankee Stadium.
``(Yankees starting catcher) Jorge Posada wanted to do it, but Rocket (pitcher Roger Clemens) kept him too long in the bullpen warming up,'' Greene said. ``I didn't have time to think about it, they just told me to get out there. My wife missed it, but she found out about it when we started getting all these phone calls.''
The Angels are expected to call up three more players from Triple-A Salt Lake early next week, when the Stingers' Pacific Coast League championship series is over. Shortstop Alfredo Amezaga, pitcher Francisco Rodriguez and catcher Sal Fasano likely will join the team in Oakland.
Pitcher Aaron Sele, recovering from a partially torn muscle in his right shoulder, threw in the bullpen Friday and will throw off the mound again Sunday. If all goes well, he'll throw a simulated game Tuesday.