By Joe Haakenson, AngelsWin.com Contributor -
SEPT. 21, 2002
GAME 155 - ANGELS AT MARINERS
SEATTLE – While the Angels were playing the Seattle Mariners Saturday afternoon, the attendants in the visitors’ clubhouse prepared for a postgame celebration. A win by the Angels would clinch their first playoff appearance in 16 years.
But after the Angels giftwrapped a victory and handed it to the Mariners, those plastic sheets used to protect the players' belongings remained dry and were stuffed into the cracks above the cubicles and out of the way.
Third baseman Troy Glaus' throwing error in the fifth inning cost the Angels four runs and was the difference in a 6-4 loss before a sellout crowd of 45,784 at Safeco Field. The Mariners remain alive, barely, trailing the Angels by seven games with seven to play. The Boston Red Sox also won Saturday and remain alive, trailing by 7 1/2 games.
The Oakland A's beat the Texas Rangers, 6-3, to increase their lead over the Angels in the American League West to two games.
``We helped them a little bit,'' Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. ``I'm not going to say we handed it to them, but we did push it along to them. We shot ourselves in the foot, but he had an opportunity to get back into it.''
The Angels entered the fateful fifth inning with a 1-0 lead, created when Garret Anderson singled home David Eckstein in the first. Angels starter John Lackey held the Mariners scoreless until the fifth when the Mariners loaded the bases with no outs on two singles and a walk.
Jeff Cirillo's sacrifice fly tied the game and Ichiro Suzuki's RBI single gave the Mariners a 2-1 lead. But Lackey got Carlos Guillen to pop out for the second out, before walking Edgar Martinez to reload the bases.
John Olerud followed with a grounder to the hole at short. Glaus fielded the ball, turned and threw wildly past second baseman Adam Kennedy. The ball rolled into foul territory down the right-field line and all three baserunners scored with Olerud reaching third. Bret Boone followed with an RBI double, and suddenly it was 6-1.
``Adam's playing (Olerud) to pull and so he had a long way to go,'' Scioscia said. ``The ball was deep enough in the hole that Troy thought he had an easier play at second. It's a play we know we can make.''
Angels first baseman Scott Spiezio was expecting a throw to him to get the slow-footed Olerud, but it never came.
``It's a tough play,'' Spiezio said. ``It's in the hole and you've got to get rid of it quickly. We would have had a play at first, but I think we had a play at both bases. Sometimes it's not easy to pick up your target when your target's moving.''
After Boone's double, Lackey was finished. He went 4 2/3 innings and gave up six runs, but only two were earned. He hasn't gone more than five innings in his past three starts now, but the Angels were encouraged with his outing.
``I felt good today,'' Lackey (8-4) said. ``Some things happened out there and it didn't work out for us.''
The Angels bullpen again came in a shut down the opposition, including another impressive performance by 20-year-old Francisco Rodriguez, who struck out both batters he faced. After the fifth, the Mariners didn't score again, allowing the Angels to creep back into it.
In the seventh, Bengie Molina hit a solo homer and Darin Erstad hit a two-run homer off Mariners starter Freddy Garcia (16-10) to cut their deficit to 6-4.
In the eighth, the Angels had runners on first and second with two outs, but Spiezio was picked off. Spiezio was trying to steal third on the play and took off when reliever Jeff Nelson lifted his leg. Nelson, though, wasn't going home. He spun and caught Spiezio in a rundown between second and third.
Spiezio was called out at third even though third-base umpire Doug Eddings admitted to an arguing Scioscia that he blew the call because he was out of position.
``We're not going to hang our hat on an umpire's call,'' Scioscia said. ``That's not why we lost the game.''
The Angels threatened again the ninth against Mariners closer Kaz Sasaki, loading the bases with two outs for Anderson, who popped out to left to end it.
``We'd take our chances with Garret in that situation,'' Kennedy said. ``That's the spot to be in, but we didn't get it done.''
SEATTLE -- It was merely coincidence, the Seattle Mariners said, that Dave Henderson threw out the ceremonial first pitch before Saturday's game between the Angels and Mariners.
But the irony of it was not lost on anybody. With the Angels one win away from clinching their first playoff appearance in 16 years, there on the mound stood Henderson, the man whose home run in the 1986 ALCS kept the Angels from going to the World Series for the first time. Some say the Angels still haven't recovered.
The Angels held a 5-2 lead over the Boston Red Sox going into the ninth inning of Game 5 of the ALCS, leading the series, three games to one. But in the ninth, Don Baylor hit a two-run homer to make it 5-4. Then with two outs and two strikes, Henderson hit a two-run homer to give the Red Sox a 6-5 lead.
The Angels managed to tie the game in the bottom of the ninth, but lost in 11 innings, 7-6, and eventually lost the series in seven games.
The Mariners said Henderson threw out the first pitch as part of a season-long series celebrating the franchise's 25th season. Former players have thrown out the first pitch on Saturday home games, but Henderson was saved for September because many of the other players could not come to Seattle this time of year. Henderson could because he's a television broadcaster on Mariners games.
Even though there are no players from the 1986 team on this year's Angels team, Henderson noticed some funny looks coming from their dugout.
``They did look at me like, `What are you doing here?' '' Henderson said. ``But Hendu's not playing this year. They DO have a chance. But if I pick up a bat they'll be shaking in their boots.''
Henderson said the homer doesn't rank on the top of the list of his most memorable baseball moments, even though the Angels franchise will never forget it.
``It's history,'' Henderson said. ``I'm part of that and I'll always be connected with the Angels. I have a lot of postseason home runs, it's just that the Angels haven't been back. I'm just a guy that hits home runs for a living and I just happened to hit one vs. the Angels.
``Don't be writing no jinx or curse crap. Those guys know it has nothing to do with that. It's just baseball.''
Pitcher Jarrod Washburn would have preferred the Angels wrap up a playoff spot Saturday, but since they didn't, he's happy to get the ball today with the opportunity to put them in the playoffs.
``I'm just going to do what I always do, and that's execute my pitches,'' he said. ``Every start this year has been big. And there are going to be some bigger ones after this.''
Washburn had one of his best games of the season in his last start, when he threw eight scoreless innings against the A's in a 1-0 win. He went on three-days' rest in that one, giving the Angels reason to watch him closely even though this start comes on four-days' rest.
``The three-days worked great for the first start, but you have to see how it works out down the road,'' Scioscia said. ``You're concerned with the aftermath of taking a guy out of his normal rhythm.''