By Joe Haakenson, AngelsWin.com Contributor -
SEPT. 26, 2002
GAME 159 - ANGELS AT RANGERS
ARLINGTON, Texas – Subdued, it wasn't.
The Angels had suffered through too many dismal Septembers to celebrate quietly, so when they got back to their clubhouse following their 10-5 victory over the Texas Rangers Thursday afternoon at The Ballpark in Arlington, it was ``game on,'' as center fielder Darin Erstad put it.
The win put the Angels in the playoffs for the first time since 1986, a playoff drought surpassed only by Montreal (1981), Milwaukee (1982) and Kansas City (1985). Because Oakland beat Seattle on Thursday, the A's clinched the American League West. The Angels are the wild card and will play the New York Yankees beginning Tuesday in New York.
There were the customary handshakes and hugs on the field after left fielder Garret Anderson caught a flyball for the final out, but once in the clubhouse, emotion and champagne flowed equally and liberally during a raucous celebration.
``After everything this team's been through, the history of the organization, it was `game on,' '' Erstad said. ``Who cares when it happened or where it happened? It makes all the hard work we put in and all the tough times worth it.''
It took the Angels a while to get that elusive 97th victory. They had lost four games in a row with a chance to clinch. They promised they weren't feeling pressure, but their play on the field said otherwise.
While the pitching remained solid, the offense fell into a funk before breaking out Thursday. They had only eight hits, but three of them were home runs, including Anderson's three-run homer in the fifth that turned a 3-2 game into 6-2.
Tim Salmon and Scott Spiezio each hit two-run homers in the seventh inning to put the game out of reach.
Angels starter John Lackey (9-4), who began the season in the minors, went five-plus innings to get the victory over Rangers starter Colby Lewis (1-3). Relievers Brendan Donnelly, Ben Weber and Troy Percival combined for the final four innings to finish it off.
``We got over the rough spot of guys trying to bull themselves through to get to the playoffs,'' Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. ``Today we played our game.''
Many players credit Scioscia for creating a winning atmosphere, but he deflected the praise back onto the players.
``A lot of guys here have played a long time and been close but haven't gotten there,'' Scioscia said. ``It's a tremendous moment for the guys who have had some tough Septembers when it looked like they'd make the playoffs, but didn't get there. I'm proud of them; they did it.''
Things didn't look good for the Angels early when former Angel Todd Greene homered off Lackey in the second for a 1-0 Rangers lead. An error by Rangers left fielder Mike Lamb led to two unearned runs for the Angels in the top of the fourth, but Lackey's first pitch in the bottom of the fourth was blasted by Herbert Perry for a home run and a 2-2 tie.
The Angels broke it open in the fifth after Adam Kennedy singled, David Eckstein walked and Erstad moved the runners to second and third with a sacrifice bunt. Tim Salmon drove in one with an infield single before Anderson ripped a 1-0 pitch to center for a three-run homer, his 29th of the season.
``I hate champagne, but it tastes pretty darn good to me now,'' said Angels pitcher Jarrod Washburn, who will pitch Game 1 of the Division Series on Tuesday. ``We haven't been playing bad ball but the last one was tough to get. Today before the game, everyone was joking around, watching `Austin Powers.' We just relaxed.''
Many Angels said they were happy that they qualified for the playoffs with a victory, and not because of a Mariners loss.
``This was the way we wanted to go in,'' Spiezio said. ``We didn't want to back into it.''
ARLINGTON, Texas -- Jarrod Washburn will start Game 1 of the Division Series on Tuesday against the New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium.
``It's just another game,'' Washburn said, before adding, ``A big game, sure, but I'm going to approach it like it was any other game.''
Washburn will pitch today against the Mariners but probably won't throw any more than four or five innings to make sure he has enough rest for Tuesday.
Manager Mike Scioscia hasn't announced his rotation for the rest of the series yet, but it's likely Kevin Appier will start Game 2 in New York on Wednesday and Ramon Ortiz will start Game 3 in Anaheim next Friday.
Game 4, if necessary, would be either Washburn on three-days' rest or rookie John Lackey.
General manager Bill Stoneman got drenched in champagne like everybody else who dared step foot in the Angels clubhouse after their clinching victory Thursday, but he stayed in the background and out the way.
``They did it,'' Stoneman said. ``The players, Mike and his staff. This defines what a team is. When we got to spring training I thought this team had general strength. You wouldn't look at any one spot and say `The Angels are weak here.' ''
Stoneman said he could understand the glee with which the Angels players celebrated.
``We struggled to get here,'' he said. ``The last few days have gone painfully slowly for us. It's nice to see them let all that emotion out and enjoy what they've worked for.''
Right fielder Tim Salmon's home run Thursday was his 16th at The Ballpark in Arlington, the most ever by an opponent. ... Second baseman Adam Kennedy went into Thursday's game in a 0-for-18 slump but had two hits. Shortstop David Eckstein went 0 for 4 Thursday to extend his hitless streak to 16 at-bats. ... Left fielder Garret Anderson's home run in the fifth inning Thursday was his 194th hit of the season, tying his career-high.