By Joe Haakenson, AngelsWin.com Contributor -
JULY 5, 2002
GAME 84 - DEVIL RAYS AT ANGELS
ANAHEIM -- Everyone in the ballpark yelled with anticipation. Bases loaded, tie game, bottom of the 10th inning, David Eckstein at the plate.
Could he? Again?
No, the unlikely major league-leader in grand slams this season with three did not hit another. Instead, it was a broken-bat grounder that Tampa Bay Devil Rays third baseman Jared Sandberg couldn't handle, and Scott Spiezio scored from third to give the Angels a 6-5 win before 23,648 at Edison Field.
Eckstein, though, said the thought of a grand slam didn't enter his mind, and he was probably the only one in the ballpark.
``As soon as there was ball-four (to the previous batter, Jorge Fabregas), I swear I didn't think about it,'' Eckstein said. ``I try to block that out. It definitely wasn't pretty, but it got the job done.''
The entire game wasn't pretty for the Angels, who won despite playing down to the competition.
``We battled and got it done but it wasn't a ballgame where we executed like we can,'' Angels manager Mike Scioscia said.
Scioscia was asked before the game if there was any concern of a letdown facing the team with the worst record in the major leagues.
``Any time you take the field in this league, you're facing a pitcher that has the ability to beat you,'' Scioscia said. ``And an offense that can score enough runs to beat you. There's no such word (letdown) in our vocabulary, because we shouldn't have to say anything to get the guys up because they understand that.''
After trailing most of the game, the Angels rallied with three runs in the seventh and took a 5-3 lead. But the Devil Rays scored two runs in the eighth to tie the game at 5.
The Angels' winning rally started on Spiezio's leadoff double off Estaban Yan. One out later, Spiezio went to third on Orlando Palmeiro's bloop single to left. Fabregas followed with a walk to load the bases for Eckstein, who drove in the game-winner before giving the broken bat to a little girl in the stands.
The win enabled the Angels to pick up a game on the American League West-leading Mariners, who lost on Friday. The Angels trail by four games.
Angels starting pitcher Aaron Sele would be the first to tell you his style of pitching isn't pretty, his shutout against the Dodgers last Saturday notwithstanding. Normally, Sele's outings are more like Friday's, when he gave up 12 hits but managed to get through 7 1/3 innings.
Sele got support from both the offense and defense, though it took awhile for the offense to get going. The Angels didn't score against Devil Rays starter Joe Kennedy until the fifth inning and didn't take the lead until Garret Anderson's two-run double in the seventh.
Sele was nothing like the pitcher he was against the Dodgers when he shut them out on three hits. Friday, Sele gave up seven hits through three innings and 11 hits through five.
``I really just kind of hung in there,'' Sele said. ``It was a little rough early but we were able to keep it close.''
He was able to work his way out of tough situations, particularly in the third when he gave up five hits but allowed only two runs to score. In the fifth, Sele got help from his defense when Eckstein, Jose Nieves and Spiezio combined to turn a spectacular double play.
``In a game like this, that gets forgotten, but it probably was the play of the game,'' Sele said.
The Angels scored their first two runs of the game on an RBI single by Tim Salmon and solo homer by Benji Gil.
ANAHEIM -- One of the reasons pitcher Chuck Finley, the Angels' all-time leader in wins, left the team after the 1999 season was that he perceived the Angels to be in a rebuilding mode, having just hired general manager Bill Stoneman and manager Mike Scioscia.
So Finley chose the Indians, one team he thought could win right away, and signed a three-year, $27 million contract with them.
Finley and the Indians went to the playoffs last season and lost a division-series matchup with the Mariners. But the Indians didn't go to the playoffs in Finley's first year in 2000, and it seems they won't go this year either.
The Indians traded Roberto Alomar before the season started, recently traded their top pitcher in Bartolo Colon and are currently shopping first baseman Jim Thome.
``I just don't believe we have the tools to compete with these big teams,'' Finley told the Cleveland Plain Dealer. ``We don't have the depth, we're not playing well and now we're getting into the tough part of the schedule.
``We've got to play teams like Oakland and Seattle. We have to play well or we may wake up one day and be 20 games out. Teams like us, Tampa Bay, Kansas City and Detroit might have to form a league of our own.''
Finley realizes that every Indian player could be traded, but he also realizes his age (39) and his salary (about $8 million this year) don't make him an attractive option. He met with Indians GM Mark Shapiro recently, but said he did not ask for a trade.
``Mark said the phone wasn't ringing for anybody except (Colon),'' he said. ``I said I'd appreciate it if he could give me a warning, a heads up, if anything was about to happen.''
Besides his age and salary being a deterrent, Finley also hasn't won much this season. He has a respectable ERA of 3.97, but is 4-11 thanks to a lack of offensive support in most of his games.
``This is like a nightmare,'' he said. ``I know I'm pitching better than 4-11, but when I go to sleep at night, I'm still 4-11. I'm going to have to have a Cy Young second half just to get back to .500.''
Angels manager Mike Scioscia said he met Ted Williams, who died Friday, early in Scioscia's major league career.
``The numbers he put up were incredible considering the two stints in the military, which probably tells you more of the story of what he was about in his life than anything he did as a ballplayer,'' Scioscia said. ``The passion he had and the fearlessness he had made him a great player and separated him from a lot of the very good players at that time.''
Garret Anderson does not get a bonus directly for his All-Star selection, but he eventually will be paid $700,000 because of it. Anderson's salary for the 2003 and 2004 seasons will each go up by $350,000 by virtue of being named to the All-Star team.
Anderson now will make $5.35 million next season and $5.85 million in 2004.