Reggie Comes Through in a Pinch : His 1,538th Career RBI Beats White Sox in the Ninth, 2-1
Reggie Jackson came through with the 1,538th run batted in of his career Thursday night, breaking a tie with Joe DiMaggio and moving Jackson into sole possession of 23rd place on baseball’s all-time list.
The RBI was also Jackson’s 22nd of the season, breaking a 1-1 ninth-inning tie with Chicago and moving the Angels into a half-game lead over the White Sox in the American League West.
An Anaheim Stadium crowd of 28,269 saw Jackson rip a pinch, bases-loaded single into the left-field corner to give the Angels a 2-1 victory in the opener of a four-game June showdown.
“No matter how you look on it, even this early in the season,” Jackson said, “these games do have meaning.”
His first hit in five pinch-hitting assignments meant that Chicago’s five-game win streak was history.
The White Sox had also won 11 of their last 14, but they collected only four hits off Jim Slaton and winner Donnie Moore, now 4-3.
“We didn’t lose it in the ninth,” Chicago Manager Tony LaRussa said. “We lost it when we got the leadoff man on three times and didn’t score him.”
Slaton, 3-0 in April but 1-4 over his next eight starts, returned to his early form.
He rejected a bases-loaded threat in the first inning and was scored on only in the fourth, when Carlton Fisk hammered his 15th homer to take the league lead.
Slaton weakened while pitching to the leadoff hitter in the ninth and was replaced by Moore, who ultimately struck out Rudy Law with two on and two out.
The Angels collected only six hits off Chicago starter Britt Burns, who was 0-3 against them last season, when he allowed 14 earned runs in 15 innings.
It’s a new summer, however, and Burns, 4-12 during an illness-plagued ’84 campaign, came in 7-5 and showed why.
He worked eight innings and was scored on only in the second, when Doug DeCinces doubled and Bobby Grich singled. Grich, hitting .355 at the end of April, is now at only .243, but the White Sox seem to bring his bat to life. He drove in 10 runs and hit .720 (18 for 25) against them last season.
LaRussa excused Burns after the eighth and brought on right-hander Gene Nelson, who was 3-1 with a 2.97 ERA.
Nelson had one out in the ninth when Grich singled to deep short. He had two outs when he walked Bob Boone and Daryl Sconiers, batting for Dick Schofield.
Now the game was in the hands of Angel Manager Gene Mauch, who had a choice between strikeout-prone Gary Pettis (two hits and two whiffs against Burns) and a pinch-hitter.
Mauch said he was certain that by using the left-handed Jackson he would prompt LaRussa to call on the left-handed Bob Fallon.
Mauch said he noticed in the morning box scores that Fallon had walked the only batter he faced in a game against Seattle Wednesday night.
“I figured that he’d come into this one and try to throw it right down the middle, which would be right down Reggie’s alley,” Mauch said, again a prophet.
Jackson was announced as a pinch-hitter, and Fallon, a rookie who has appeared in only seven games this year, replaced Nelson.
Jackson, with only 2 hits in his last 21 at-bats, jumped on the first pitch and laced it into the left-field corner.
“I knew when they switched pitchers,” Jackson said later, “that Gene wouldn’t take me out, that I was the guy he was going to live and die with.”
Jackson said he also knew what Mauch knew, that Fallon would try to throw the first one by him.
“Until I was 35 or 36,” he said, “nothing bothered me. In the last couple years, my problems have come from concentration. I like these situations because they narrow my concentration.”
The RBI was Jackson’s second since June 4 and third since May 11, a span in which he missed six straight games at one point with a hamstring pull.
“It’s a good feeling to know the manager still has confidence in me,” Jackson said.
The manager had done his homework as usual, helping the Angels, now a major-league-leading 15-4 in one-run games, pass their first test of a long weekend.
“It wouldn’t matter if this was the first of April or the first of May,” LaRussa said, “this would be an important series. We only face each other four times, 13 games. The standings are directly affected.”
A fact Mauch is sure to notice as he’s reading the box scores this morning.
On the return of Earl Weaver as Baltimore manager, Gene Mauch said: “The only thing I feel about that is that if he wanted to come back and got the type money he wanted, why would he go anywhere but Baltimore, where he can do no wrong, where he’s infallible. Why would he go to a floundering team and face the possibility of people saying, ‘Hey, where’s that Weaver magic?’ ” . . . The Chicago bench is expected to be without Ron Kittle and Jerry Hairston during this series. Kittle returned to his Indiana home when his wife, Laurie, delivered a stillborn baby. Hairston returned to Sarasota, Fla., after his father, Sam, a Chicago minor league instructor, suffered a heart attack. . . . Angel General Manager Mike Port said he talked to Cleveland again Thursday regarding Bert Blyleven, “but a lot of people are talking and there’s not much tangible activity.” . . . Port assistant Preston Gomez will go to Portland Saturday to scout Steve Rogers’ second start for Edmonton. . . . The Angels signed pitchers Bill Fraser of Concordia College and Mike Cook of South Carolina, their top two picks in last week’s free agent draft. . . . The Angels’ Ron Romanick (7-2) will pitch against Tom Seaver (6-4), bidding for his 295th win, tonight.