On a night when Ron Romanick failed again in his lengthy quest for victory No. 14, when Stewart Cliburn failed to hold a two-run lead and when Kansas City failed to comply again with another loss, Bob Boone decided there was only one way to protect the Angels’ share of the American League West lead Friday night.
Lower your shoulder, close your eyes and sacrifice the old body.
Boone broke a seventh-inning tie by crashing into Cleveland catcher Jerry Willard--dislodging the baseball from Willard and scoring what proved to be the decisive run in the Angels’ 7-5 victory over the Indians before an Anaheim Stadium crowd of 30,821.
The win kept the Angels tied for first in the West with Kansas City, which beat Minnesota, 5-1.
The groundwork for the victory was laid in the bottom of the seventh, with the score tied at 5-5.
Boone led off with a single and was bunted to second by Gary Pettis. Up stepped Rod Carew, who lined a hit to right-center. Cleveland center fielder Brett Butler charged the ball, gloved it and threw home on the run to Willard.
The relay had Boone, no thoroughbred at 37, beaten at the plate, so Boone had only one choice: Try to make Willard cough up the ball.
Boone barreled into Willard, and both players crumpled in a heap. When they staggered to their feet, the baseball lay unattended in the dirt.
It isn’t the type of play you see baseball teams perfecting during spring training. There is no chapter in the book of baseball fundamentals entitled, “Crippling the Catcher.”
Boone said: “There’s not too much magic to it. You can’t practice it.
“At the time, I could see that the ball was going to beat me. I had no choice. I knew where Butler was fielding the ball and I knew where (Willard) was set up. All you can do is get as much of him as you can.”
Boone got enough of Willard to send the ball flying and return the lead to the Angels, 6-5. A few minutes later, Reggie Jackson made it 7-5 with a sacrifice fly to left that scored Carew from third.
That made Doug Corbett (3-3) the Angel pitcher of record. Donnie Moore came on to pitch two hitless innings to record his 28th save of the season.
Boone’s crash-course for home made it all possible. For that, Angel Manager Gene Mauch was thankful--and impressed.
“That play best illustrated the tempo of the game,” Mauch said. “Both teams played like hell.”
The game got off to a hellish enough start for Romanick, whose intriguing second half of 1985 continues to mystify. Romanick, who shared the league lead in victories with 13 on July 31 but hasn’t won since, made his first start in nine days--and surrendered two home runs in the first inning.
Brook Jacoby and Andre Thornton produced them on successive at-bats, giving the Indians a temporary 2-0 lead.
The Angel offense did its part in the effort to end Romanick’s winless streak, retaliating with five runs in the bottom of the first.
Gary Pettis led off with a walk and his 54th stolen base, and scored on Carew’s double off the center-field fence.
Carew scored on Downing’s single to right, with Downing winding up on third when the ball skipped between the legs of Cleveland right fielder George Vukovich for a two-base error.
Jackson walked, and DeCinces broke the tie with an RBI single, giving the Angels a 3-2 advantage. Juan Beniquez, assigned first-inning pinch-hit duty for shortstop Craig Gerber, made it 5-2 with a two-run single to center.
Romanick was fine for the next three innings, but after retiring 11 of 12 Cleveland hitters, he allowed a third homer--this one to Willard, the Indians’ No. 9 batter, cutting the Angels’ lead to 5-3 in the fifth.
That spelled the end for Romanick and brought on Cliburn, who worked a perfect sixth inning and an imperfect seventh.
Before you could say Mike Hargrove-Joe Carter-George Vukovich, those three had loaded the bases on successive singles.
A fourth single, this one to right field by Tony Bernazard, scored Hargrove and Carter to tie the game at 5-5. The Indians still had none out, so Mauch changed pitchers again, calling for Corbett.
Corbett didn’t fool anyone, but he skirted further damage.
Willard grounded to DeCinces at third. Brett Butler was intentionally walked. Then, Julio Franco and Jacoby directed bullets toward left field. DeCinces stopped the first, staggering to his right to glove Franco’s shot. Shortstop Dick Schofield made a leaping catch of the second.
That bought the Angels’ offense time enough to break the tie in the bottom of the seventh--when Boone busted up Willard in a heady meeting of catchers at home plate.
Recurring shoulder tendinitis cut short Mike Witt’s last start Tuesday in Chicago (6 innings, 5 hits, 3 earned runs in a 5-2 loss) but shouldn’t affect his status in the starting rotation. According to Manager Gene Mauch, Witt will make his regularly scheduled start Sunday against Cleveland. “Witt pitched Tuesday, and the shoulder hurt like hell, but he threw in the bullpen Thursday and said he felt like a million dollars,” Mauch said. “He probably could have pitched Thursday. We’ll see how it goes Sunday.” . . . Gary Pettis’ first-inning stolen base was the 110th of his career, tying him for third on the Angels’ all-time list with Jerry Remy . . . . When the Angels defeated Chicago Thursday night for their 82nd victory of the season, they eclipsed their production for 1984, when they went 81-81 and finished in second place in the American League West, three games behind Kansas City . . . . Mauch on his role during a pennant race: “I couldn’t get any more involved in a game than I am right from the beginning. But this is when it’s really fun--or, I should say, when it’s the most fun.” . . . The Angels’ Kirk McCaskill (10-11) opposes Neal Heaton (8-16) in tonight’s 7 p.m. game.