Angels Defeat Dodgers in 13, but There Are Plenty of Losers
The Freeway Series finale always offers a measure of mystery, but the outcome of the game has little to do with the suspense. It’s usually the day both the Dodgers and Angels announce their final--and most difficult--roster decisions.
Saturday night was no exception, and eight Dodgers and two Angels learned they will begin the season in the minors.
One of the disappointed was pitcher Ramon Martinez, who started for the Dodgers and allowed a run and three hits in four innings. Also among the unhappy were Jose Gonzalez, who hit a home run in the 13th inning, and Chris Gwynn, who hit a two-run single in the 13th as the Dodgers took a 7-4 lead.
But Angel rookie Dante Bichette ended up as one of the heroes. His third hit of the night, a two-run single to left, tied the game. Then Bichette scored the game-winner on Bill Schroeder’s double as the Angels won, 8-7, in 13 innings in front of 58,874 at Anaheim Stadium.
Dodger right fielder Mike Marshall hit his second prodigious home run in as many nights, slugging a pitch by Bert Blyleven into the second deck in right-center in the fourth inning, and shortstop Alfredo Griffin drove in three runs to raise his team-leading RBI total to 17 this spring.
But the biggest smiles of the evening were hung on the faces of two unheralded left-handed relief pitchers: Angel Vance Lovelace and Dodger Ray Searage, both of whom clung to the No. 24 spot on their respective rosters.
Wearing the frowns:
--Dodgers Jeff Fischer, Tracy Woodson, Gwynn and Martinez were optioned to Albuquerque; Mike Sharperson and Gonzalez were outrighted to Albuquerque, and nonroster players William Brennan and Darrin Fletcher were assigned to the Dukes.
--Angels Mark McLemore and Jim Eppard were optioned to Edmonton.
Angel Manager Doug Rader decided to break the news before the game. The Dodgers waited until after.
Fred Claire, Dodger executive vice president, said that sending down Gwynn, who hit .449 this spring, was probably the most difficult decision.
“We had to make a lot of tough calls,” Claire said, “but the emergence of Gwynn as an outstanding hitter was the highlight of the spring. And we believe Ramon (Martinez) will be better off in Albuquerque where he can pitch in the rotation and continue his progress.
“We sent a lot of players to the minors who have the ability to play in the major leagues. And the chances are great each and every one of them will have a chance to contribute. It’s a long season.
“I’d rather see our organization facing these problems than having problems filling out the roster.”
Rader, who says he detests “prolonging the agony,” has been announcing roster moves for the past week, but Saturday he had to give the unwelcomed news to second baseman McLemore and first baseman Eppard.
“I should be relieved, but I feel almost guilty,” Rader said.
McLemore, who was battling veteran Johnny Ray for the second base job, may have lost this round simply because of contract flexibility: He can be sent down and Ray cannot.
McLemore hit .358 and made five errors this spring. Ray, who hit .306 with 83 RBIs last year, batted .362 and made two errors this spring.
“John Ray had a terrific year last year, he’s the incumbent and he did nothing this spring to play himself out of the job,” Rader said. “That’s not to say Mark didn’t deserve a chance based on his play, but other things have to be considered.”
The demotion of Eppard leaves the club without a left-handed pinch hitter, but Rader decided an 11-man pitching staff was more important.
That was good news to Lovelace, who wasn’t having such a great weekend. The 6-foot-5 left-hander had to be taken to St. Joseph Hospital in Orange Friday morning with severe abdominal discomfort.
He was feeling much better Saturday, both physically and mentally. Doctors ran a battery of tests and found no abnormalities (a “twisted intestine” is the diagnosis) and then Doc Rader’s news raised Lovelace’s spirits further.
“We’ve got a few people on the (pitching) staff that we’ve got to protect,” Rader said, pointing to the questionable durability and effectiveness of Dan Petry, Kirk McCaskill and Willie Fraser. “I really think we need two left-handers (in the bullpen) and Vance has made enough progress with his stuff and location to warrant a chance.”
On the field Saturday night, it was the veterans who were showcasing their talents in front of the seventh largest crowd in Freeway Series history.
Marshall hit the mammoth homer. Griffin drove in three. Angel third baseman Jack Howell had a double, two walks and scored three times. And designated hitter Brian Downing had a double and an RBI.
Blyleven allowed three hits and two runs over the first six innings before faltering in the seventh when the Dodgers scored twice on four hits. Then Petry came in and got both Mike Davis and Gonzalez to pop up with the bases loaded.
Freeway Series Notes
Mark McLemore and Jim Eppard feel they have little left to prove in triple A, but both said they will start the season in Edmonton with a positive attitude. “I got a chance this spring and I made the most of it,” McLemore said. “I did everything I was supposed to. I’m not happy, but when I play, it’s automatic for me to give it everything I’ve got.” Eppard, who played in 56 games with the Angels last season, led the Pacific Coast League with a .341 average in 1987 with Edmonton. “I’m not a crybaby or a pouter,” Eppard said. “I’m a survivor. I’ll just keep plugging away.” . . . Mike Marshall, who hit home runs Friday and Saturday, was named winner of the Fresco Thompson memorial award for most valuable player of the Freeway Series. Mike Witt, who pitched seven innings of no-hit ball Thursday night, won the Lefty Phillips memorial trophy award for the outstanding pitcher of the series Outfielder Dante Bichette was awarded the Fred Haney Memorial Award for being the outstanding Angel rookie this spring. The pitching matchups for the Angels’ three-game series against Chicago beginning Tuesday: Mike Witt vs. Jerry Reuss Tuesday; Chuck Finley vs. Melido Perez Wednesday night, and Bert Blyleven vs. Shawn Hillegas Thursday night. . . . The matchups for the Dodgers’ three-game series with Cincinnati starting Monday: Tim Belcher vs. Danny Jackson Monday; Orel Hershiser vs. Tom Browning Wednesday night, and Tim Leary vs. Rich Mahler Thursday.