There are reasons why the Angels finished 29 games behind the Oakland Athletics last season, and in case the Angels had forgotten, Monday night’s 4-0 loss to the A’s at Anaheim Stadium caught them up very quickly.
The A’s brought with them these reminders:
--Pitching: Oakland starter Bob Welch retired the first nine batters he faced, yielded two harmless hits in the fourth inning and then retired 11 more Angels in succession, finally settling for an eight-inning three-hitter.
--Hitting: The A’s led, 3-0, after four innings, with Mark McGwire driving in his 10th run of the season in the first inning, Walt Weiss knocking in his fifth in the second inning and Glenn Hubbard hitting his first Anaheim Stadium home run in the fourth inning.
--Fielding: Subtitle this one Comedy Tonight. Angel right fielder Claudell Washington lost one ball in the lights, and had another momentarily pop out of his glove, but his juggling act merely warmed up the audience for Angel pitcher Chuck Finley’s fifth-inning pratfall, soon to become a staple on This Week in Baseball.
The bouncing ball was set in motion by the bat of Oakland’s Felix Jose, the rookie currently replacing that other Jose in right field. The ball glanced off Finley’s hip and skittered toward the first-base side of the mound, with Finley bare-handing the ball and belly-flopping on the infield grass.
As he fell, Finley tried to underhand the ball to Angel first baseman Wally Joyner. A low-flying pigeon would have had a better chance at the ball. Finley’s lob soared 20 feet over Joyner’s head and landed 30 feet beyond first base.
Felix wound up on second base . . . and the Finley Flop was born.
“I imagine we’ll get to see that one again,” Angel Manager Doug Rader said with a smile. “I wish I would’ve had my stopwatch on it. I didn’t get the hang time on it.”
Jose was later thrown out attempting to steal third base and Finley struck out Stan Javier to close out the inning, so, for the Angels, no real damage had been done.
The earlier innings took care of that.
Finley (1-1) served up a first-inning double to Dave Henderson and McGwire’s run-scoring single to forge an instant 1-0 deficit. It was soon 2-0, just as soon as Washington lost a routine fly by Hubbard in the lights.
With Carney Lansford on first with none out in the second inning, Hubbard lofted a ball to mid-right field, with Washington hanging back in deep right field. The ball plopped down in front of Washington for a single and, two outs later, Lansford scored on a single by Weiss.
In the third inning, Washington bobbled another easy fly by Terry Steinbach, letting the ball squirt out of the glove’s webbing before grabbing it with a second snatch.
That was another rerun for the Angels, who watched Chili Davis re-invent the position of right field with a club-record 19 errors in 1988.
Faces change, gloves change, too, but right field at Anaheim Stadium remains as vexed as ever.
“I heard he cursed it,” Washington said, tossing a needle Davis’ way.
Washington responded good-naturedly to the fans’ Bronx cheers when he began catching balls the old-fashioned way from the fourth inning on, doffing his cap as he returned to the dugout.
“Just a little gesture,” Washington said with a shrug. “You have those days some times. It was just a rough day at the office.”
Washington was one of three Angels to manage hits against Welch (2-0). He singled in the eighth inning, after Brian Downing doubled and Devon White singled in the fourth. Neither Downing nor White scored, however, with Welch striking out Joyner and Davis to end the threat.
Aside from that, the Angels failed to advance another runner beyond first base. With Oakland reliever Eric Plunk retiring the Angels in order in the ninth inning, A’s pitchers faced just 30 hitters--three over the minimum.
“We had chances to crawl back into the ballgame,” Rader said. “The fact we didn’t do anything offensively gives the air that nothing was going on for us. If there’s no activity on the bases, it’s going to look like you’re dead. It creates the impression of an overall malaise.”
Rader thought his pitchers fared well enough, at least in the act of pitching the ball.
“I thought we threw a very nice ballgame,” Rader said. “When you can limit an offense like that to four one-run innings, that should at least put you in position to win the game.”
By game’s end, Johnny Ray was given company on the Angels’ disabled list. Reserve outfielder Tony Armas was placed on the 15-day list when the hamstring injury he incurred Sunday was diagnosed as a second-degree strain. “When you have the feeling like somebody’s stuck an ice pick in there, it tends to be symptomatic of something more than just a cramp,” Angel trainer Rick Smith said. “This is something that’s going to take longer than a few days.” To take Armas’ place on the 24-man roster, the Angels purchased the contract of outfielder Brian Brady from their triple-A affiliate in Edmonton. Brady, who spent time in the Angels’ spring camp, was batting .167 (one for six) in two games with the Trappers. . . . The A’s lost first baseman Mark McGwire to injury Monday, although his condition is considerably less serious. After singling in the first inning and striking out in the third, McGwire was removed from the game because of a lower back strain. He was replaced in the lineup by Stan Javier, with third baseman Carney Lansford moving to first.
Even on the disabled list, and even when he isn’t driving, Jose Canseco finds a way to stir things up. Monday, Canseco’s arrival at Anaheim Stadium created minor havoc among parking lot security guards when the car he was riding in failed to stop at the players’ entrance gate. The car, driven by a friend, ran the gate and didn’t stop until frantic security guards flagged it down. Canseco claimed not to have seen any attendant at the gate--the attendant was apparently inside the entrance kiosk--and saw no harm in forging ahead. “I didn’t think there was anything wrong with that,” he said. It was later explained to Canseco that identification needs to be displayed at the gate, even if you happen to be the American League’s reigning most valuable player. . . . Add Canseco: His return to the Oakland lineup could be as much as another month away. Canseco said he expects to have the cast removed from his left wrist April 20, then undergo a week of rehabilitation, then start hitting off a tee for three or four days and then join the A’s double-A farm club in Huntsville, Ala., to hit against live pitching for a few games. That could delay Canseco’s first Oakland at-bat of 1989 until early May. He has already missed 16 days because of the injury.