Joyner Propels Angels With the Spirit of '86 : His Single in Ninth Inning Topples Tigers, 4-3, Gives Finley His 11th Victory

Times Staff Writer

It was 1986 revisted for the Angels' Wally Joyner on Thursday night.

Joyner lined a two-strike pitch from reliever Mike Henneman into center field in the ninth inning, driving in Claudell Washington and giving the Angels a 4-3 victory over the Detroit Tigers before 26,854 at Anaheim Stadium.

"I didn't swing very well at that first forkball," Joyner said. "I didn't look quite as bad on the second pitch. By that time I wasn't as worried about protecting the plate as I was thinking about looking really bad and going out for the top of the tenth. I just told myself to relax and try to put the ball in play."

Tiger center fielder Gary Pettis got to the ball in a hurry and made a strong, accurate throw to the plate. Washington decided not to slide and stepped over the leg of catcher Mike Heath, barely scoring ahead of the tag.

The run made starter Chuck Finley, who has gone nine innings in four of his last five starts, the first Angel left-hander to reach 11 victories since Geoff Zahn won 13 in 1980.

Finley gave up 10 hits, but he also struck out 12 and walked only one to improve to 11-6.

Joyner, who was hitting only .216 with nine runs batted in in mid-May, also drove in the Angels' first run. He has 13 RBIs this month, three more than he had in June. He has driven in seven runs in the last six games.

In five at-bats Thursday, he had two singles, a double, a walk and a fly out to the warning track in right. His batting average has risen to.297.

"Wally's driving in runs again and they're not just runs, they're large runs," Manager Doug Rader said.

"There are guys who drive in runs and they are guys who drive in runs. Guys like Tony Perez, who you can count on to drive in the big runs."

Earlier this year, Joyner would have settled for any kind of RBI. His frustration became so intense that he screamed at hitting instructor Deron Johnson, "I'm sick of hitting singles!"

"I was in the situation in the first part of the year where I was playing badly and the most frustrating thing was that I wasn't contributing at all," Joyner said.

"I've finally turned it around a little bit. Yeah, it feels good to hear the cheers and to help us be successful."

The Angels remain in first place in the American League West despite their recent road trip, during which they opened with a victory, lost five in a row and then finished with a victory. But they Joyner said it was a "good trip."

"I think we played those (five losses) as well as we have any five all year," he said.

The Angels wouldn't have been saying that about this game if it hadn't been for Joyner's ninth-inning heroics.

They couldn't score in the sixth--after loading the bases with one out--when Jack Howell and Dick Schofield struck out. And they failed to score in the eighth after the first two batters reached base. Devon White was caught stealing and Lance Parrish lined into a double play.

"I don't think you can blame (Howell) or (Schofield)," Rader said.

"(Tiger starter Doyle) Alexander has worked his way out of tough situations like that on many occasions. He's a pro, you have to give him the credit."

The Tigers, who have the worst record in baseball (33-59), had their share of squandered scoring chances. First, Tracy Jones struck out in the eighth after Alan Trammell's two-out double off the wall in left.

Then, Pettis struck out--for the fourth time of the game--to end the ninth. Gary Ward one-hopped a drive into the right-field seats for a ground-rule double with one out and then third baseman Howell speared a line drive down the line by Rick Schu.

Rader gave Finley the option of pitching to Heath--who had tripled in Schu to tie the game in the seventh--or walking him to get to the light-hitting Pettis.

"My druther was to walk Heath,"Rader said.

But Finley chose to go after the Tiger catcher--and walked him anyway.

"I gave him some good pitches but he wouldn't fish for them," Finley said. "It came down to me and Pettis."

Five pitches later, the Angels were batting in the ninth.

The Angels took a 1-0 lead in the first when leadoff hitter Schofield walked and eventually scored on Joyners' single to center.

Finley, who has never given up a first-inning home run in his 53 major league starts, made it through the first again this time around, but Chet Lemon, who has seven hits in 10 career at-bats against Finley, lined a two-run shot into the seats in left-center in the second inning.

The next two batters, Ward and Schu, hit the ball in almost the same spot, only not quite as deep. Chili Davis ran down Ward's drive on the warning track, but Schu's shot hit the base of the wall for a double. Finley struck out Heath to end the inning, however, and seemed to find a groove in the process. He struck out six of the next 15 Tigers he faced.

The Angels took a 3-2 lead in the third when Washington hit a home run deep into the second deck in right. Then Johnny Ray singled to extend his hitting streak to nine games and Joyner doubled. Ray scored on Brian Downing's groundout.

Finley struck out the first two batters in the seventh, but Schu lined a single to right and Heath tripled off the glove of center fielder White to tie the score, 3-3.

That left it up to Joyner, who last month declared that Wally World was closed for good. He unlocked the gates for one night, however, and had to admit it was just like old times.

Angel Notes

Right-hander Kirk McCaskill threw for 15 minutes before Thursday night's game and reported no soreness in his elbow. "As soon as he came in today he said it felt 100% better," physical therapist Roger Williams said. "He could tell that just from his daily activities. He took his time getting loose, but he was throwing pretty good at the end. He's much improved." McCaskill, who received a cortisone injection Saturday after being sent home from Baltimore and is also taking oral anti-inflammatory medication, will pitch Monday in Oakland after missing one scheduled start. "He just had a tired arm," Manager Doug Rader said. "I know nobody wants to believe that, but he was just pooped. Sometimes, when fatigue sets in, you get disproportionately sore. Kirk is one of the reasons we're where we are and, for his benefit and ours, you have to look more than five days down the road."

Reliever Bob McClure, who had worn uniform No. 37 this season, changed to No. 33 Thursday. Thirty-seven was the number worn by former Angel pitcher Donnie Moore, who died Tuesday after shooting his wife and then turning the gun on himself. . . . The last three batters in Angels' lineup Thursday night are the team's top three home-run hitters--Chili Davis (11), Lance Parrish (12) and Jack Howell (12). Claudell Washington's shot into the right-field seats in the third inning Thursday night was his 10th homer, making him the fourth Angel player to reach double figures in home runs. Two others--Wally Joyner and Brian Downing--have nine each. . . . Umpire Greg Kosc missed the start of Thursday night's game after cutting his finger in the afternoon. He received stitches at a local hospital and returned in the second inning.

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