Finley Has Enough to Turn Back Tigers in 9-Inning Struggle
Here it was the top of the ninth inning, the score tied and Chuck Finley had worked himself into another fine mess.
It seemed to be a familiar theme in the Angels’ game against the Detroit Tigers Thursday at Anaheim Stadium.
In the seventh, Finley struck out the first two Tigers he faced, gave up a single to Rick Schu, then a triple to Mike Heath that tied the score at 3.
In the eighth, Finley again got the first two batters before finding himself in trouble. But Alan Trammell’s double was the only hit the Tigers could manage. Finley wriggled out of the inning by striking out Tracy Jones.
Then came the ninth and Finley faced Chet Lemon, who already had a two-run homer and a single off Finley. He came into the game five for six with a home run against Finley this season.
But Finley got him to hit a weak grounder to the mound for the first out.
Up stepped Gary Ward, who promptly hit a ground-rule double. Instant trouble.
Schu, who had a double in addition to his seventh-inning single, stung Finley again. But third baseman Jack Howell caught Schu’s line drive for the second out.
“That backhand play by Jack Howell was the key out,” Finley said later.
Before Heath, the next hitter, settled into the batter’s box, the Angels held a meeting.
Pitching coach Marcel Lachemann gave Finley an option: pitch to Heath or walk him intentionally and take his chances with former Angel Gary Pettis, the Tigers’ light-hitting center fielder.
“My druthers was to walk Heath,” Angel Manager Doug Rader said after the game. "(But) generally pitchers know what they feel most comfortable with.”
And so Finley opted to pitch to Heath, albeit carefully.
“I gave him some good pitches and he wouldn’t fish for them,” said Finley, who wound up walking Heath anyway. “It came down to me and Pettis.”
And Finley won the confrontation, striking out Pettis for the fourth time in the game.
“The last inning took a lot out of me,” Finley said. “I had to make a lot of tough pitches.”
The Angels went on to win, 4-3, on Wally Joyner’s RBI single in the ninth.
Finley turned in a steady, if trouble-filled, performance to improve his record to 11-6. It was his fourth complete game in his past five starts and ninth this season.
He struck out 12, but gave up 10 hits. He walked one, but had runners on base in all but two innings.
He got the ball up at times--especially in the second when Lemon homered, Ward flied deep to left and Schu doubled off the left-field wall.
“I didn’t have very good stuff,” Finley said of the first few innings. “I just tried to tell myself to get the ball down.”
Finley said he felt comfortable in the middle innings, but the baserunners kept coming in a seemingly endless line.
For example, he struck out the side in the seventh, but allowed the tying run that same inning.
“It was one of those games where you know you can’t make mistakes with guys on base,” Finley said. “I kept fighting, kept battling and good things happened.”
And in the end, the good outweighed the bad by the barest margin.