This was how it was supposed to be: the Angels would get strong efforts from their starting pitchers, the occasional opportunistic hit and enough home runs to make them a factor in the American League West race.
They’re doing all that, except the race is for third place.
Capitalizing on two debatable intentional walks ordered by Texas Manager Bobby Valentine in the seventh inning, the Angels scored seven times to break open a close game and rout the Rangers, 9-2, Wednesday night.
Lance Parrish’s three-run home run, a 393-foot drive to right-center that was his 21st of the season, highlighted an inning in which the Angels sent 11 batters to the plate and routed John Barfield (3-2), who had relieved Kevin Brown.
Jim Abbott (9-12) allowed eight hits over 7 1/3 innings and struck out a season-high seven as the Angels won their fifth consecutive game and moved within a half-game of the third-place Rangers. In sweeping Texas for the first time since June 22-24, 1987--and the first at Anaheim Stadium since June 16-18, 1986--the Angels climbed above .500 (66-65) for the first time since June 29.
Valentine prolonged the Angels’ seventh-inning spree by intentionally walking Dick Schofield, a .229 hitter, to match the left-handed Barfield against the left-handed hitting Luis Polonia with Jack Howell on second. That backfired when Polonia singled to center, scoring Howell. Center fielder Gary Pettis’ throw home was dropped by catcher Mike Stanley, and Schofield took third and Polonia second on the play.
Valentine then walked switch-hitter Devon White--a .257 hitter right-handed--to get to Chili Davis, a .265 hitter from the right side. Davis walked on four pitches, forcing in a run.
Dave Winfield’s single off Brad Arnsberg scored two more runs and Parrish provided the final touch with his home run.
The Angels gave Abbott a run to work with in the third. Johnny Ray led off with a liner that struck the glove of third baseman Jeff Kunkel and carried into left field, where it eluded Pete Incaviglia long enough for Ray to scamper to second. Ray tagged and took third when Schofield lined to right and scored on Polonia’s grounder to second.
Abbott faced the minimum nine batters through the first three innings. He allowed a leadoff single to Ruben Sierra in the second, but Sierra was erased in a double play initiated by Abbott. He stabbed Jack Daugherty’s comebacker, whirled and made a throw to second that was slightly wide of the bag. Ray snared the ball and relayed to first to complete the Angels’ major league-leading 150th double play.
The Angels’ offense gave Abbott additional support in the fourth. Davis led off with a single to right and took second on Lee Stevens’ grounder to first. First baseman Daugherty glanced at second to see if he had a play there, but went for the sure out at first. That proved important, as Parrish ended an 0-for-6 dry spell with a single to left-center, scoring Davis. That increased Parrish’s club-leading RBI total to 58.
Incaviglia ended a longer slump in the fifth when he slammed a 1 and 0 pitch from Abbott off the facing of the right-field seats for his 19th home run of the season. Incaviglia had been hitless in his previous 16 at-bats and had three hits in his previous 43 at-bats.
Incaviglia’s homer was the first run scored by the Rangers in 15 2/3 innings against the Angels, since an RBI-single by Jeff Huson with one out in the seventh inning Monday night. Kirk McCaskill shut the Rangers out Tuesday night.
Abbott got Huson on a called third strike leading off the sixth. Then Pettis singled, but Abbott induced Kunkel to fly to left and struck out Julio Franco for his season-best seven strikeouts.
Abbott faced his first real challenge in the seventh, a threat in which he got little help from the Angels’ defense. Sierra singled up the middle and Incaviglia followed with a blooper to right that fell a few steps in front of a slow-running Dave Winfield.
Daugherty moved the runners up with a sacrifice played by Abbott, and Mike Stanley was intentionally walked to create a play at any base. John Russell hit a hopper to third baseman Howell, who kept the ball in front of him but allowed it to roll up and off his chest and behind him. When he recovered, his only play was to step on third to force Incaviglia, and Sierra scored the tying run.