Ventura, a third baseman shifted to first as a defensive replacement for Frank Thomas, was sure Cora would be at first to take the throw from pitcher Bobby Thigpen. So Ventura tried to get out of the way.
Who was on first?
"Nobody was there," Cora said.
The White Sox defense botched two bunt plays in a row, making the 10th inning a comedy of errors, but the Angels' 3-2 victory was more fortunate than funny Saturday before 29,403 at Anaheim Stadium.
The 2-0 lead they built on RBI singles by Wally Joyner in the third inning and Dave Winfield in the seventh was protected by Mark Langston, who gave up six singles and struck out eight. Manager Buck Rodgers told Langston he was done after eight innings rather than asking how he felt. Langston said he was fine but did not dispute Rodgers' strategy of bringing in Bryan Harvey.
"That's his job. He's got to make those decisions," said Langston, who missed a chance to become the AL's third 18-game winner. "As a starting pitcher, you go out as long as you can--until they take the ball from you. Bryan Harvey is the best in baseball. I'd give him the ball any day of the week."
Any day but Saturday.
The White Sox loaded the bases in the ninth inning on an infield hit by Thomas and walks to pinch-hitters Dan Pasqua and Cora. Harvey got pinch-hitter Warren Newson to hit a chopper back to the mound. With plenty of time to force Thomas at home, Harvey threw the ball in the dirt. It bounced away from catcher John Orton long enough for the tying runs to score and Cora to take third, Newson second.
"I just tried to rush it. I knew if I got it to Johnny O, we had a double play," Harvey said after his second blown save in three appearances. "I made a dumb mistake, which you can't make in the ninth inning, and luckily it didn't cost us a game."
It cost the Angels only two runs because Harvey retired the next three hitters--"I was fortunate they hit the ball on the ground and not to me," he said--and because Chicago's misadventures were worse than their own.
Gary Gaetti started the 10th with a single to center against Scott Radinsky (4-5), who was relieved by Thigpen. Shawn Abner bunted toward third, catcher Carlton Fisk playing the ball. After seeing he had no chance to get Gaetti at second, Fisk threw to Cora--who was about 15 feet behind first, Ventura having broken to the plate on the play.
"I looked up and my heart was about to stop," Manager Jeff Torborg said. "I was as surprised as anyone not to see anyone there."
Sojo was surprised that the Angels called on him. "I looked two times at Bob (Knoop, the third base coach), and he said I got to bunt," Sojo said. "If I hit the ball to shortstop, we score a run. I got to make a perfect bunt."
It wasn't perfect, but it worked. Thigpen fielded the ball near the third base line but slipped and threw past the uncovered first base, allowing Gaetti to score the winning run.
"It was ugly," Thigpen said.