Jose Canseco saw that Joe Grahe had an effective sinker Sunday and filed the knowledge away for reference. Canseco also saw how much the Angels’ infield crept in after Grahe’s 0-and-2 pitch hit Jerry Browne and loaded the bases in the ninth inning.
And before Canseco stepped into the batter’s box, he digested one other crucial bit of information.
“I noticed the shortstop was shading toward second base,” Canseco said, “and I told myself to try and hit the ball through the hole.”
Although Canseco is known for his power, he succeeded in a situation that could be handled with delicacy. Canseco chopped Grahe’s first pitch into left field to score Lance Blankenship, giving the Athletics a 5-4 victory in front of 32,003 at the Oakland Coliseum and a five-game lead over Minnesota in the American League West.
“I went up there aggressive because I knew he couldn’t walk me,” said Canseco, who also made a fine running catch on Von Hayes’ eighth-inning liner to right field with runners on first and second. “He’s got a pretty good sinker and pretty good control. My main concern was not to try to overpower the ball, just to try and put it in play.”
Grahe (4-4) entered the game with one out in the ninth inning and promptly gave up a single to Blankenship. Blankenship stole second base, and the Angels intentionally walked Rickey Henderson. Grahe got two strikes on Browne before hitting him on the right hip.
“I was trying to run a ‘cutter’ in on him,” Grahe said. “It’s been a good pitch for me, but I got a little overaggressive and it hit him. It can happen that way.”
Because it happened, Angel interim Manager John Wathan brought his infield in. But even with the infield at regular depth, Canseco’s chopper might have snaked through.
“That would have been tough. I don’t think we would have turned (a double play),” Wathan said. “In that situation, with the winning run (on third), I don’t think you can take a chance playing for two so we had to play in.”
The hit made a winner of Dennis Eckersley (6-0), who pitched one-third of an inning. He gave up a triple to Luis Sojo in the ninth inning before striking out Junior Felix, who had driven in the Angels’ first two runs.
Both sides gave up a batch of unearned runs, with Oakland committing four errors and the Angels two. Angel starter Chuck Finley lasted seven innings, matching a season-high with seven walks but giving up only two earned runs.
Shortstop Walt Weiss’ throwing error in the first inning set up the Angels’ first run, Sojo scoring on Felix’s groundout.
The Angels returned the favor in Oakland’s two-run second inning when rookie third baseman Damion Easley threw away Willie Wilson’s bunt, allowing Terry Steinbach to score and letting Wilson get to third. Mike Bordick’s sacrifice fly to center field scored Wilson.
In the third inning, Easley singled to right-center field--his first major league hit--and took second base when third baseman Randy Ready botched Luis Polonia’s bunt. Sojo’s sacrifice moved the runners up, and Easley scored on Felix’s grounder to short.