Angel shortstop Gary DiSarcina is an expert on games that slipped away. He was, after all, a Boston Red Sox fan while growing up in Billerica, Mass.
"Eighty-six was the worst year of my life," he said of the season the Red Sox let the World Series trickle through their legs against the New York Mets. "I went to school with a lot of Mets fans and they didn't let me forget that."
So, Tuesday night's Red Sox follies were nothing new. But DiSarcina, who finds his ties to the Red Sox aren't what they once were, was happy to drive in the winning run in the Angels' 3-2 victory at Anaheim Stadium.
When it was over, DiSarcina gave credit to pinch-hitter Damion Easley for drawing a leadoff walk in the ninth inning, to J.T. Snow for sacrificing Easley to second base, and to Red Sox shortstop John Valentin for booting the grounder that allowed the Angels to tie the score, 2-2, in the eighth.
Every time someone asked about his game-winning single off reliever Ken Ryan that scored Easley from second in the ninth inning, he changed the subject.
"That was a great bunt by J.T. and Damion worked his tail off to get on base," said DiSarcina, who recorded his 37th RBI, fourth-best on the club.
"I got to give credit where credit is due, and that's to the people who have been getting on base. I seem to concentrate more when the game's on the line or when there are runners in scoring position."
Said Manager Buck Rodgers: "He's playing the modest guy, but he has been getting big hits. He goes to the plate and he's got an idea of what he's doing. Last year was a different story."
Valentin's error on Tim Salmon's two-out grounder scored Luis Polonia with the tying run in the eighth inning, giving the Angels a big boost.
"We got a big break with the error there in the bottom of the eighth," DiSarcina said. "That made us think, 'Yeah, maybe things are going to go our way.' "
According to DiSarcina, it had been awhile since the Angels felt that sort of confidence in the late innings of a game. Six-game losing streaks, such as the one the Angels endured last week, tend to bring out the worst in a team's psyche.
"There's been a lot of tension the last week or so," DiSarcina said. "It's been pretty tough losing six in a row. It was frustrating and the guys were showing their emotions and getting pretty aggravated."
It's probably going to take more than a little luck and a clutch hit by DiSarcina to lift the Angels from their recent doldrums, but Tuesday's victory was a start.
Besides, they could just as easily have lost. After all, they went into the game losers of eight of their past 10 and seemed to be in a funk at the plate and on the mound.
When DiSarcina--batting .282 with runners in scoring position--came up against Ryan in the ninth with Easley at second and the score tied, 2-2, nothing was a given. The Angels had played extra-inning games the past two nights--beating Cleveland to end the streak on Sunday and losing to Boston Monday.
But DiSarcina served Ryan's first pitch to him into right field, easily scoring Easley. "He said, 'Here, get it up to me and I'm going to hit it right to that second baseman,' " Rodgers said. "If you go up there with a big blank it's tough. But if you have an approach in mind and you have a plan it's a different story."