It's Never Too Late to Make Amends

The Angels and Yankees waded and waited through 11 innings . . . 12 innings . . . 13 innings . . . and on to the 14th, watching their three-day vacation break getting squeezed on the corners.

It was all Torey Lovullo's fault.

Eastbound flights out of John Wayne were leaving with empty seats, previously ticketed to major league players and coaches who had been unexpectedly detained at Anaheim Stadium.

It was all Torey Lovullo's fault.

Sunday was supposed to be getaway day for the battle-weary, homesick troops who entertained the sunburned throng that had been plied away from family picnics and barbecues on the promise of Pic-N-Save/Angel Logo beach towels. Play hard, play fast--that was the motto of the hour, which went unheeded by Lovullo for nearly five hours.

Lovullo, the No. 5 hitter in Buck Rodgers' lineup, could have ended this game in the eighth inning. The Yankees dared him to, intentionally walking Chili Davis to give him the opportunity.

But Lovullo flied to right.

Then he could have ended it in the 10th, after the Yankees double-dared him--intentionally walking not only Davis but also Tim Salmon before him, loading the bases for Lovullo.

But Lovullo popped to first.

A routine fly to center in the 12th inning left Lovullo 0 for 6 for the day, and the Angels and Yankees stranded. Lovullo, once beloved by his teammates, had become a royal pain in the All-Star break itinerary, the Human Missed Connection.

"I thought about it myself," Lovullo admitted. "I told myself, 'Geez, I could have ended this game two hours ago.' "

But the Bucks played on, Rodgers matching Showalter pawn move for pawn move until the bottom of the 14th, with the game approaching its fifth hour, with Luis Polonia standing on third base, with one out, with first and second base open, with Salmon and Davis due up next, followed by That Man Lovullo.

Big strategic surprise here.

Intentional walk to Salmon.

Intentional walk to Davis.

Showalter was calling out Lovullo again, dissing him, rubbing his nose in it. All told, Showalter had ordered seven men intentionally walked in front of Lovullo during the weekend--two Saturday, five Sunday--and hadn't been so much as nicked yet.

"It was a real slap in the face," said Lovullo, who played in the Yankee organization in 1991 and '92. "I prided myself in coming through in the clutch for the Yankees--and I did. But they'd rather pitch to me than Chili in that situation, which I can understand. I'm not as good a hitter as Chili with men on base.

"But this . . . this was starting to get out of control."

So it was impressive to clock the hang time on Lovullo's batting helmet once the game-ending hit had been delivered, far over the head of Yankee center fielder Bernie Williams.

Up, up, up the helmet sailed, a tape-measure job for sure, traveling almost as far ground-to-sky as Lovullo's RBI drive had home-to-outfield.

"I wanted to put it in their face," Lovullo said. "I commend Buck Showalter. He made the moves that kept his team in the ballgame. But the bottom line is that we took three of four ballgames from them."

Three of four from the Yankees. The one-game-out-of-first, contending-in-a-real-man's-division Yankees.

"Everybody's waiting for us to crack," said Lovullo, "but it's not happening. We beat one of the best teams in the East straight up, head to head. Now we can tell ourselves, 'We're as good as they are.' "

And, finally, they can go home. Lovullo kept them long enough--4:51 was the official time of game. But, in the words of the immensely idle Davis, "If we were going to be out there for as long as we were, we might as well win. This is going to make for a very enjoyable All-Star break."

It certainly beats the alternative, to Lovullo's mind.

"If I had to sit on an 0-for-7 and 16 men left on base over two games, I might have committed suicide," Lovullo quipped. He glanced across the clubhouse to where Davis was holding court with a cluster of writers. "What's Chili saying over there?" Lovullo wondered. "That it's about time I came through? That he was tired of having to walk about 60 times?"

Actually, Chili was quite the diplomat, as befits his newly established role as Angel Elder.

"Intentional walks don't bother me," Davis said. "It's all a part of managing. As a player, I can understand that. How can I say it's frustrating? We won."

Still, Lovullo shook his head and said, "I feel bad for him. I know he wants to get up there and get good pitches and drive in runs. But he was the first guy to congratulate me. That really showed me something."

Rodgers got a kick out of it, too. Rodgers being the one who scribbled Lovullo's name right behind Davis' in the first place.

"It just happened that Torey was the one hitting behind Salmon and Chili, our two big RBI guys," Rodgers said. "Whoever we put behind Chili was going to be the recipient, whether it was (Damion) Easley or (Rene) Gonzales or whoever."

Unless said recipient begins roping the ball, in which case opposing manager is not so quick to send four wide ones by Davis.

By the bottom of the 14th inning, by the third pitch of the seventh at-bat, Lovullo finally got it right. For one shining moment, with dusk approaching, Lovullo swung like a cleanup hitter. And the mess he cleaned up was his own.

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