The Angels have endured three decades of failures in their franchise history, so when there are nights like Wednesday, who can blame them for feeling invincible?
They were sure they discovered utopia at The Ballpark, and after 8-6 and 13-1 victories over the Texas Rangers, there wasn’t a soul who could convince them otherwise.
“I don’t know too much about the history of this club, but I’ve got to believe there hasn’t been a day like this one,” Angel left fielder Dwight Smith said. The Angels got the 8-6 victory in 10 innings in the continuation of a game suspended after eight innings Tuesday night, then easily won the regularly scheduled game.
“I know the owner (Gene Autry) is getting older, and he wants to see a winner, and the least we can do is give him a championship and stir up a little excitement at home.
“You keep seeing ESPN and everyone else writing us off, but hang around, baby, and you’re going to see something special from this club.”
The Angels are 15-20, which somehow is good enough for first place in the American League West, they believe that this was a day that will be treasured in Angel folklore:
--The Angels won the suspended game when Smith hit a pinch-hit run-scoring single to trigger a three-run rally in the 10th, and then won the second game when they played home-run derby against rookie Rick Helling.
--They recaptured the distinction of having the worst record for a first-place club in history. “It’s realignment, baby, you got to love it,” Smith said. “They can say what they want, but if we finish five games under .500 and are still in first place, we’re still going to the playoffs.”
--They left town believing they had been reincarnated as the Bronx Bombers, producing 32 hits and 21 runs in the two games, including nine extra-base hits in the second game.
They actually have had more difficulty this season hitting 55-year-old coach Bobby Knoop in batting practice than they did against Helling. He struck around long enough to face 13 batters, yielding four home runs, two triples, one double and three singles in one-plus inning.
“That was a pretty good kicking,” Angel Manager Buck Rodgers said. “I think if they had thrown the rosin bag up there, we probably would have hit a line drive.”
--Mark Langston returned 29 days after undergoing elbow surgery to win the nightcap, yielding five hits and one run in five innings. It seemed only appropriate, the players said, that they were in first place when he went on the disabled list and returned to first on his first day back.
Of course, they provided him a nice welcoming gift with a 6-0 lead before he took the mound, and a 9-0 lead before he began the second inning.
“We didn’t know how much time he was going to need to get loose,” Smith said, “so we made sure of it. He’s the $6-million man, isn’t he?”
--Right fielder Tim Salmon, who never before had a four-hit game, had two in the same day. He went eight for 10 in the two games, raising his batting average from .272 to .311.
“I’ve had spurts like that before,” Salmon said, “but never for such an extended period.”
--Shortstop Gary DiSarcina, who had a career batting average of .190 with no homers and two runs batted in at the Rangers’ former home, Arlington Stadium, batted .333 with one homer, two doubles and three RBIs during the series.
“The biggest thing I worried about was that my homer would get rained out,” DiSarcina said. “You should have seen me. I sat in here during the delay (Tuesday), held my hands together and said, ‘Come on, if you’re really up there, you’ll help me out on this one.’
“I can’t speak for everyone else, but I love this place.”
--Designated hitter Chili Davis hit a triple and two homers--including a homer from each side of the plate--in the second game to go along with four RBIs. He is batting .357 with eight homers.
--Reliever Mike Butcher, who had a security guard ejected from the premises for taunting the Angel relievers during the series, pitched 1 1/3 innings Tuesday and started the suspended game by pitching two more innings for the victory.
“It felt like I got a win and a save in the same game,” Butcher said. “Is that possible?”
--Reliever John Dopson pitched four shutout innings in the second game for the first save in his 13-year professional career.
“If you hang around long enough,” Dopson said, “you see a little bit of everything.”
--First baseman Jim Edmonds, after being brushed back with a pitch in the first inning, hit the next pitch into the right-field seats for the first homer of his career.
“You know, I’m sure we’ve all had better days in our life,” said Davis, “but right now, I really can’t think of any.”