Baseball’s hottest offense bowled over Seattle Mariner ace Randy Johnson, and designated hitter Chili Davis put the exclamation point on the Angels’ 7-2 victory over the Mariners on Tuesday night at Anaheim with an eighth-inning drive block of reserve catcher Chris Widger that would have made an NFL lineman proud.
Following the collision, Davis scrambled to his knees and tapped the plate with his hand for the second run of a four-run outburst that helped the Angels pull away to their seventh consecutive victory and improve to 55-33, much to the delight of the paid crowd of 22,074 in Anaheim Stadium.
Davis was on second when Damion Easley singled to left, and Seattle outfielder Rich Amaral released his throw to the plate as Davis was rounding third.
Widger wasn’t even attempting to block the plate--he was well in front of the plate as he tried to field the throw--but Davis veered toward his left and slammed into Widger. The catcher crumbled and the ball slipped by, allowing Davis to score.
“If I think I’m gonna be out, there ain’t no use sliding,” Davis said. “It’s part of the game. I wasn’t trying to hurt the guy, but he was standing around the plate, looking for the ball, and I just wanted to score a run.”
The Angels had 10 hits against Johnson, the 6-foot-10 left-hander who is one of the most feared pitchers in baseball, and gave him his second loss of the season. Johnson (11-2) had won six in a row against the Angels over the past three seasons; his last loss to them was on June 27, 1992.
Even more astonishing: Three of the Angels’ hits were by left-handed batters, one by Jim Edmonds and two by Greg Myers, whose two-run double capped the four-run eighth. Left-handers were a combined 4 for 44 (.091) against Johnson, nicknamed “The Big Unit,” entering the game.
“The left-handers battled, they worked their butts off for everything they got, they had to scrimp and scrape,” Angel Manager Marcel Lachemann said. “We hit some balls hard and we blooped some, but mostly we battled just to make contact.”
The same can be said for Mariner hitters, who had just as much trouble with Angel left-hander Brian Anderson as the Angels usually have with Johnson. Anderson went six innings, yielding only five hits--including bases-empty home runs by Tino Martinez and Edgar Martinez--to gain the victory, improving to 6-2.
He was a big loser to Johnson in the strikeout category--the Mariner pitcher had 10, Anderson had only three. But Anderson was backed by a solid defense that turned a key double play in the sixth and featured two great catches by Edmonds in center, while Seattle committed an error and several other defensive lapses.
Anderson was relieved by John Habyan in the seventh, but Troy Percival came on to get the Angels out of a jam in which Seattle had runners on second and third with one out. Percival pitched a scoreless eighth and Mike James a scoreless ninth for the Angels.
Lachemann said the key to hitting Johnson is taking advantage of his mistakes. “No matter how good you are, you’re going to make them,” Lachemann said. “You just can’t let one go by.”
Tim Salmon didn’t in the first inning. Johnson tried to slip a low fastball by him on the outside corner, but Salmon went the other way with it, knocking his 21st home run of the season into the right-field bleachers for a 1-0 lead. He also singled in a run in the fifth and singled and scored in the eighth.
After Tino Martinez’s homer tied the game, 1-1, in the second, the bottom of the Angel order keyed a two-run, fifth-inning rally that gave the Angels a 3-1 lead.
Myers led off with a single, and Gary DiSarcina followed with a double to left, putting runners on second and third. Tony Phillips struck out, but Edmonds’ grounder to second scored Myers, and Salmon followed with a soft, chip-shot of a single to center to score DiSarcina.
The Angels increased their lead over Texas in the American League West to 11 games.