When Manager Marcel Lachemann inserted Rex Hudler into the starting lineup last Wednesday at Seattle he said he was hoping the peripatetic second baseman "could provide a spark." What he got was a brush fire.
In four games against Oakland, Hudler went 10 for 15 with two doubles, a home run, four runs, three stolen bases and three runs batted in, and made a nice catch of Mark McGwire's eighth-inning popup with two runners on Sunday.
Hudler, who has 12 stolen bases in 12 tries this season, also provided some blooper-reel material, knocking down Oakland catcher Terry Steinbach and upending home-plate umpire Rich Garcia on the same play, when he was thrown out at the plate in the fourth inning.
"You never know what to expect from Rex," right fielder Tim Salmon said. "Like that popup. I didn't think he was in position to make the catch, but that's Hud--he surprises you. He goes as fast as he can and plays with reckless abandon, and when you see that, it inspires you."
Shortstop Gary DiSarcina, who grew up in Bellerica, Mass., has vivid memories of the one-game playoff game between Boston and New York in 1978, a game the Yankees won, 5-4, in Fenway Park.
"I remember skipping school and seeing Bucky Dent choke up and hit that homer and Yaz [Carl Yastrzemski] popping up to end the game," said DiSarcina, a fifth-grader at the time. "I think everyone stayed home from school that day."
Today's Mariner-Angel game will be the third one-game playoff since divisional play began in 1969, and the visiting team (New York in 1978 and Houston over the Dodgers in 1980) has won both games.
If the Angels defeat the Mariners today, Jim Abbott would start Game 1 of the American League divisional series against the Yankees in New York Tuesday night. An Angel victory today would also mean the Angels would face, in three consecutive days, probable 1995 Cy Young Award winner Randy Johnson, 1994 Cy Young winner David Cone and 1993 Cy Young winner Jack McDowell.