ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- You won’t find it reflected in the box score, but the most memorable play of Thursday’s Angel victory was made by Manager Mike Scioscia. For a few moments, the manager stood his ground between his designated hitter and the umpire who threw him out of the game, risking great bodily harm to save Brad Fullmer from a possible suspension.
Fullmer, who might be the most diligent weightlifter in baseball, was an onrushing mass of anger, arms bulging and eyes popping and unkind words spewing from his mouth. Scioscia held him off, somehow, with what he figured later was his best block since high school football.
“A fullback named Hunter,” Scioscia said, “playing for St. Mark’s, in 1975. He was about 6-4, 230.... He carried me for about three yards, but I got him down.”
Scioscia got the unofficial save and Brendan Donnelly the official one in a 2-1 victory over the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, before a meager crowd of 8,876 beneath the dreary dome of Tropicana Field.
Jarrod Washburn, running on empty most of the evening, nonetheless carried a shutout into the seventh inning, with Ben Weber rescuing Washburn in the seventh and Scott Schoeneweis and Donnelly rescuing Weber in the eighth.
Donnelly worked the ninth too, for his first save as understudy to injured closer Troy Percival. Donnelly started the ninth inning with a walk, then retired the final three hitters on a pop fly and two strikeouts.
As Donnelly spoke with reporters after the game, Percival leaned in and joked, “Tell ‘em who taught you how to walk the leadoff guy and put the tying run on.”
Washburn gave up four hits, walked three, hit two and said “I was gassed” after only 95 pitches. His final pitch hit Tampa Bay’s Julio Lugo in the helmet; Lugo was unhurt.
“I don’t know what arduous means,” Washburn said, “but that wasn’t easy.”
For the first time since May 8, the Angels scored in the first inning. David Eckstein and Jeff DaVanon opening the game with back-to-back singles, for DaVanon the first of three hits. After a balk, wild pitch, error and a single by Garret Anderson, the Angels led, 2-0, four batters into the game.
In the sixth inning, with Fullmer on second base and Scott Spiezio on first, Bengie Molina singled to center field. As Tampa Bay catcher Toby Hall blocked home plate, Fullmer slid around him, reaching back to try to tag the plate with his left hand.
Hall said he thought Fullmer got his shin guard. Fullmer said he thought Hall stepped on his hand. “His foot was on my hand, which was on the plate,” Fullmer said.
Umpire Charlie Reliford ruled that Fullmer never touched the plate, making no call at first and calling him out only after he finished his slide and Hall tagged him. Fullmer leaped up, spiked his helmet in anger and was immediately ejected.
“His helmet almost bounced up and hit him in the head,” hitting coach Mickey Hatcher said. “He would have been the first guy to knock himself out.”
Said Fullmer: “It wasn’t my intention to have my helmet go flying. Whatever.”
After the game, Reliford declined to comment. Fullmer said he did not utter any foul language until Scioscia hustled onto the field to protest the ejection. At that point, Fullmer said he realized he had not only been called out but thrown out too.
“That’s when I lost it,” he said. “I’ve never been thrown out of a game.”
He charged onto the field, screaming and pointing. Scioscia valiantly restrained him -- alone for far too many moments -- before coaches Joe Maddon and Ron Roenicke finally showed up to help.
The ejection carries an automatic fine, but Scioscia saved Fullmer from making contact with an umpire, which carries an automatic suspension.
“I was just trying to hold him off,” Scioscia said, “until six or seven guys could come and we could tackle him.”