Angels Staggering After a Marathon

Times Staff Writer

What began Sunday as a pitcher’s duel between two of baseball’s better right-handers, Kelvim Escobar of the Angels and Matt Clement of the Chicago Cubs, ended five hours and 15 innings later, with shadows enveloping the Angel Stadium infield, and two obscure relievers going toe to toe.

It was John Leicester, a 25-year-old right-hander who was recalled by the Cubs from triple-A Iowa on June 6 and was making his second big league appearance, against Matt Hensley, a 25-year-old right-hander who was recalled by the Angels from triple-A Salt Lake on June 5 and was pitching in his fourth major league game.

Hensley blinked first, giving up a run-scoring single to Todd Walker in the top of the 15th, and Leicester, the eighth Chicago pitcher and last man standing in the Cub bullpen, blanked the Angels in the bottom of the 15th for his third scoreless inning, as Chicago pulled out a 6-5 interleague victory before a sellout crowd of 43,812.


When Cub right fielder Todd Hollandsworth hauled in Robb Quinlan’s fly ball for the final out, it ended a 5-hour 8-minute affair in which 13 pitchers combined to throw 499 pitches.

It also ended a 12-game homestand in which the Angels went 5-7, and a brutal 18-game stretch in which the Angels went 6-12 since May 24 and dropped six games to the Oakland Athletics in the American League West, going from 3 1/2 games ahead to 2 1/2 games behind.

“It’s never fun to lose when you put that level of effort out there, but we won’t be deterred,” Manager Mike Scioscia said. “We’ve managed to keep our heads above water ... but we’re a little disappointed with how the last week to 10 days went.”

Sunday merely compounded their frustration. The Angels erased a 4-1 deficit with three runs in the eighth, a rally that included Vladimir Guerrero’s run-scoring single and Garret Anderson’s two-run homer, and they counter-punched with another run in the bottom of the 11th after the Cubs scored.

But the Angels managed only one single in three innings against Leicester, while Hensley, a closer at Salt Lake this season and a starter at Salt Lake last season, might have tired in his four-inning, 58-pitch outing.

Derrek Lee, who had a career-high five hits and knocked in two runs, opened the 15th with a single, and Corey Patterson beat out a bunt single. After a force at third and a strikeout, Walker singled to right, scoring Patterson with the winning run.


“It was a roller-coaster ride,” Walker said. “We didn’t get too down. We hung in there. We gutted it out.”

There were similar sentiments in the Angel clubhouse, where Scioscia praised Hensley for “giving us a chance, even though he was about out of gas,” but the disappointment of the loss obscured some of those efforts.

“We don’t care how long it takes, but the tough part is going that long and not coming away with a win,” Scioscia said. “We did a lot of good things. Some things fell through the cracks.”

Like Chicago third baseman Aramis Ramirez’s eighth-inning fly ball to right field that Guerrero, despite wearing flip-down sunglasses, lost in the sun, a double that keyed the Cubs’ two-run rally and ended Scot Shields’ scoreless streak at 22 innings, the longest in the major leagues by a reliever this season.

But the Angels rallied to tie the game in the bottom of the eighth, and the teams traded runs during a wacky 11th. Angel reliever Ramon Ortiz nearly pitched his way out of a first-and-third, no-out jam by retiring pinch-hitter Tom Goodwin on a comebacker and striking out Jose Macias with a nasty slider.

Walker was walked intentionally so Ortiz could face right-handed Michael Barrett, who hit a hard grounder up the middle. Chone Figgins, who moved from third base to second in the ninth, made a back-hand sliding catch at the edge of the outfield grass and flipped a hook-shot-like pass to shortstop Alfredo Amezaga.


But umpire Bill Miller ruled -- correctly, as replays confirmed -- that Walker beat the force, and Lee scored for a 5-4 Cub lead.

Chicago closer LaTroy Hawkins couldn’t hold it, though, as Guerrero fisted an RBI single to center with two out, scoring Quinlan.

Hollandsworth helped preserve the tie when he made a leaping catch of Casey Kotchman’s long, two-out drive in the 12th inning before crashing into the wall.