Angel Great Brian Downing
Counting Down to Opening Day, We Are Counting Down The 100 Walkoff Homers in Angels History. #60 happened in July of 1990...
Opening Day, April 1, 2013 is 60 days away. There have been one hundred walk off home runs in Angels history. This is the story of #60...
July 14, 1990 - Manager Doug Rader made out the lineup card to maximize the power of his Angels. It would have been difficult for anyone to predict exactly how much power appeared on this night! Bert Blyleven started and left after 5 IP with a 3-1 lead. He had given up that run with two outs in the top of the fifth. Dante Bichette and Dave Winfield had each homered earlier in the game along with a first inning Donnie Hill single off Blue Jays Starter John Cerutti.
Scott Bailes replaced Bert Blyleven and quickly allowed it to become a 3-2 ballgame. Willie Fraser put out the fire but in the seventh he allowed the Jays to tie it on a Fred McGriff Double that scored Kelly Gruber. Cliff Young was brought in to relieve Fraser and allowed a John Olerud double to score McGriff - making the score 4-3 in favor of Toronto at the seventh inning stretch.
In the bottom of the inning, Dave Winfield hit his second home run of the game - it scored Donnie Hill who had walked and chased Frank Wills from the mound. Duane Ward struck out Lance Parrish but then gave up back to back solo homeruns to Brian Downing and Dante Bichette. Two Angels had hit two home runs apiece in the game and it was 7-4 Angels after seven.
Cliff Young allowed a run in the top of the eighth and Doug Rader wasted no time bringing in his closer with a two-run lead. Bryan Harvey allowed an inherited baserunner to score and it was 7-6 in favor of the Angels going into the bottom of the eighth. With two outs and a man on 2B in the bottom of the frame, Dave Winfield missed a chance at hitting his third home run when he struck out swinging.
Bryan Harvey was cruising on the way to a Save, striking out Olerud to open the top of the ninth. But five baters later the game was tied 7-7 and the bases were loaded. Enter Mark Eichhorn to get a harmless flyball off the bat of Kelly Gruber.
The game had featured two Angels hitting two home runs and two Angels relievers blowing Save opportunities. When Lance Parrish stuck out to open the bottom of the ninth. Brian Downing was up next with a chance to hit his second homer of the game and Dante Bichette was on deck with a chance to hit his third round-tripper of the night.
Duane Ward had pitched 2.1 innings and was over 50 pitches but Cito Gaston left him in the game and his third pitch to Brian Downing was hit deep into the Left Field family section to win the game 8-7 in nine innings. Three Angels had hit two home runs each and the final one of the night was Brian Downing's then-record FIFTH walk off home run for the team.
The Angels let Downing go after the season ended, unceremoniously, after thirteen great seasons. He put up monster numbers in Texas for two more years (OPS + over 130 both years) at age 40 and 41. It was disgusting to see an Angels great swept away by the club management. His final hit as a Ranegr was late in the 1992 season. He singled in an afternoon game against the Angels in Anaheim and walked off the base, announcing his retirement, having gotten his last hit at the stadium he truly considered home. He returned in the summer of 2009 to be inducted into the Angels Hall of Fame.