Opening Day, April 1, 2013 is 46 days away. There have been one hundred walk off home runs in Angels history. This is the story of #46, a complete game, 10-inning Win for Kirk McCaskill courtesy of a blast by Brian Downing.
July 23, 1986 - The lineups for each team in this game comprise at least eight men apiece that would make a list of the top sixty or so players for each franchise. Milwaukee's lineup reads like a who's who of Brewers history: Paul Molitor leading off, Robin Yount, Cecil Cooper, Gorman Thomas and Ben Oglivie batting fifth. Ernest Riles, Rob Deer, Jim Gantner and Bill Schroeder followed.
Incidentally, Schroeder had a few good season as a backup catcher for the Angels in 198 and 90.
Meanwhile, other than Ruppert Jones batting lead off, the Angels lineup is replete with their all-time greats: Gary Pettis, Wally Joyner batting third, Reggie Jackson hitting cleanup, Doug DeCinces, Brian Downing, Bobby Grich, Dick Schofield hitting eighth and Bob Boone catching in the #9 spot.
But baseball is a funny game. On a night where no regulars had the game off, these two legendary lineups managed two runs apiece through nine innings. Danny Darwin started for the Brewers. They would trade him to the Astros in August and he would pitch reliably for another twelve seasons, leading baseball with a 2.21 ERA for Houston in 1990.
But wherever there is a tale of undervaluing a player in baseball, there is a tale of overvaluing one and Darwin's opponent on the mound was Angels hurler Kirk McCaskill. Seen by some as a co-ace to Mike Witt, McCaskill had more bad seasons with the Angels than good but was always held in such high regard that he never got traded. McCaskill's 1986 was a breakout year, with a 3.39 ERA and 3.9 WAR... but this was his peak, and it didn't translate to the postseason where he lost TWO ALCS games to Boston, accruing a 7.71 ERA in 9.1 IP in two starts. His 1987 and 88 were terrible, but a bunceback 1989 (ERA+ of 130, 4.3 WAR) gave him amazing trade value. Two seasons later he was still an Angels and lost 19 games for the team before leaving for free agency.
On this night, though, McCaskill pitched into the tenth inning of the 2-2 ballgame, striking out twelve and scattering seven hits. He struck out Gorman Thomas to end the tenth and Milwaukee skipper George Bamberger let Darwin back to match the feat.
But McCaskill would not be matched as the first batter of the bottom of the tenth inning was Brian Downing, who would deposit a pitch over the wall for an extra inning walk off solo home run. Final Score: Angels 3, Brewers 2 ... and the winning pitcher with a complete ten-inning game: Kirk McCaskill.