Opening Day, April 1, 2013 is 38 days away. There have been one hundred walk off home runs in Angels history. This is the story of Walk Off Home Run #38, a Don Baylor extra inning blast off of a closer who led the rival Royals to many a victory.
June 26, 1982 - This Saturday night game was the third of four in a pivotal series against the division rival Kansas City Royals. They had lost on a two-run home run by Hal McRae in the top of the tenth inning on Friday night and their division lead was down to .5 - a half game lead in the west over Kansas City.
After starter Steve Renko surrendered four earned runs in 4.1 innings, Andy Hasler pitched 6.1 innings of scoreless relief. The Angels pecked away at the 4-1 lead. Bob Boone singled Fred Lynn home from 2B with one out in the bottom of the ninth inning to tie the score at four apiece.
In extras , Ken Forsch relieved Hassler in the top of the eleventh inning with two on and two out. He got last night's hero, McRae, to ground out and end the threat. Forsch was not so lucky in the top of the twelfth, giving up two base hits and then a run-scoring single to Jamie Quirk to make the game 5-4 in favor of the Royals.
With a one-run lead, manager Dick Howser brought in his closer, Dan Quisenberry. Over the years Quiz would compile a career 2.81 ERA in 43 games against the Angels, allowing 69 hits in 73+ IP. On this night Rod Carew led off the bottom of the twelfth with one of those hits, a single, his first hit of the night but with two walks, his third time on base. Angels skipper did what he did best - he called for a bunt - yes, he had the ever-reliable Bobby Grich, the number three hitter in the lineup, bunt Carew over. Grich did so successfully. With one out and a man on 2B, Quisenberry elected to pitch to Don Baylor, the cleanup hitter. Baylor hit a two-run come form behind extra inning walk off home run to make the Royals' closer the losing pitcher of the night, to make the Angels winners by a score of 6-5 and to gain a full game in the standings.
The Angels went on to win the American League West that year. They would fall back into second place in July, but never by more than two games and they would take the division lead back, but it as a back and forth tug with Kansas City all season. On September 17 they were two games back, but a five game winning streak gave them a three game lead in the division and they coasted to the playoffs after a dog fight of a summer.