Opening Day, April 1, 2013 is 31 days away. There have been one hundred walk off home runs in Angels history. This is the story of #31, an eleventh inning walk off home run hit after Nolan Ryan had shut out the Twins for ten innings.
April 13, 1978 - This is one of only two games that the Angels won with a walk off home run with the score tied 0-0. Nolan Ryan made a living as an Angels pitcher with little offensive support and this game was typical. He pitched ten innings, allowed four hits, walked four and struck out twelve of Gene Mauch's Twins.
Meanwhile the Dave Garcia-managed Angels managed seven hits, six of them singles, and four walks in ten innings.
On paper this was as far form a pitching duel as could be imagined. You had Nolan Ryan at the peak of his game opposing Minnesota starter Paul Thormodsgard in a season where he had a 5.05 ERA in 12 starts amounting to 66 Innings Pitched, had an ERA+ of 77 and a -0.3 WAR (that is negative point zero three), he held the Angels scoreless in their own ballpark for 6.1 innings.
Somehow, some way, it seemed that punchless starts like this followed Ryan around his entire Angels career.
Reliever Dave LaRoche pitched a scoreless top of the eleventh and the man who had relieved Thormodsgard, Tom Johnson came back out, having continued the scoreless draught. He got Lyman Bostock to ground out to start the inning and then faced the 0 for 4 Joe Rudi. The Left Fielder had been one of the big free agent signings of Gene Autry, intended to bring an offense to the vaunted Angels pitching staff.
This AB saw those intentions rewarded. Joe Rudi hit a walk off home run in that at bat, an extra-inning tie-breaking game-ending round tripper. Final Score: Angels 1, Twins 0.