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1979 Angels Week 26: Clinching the first division title

AL West champs in playoffs for first time in 19 years as a franchise

Kansas City Royals v California Angels Photo by Bruce Bennett Studios via Getty Images Studios/Getty Images

For the first time in 19 seasons, the California Angels are in the postseason. They clinched the 1979 American League West division thanks to consecutive home wins over the Royals on Monday and Tuesday of the season’s final week.

Nolan Ryan overcame three unearned runs early to beat Kansas City, 4-3 on Monday. Then on Tuesday, catcher Brian Downing had three singles, scoring one run and driving in two more in a 4-1 victory that game the Angels an insurmountable five-game divisional lead with only four left to play.

That the clincher was finished off by Frank Tanana was a sweet moment for the left-hander, who missed three months this year with a shoulder injury. After averaging 210 strikeouts and 259 innings in his first five full seasons, including three All-Star nods, Tanana entered Tuesday with a 4.20 ERA in 1979, with only one outing longer than seven innings in his first 16 starts.

But he retired the first 10 batters faced against the Royals and allowed only five singles and a hit batter in the complete-game win. Tanana covered first base on the division-winning ground out in the ninth.

“There’s nothing worse than to see your friends and teammates bust their tail and not be able to help them,” Tanana told the Los Angeles Times (1). “That’s why this is just unbelievable, such a great feeling. Not just be able to come back but to be able to come back and help.”

Sunday’s win on the road in Texas gave the Angels a franchise-record 88 wins, one of a few milestones set by the team in 1979:

Weekly summary

3-3 record
22 runs scored (3.67 per game)
24 runs allowed (4.00 per game)
.500 pythagorean record

Year-to-date summary

88-74 record
866 runs scored (5.35 per game)
768 runs allowed (4.74 per game)
.555 pythagorean record (90-72)

AL West final standing: 1st place, 3 games up on Kansas City

Game results

Up next

The Angels open the American League Championship Series on Wednesday against the 102-win Orioles in Baltimore.

  1. “Angels hit jackpot gambling in Vegas,” by Ross Newhan. Los Angeles Times, September 26, 1979.