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1979 Angels Week 6: The offense is back, but a losing week

California Angles v Baltimore Orioles

The 1979 Angels got back to their high-scoring ways, but still suffered a losing record in a wild and scary week for the team. The team lost a series in Boston then split in New York, finishing up a 3-6 road trip.

The good

Don Baylor was on fire, hitting .500 (12-for-26) with six straight multi-hit games to end his week, including a three-run home run Friday in the series opener in New York. The Angels designated hitter followed up his American League-record 28 RBI in April with seven RBI so far in May, giving him 35 in 34 games this season.

Brian Downing had either a run scored or RBI, or both, in all seven games, hitting .429 (12-for-28) with three home run.

Twins manager Gene Mauch called Downing the most improved player in the American League (The Sporting News, May 26, 1979), adding, “I wasn’t too high on his hitting or catching, but I’ve always been high on his enthusiasm.”

The Angels nearly had a winning record for the week in the most improbable fashion. Down 12-3 in the ninth inning, the club had six straight hits to score four runs off Dick Tidrow with nobody out. Ken Clay entered in relief for the Yankees, and Willie Aikens greeted him with a three-run home run to cut the deficit to 12-10. Aikens is hitting .316/.384/.592 with six home runs and 22 RBI in only 21 games this season.

But this only added fuel for the future fire of announcers calling home runs rally killers, as Clay retired the next three batters in a row to end the Angels’ threat, and the game.

The bad

Nolan Ryan was roughed up Monday night in Boston, knocked out in first inning and allowing six runs in a loss to the Red Sox. But that was nothing compared to two nights later, when his wife called during the game at Fenway Park.

Their son Reid was hit by a car, suffering a broken leg and internal injuries. Ryan flew back as soon as he could to Anaheim. From ‘Nolan Ryan: The Making of a Pitcher’ by Rob Goldman:

“Surgeons found that Reid’s floating rib had severed his spleen and part of a kidney ... His injuries were so severe that Reid would be in a body cast for at least three months. For that entire period, which Ryan calls the low point of his career with the Angels, he didn’t depart for road trips until the night before he pitched.”

The postscript for Reid Ryan is that he did get better, and ultimately carved out a long career as an executive in baseball. He’s currently an executive advisor in business relations with the Astros.

Jim Barr stepped in for Ryan on Thursday in New York, and pitched a complete game to beat the Yankees. So far this year, Barr has allowed two total runs in two starts and 17⅔ innings against New York, and has given up 14 runs in 19⅔ innings in his other seven games, all relief appearances.

Weekly summary

3-4 record
46 runs scored (6.57 per game)
42 runs allowed (6.00 per game)
.542 pythagorean record

Year-to-date summary

19-15 record
194 runs scored (5.71 per game)
160 runs allowed (4.71 per game)
.587 pythagorean record

AL West standing: t-2nd place, 4½ games back of Minnesota

Game results

Up next

The Angels return home, facing the Brewers on Tuesday night, followed by a weekend series against the White Sox.