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1979 Angels Week 15: Walk-offs, a near no-hitter, and first place

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Nolan Ryan, Bobby Grich & the Angels head to the break in first place

MLB Photos Archive Photo by Louis Requena/MLB via Getty Images

The Angels breezed into the 1979 All-Star break on fire, thanks to taking five of six games against the Red Sox and Yankees, and surged into first place in the American League West.

It finished off a 10-3 homestand that included series wins against the top two teams in the American League East (Baltimore and Boston). The weekend sweep of the Yankees to head into the break ended with two walk-off wins.

The walk-off win, on Saturday, had two heroes. The first was Don Baylor, whose three-run home run with two outs in the ninth inning off Goose Gossage sent the game into extras. Baylor heads into the break hitting .299/.383/.551 with a major league-best 85 runs batted in and 23 home runs, just one off the American League lead.

In the 12th inning, 36-year-old Merv Rettenmund, getting his first start in two weeks, singled home Brian Downing, who doubled, for the walk-off win. Rettenmund started Saturday and Sunday, collecting five hits.

On Sunday it was Bobby Grich who almost singlehandedly fueled a comeback against the mighty Ron Guidry. The Yankees left-hander, who won the AL Cy Young Award last year with 25 wins and a 1.74 ERA, was at 2.51 entering Sunday, and up 4-0 after just two innings.

Grich singled home a run in the third inning, then doubled home two in the seventh to get the Angels to within one. With two outs in the ninth inning, Tom Donohue on first, and Guidry still on the mound, Grich homered to right, driving in all five runs in the stunning Angels victory.

“That was the biggest thrill of my life, just unbelievable,” Grich said of the extended ovation, per Murray Chass in the New York Times.

Center fielder Rick Miller returned after missing over five weeks with a broken hand, and came back swinging. He had a hit in every game last week, going 11-for-21 (.524) with a triple and three walks, raising his batting average from .271 to .298 in just six games.

Another near no-no

Nolan Ryan was fantastic last week, striking out 12 in a shutout win over the Red Sox on Monday. Then on Friday, he came within two outs of a record fifth no-hitter against the Yankees.

Reggie Jackson singled to center field with one out in the ninth inning, and a Lou Piniella sacrifice fly brought home an unearned run, preventing Ryan from getting back-to-back shutouts. Chris Chambliss struck out to end the game, Ryan’s ninth strikeout of the game.

The Angels ace enters the break 12-6 with a 2.54 ERA, and a major league-best 160 strikeouts.

Weekly summary

5-1 record
32 runs scored (5.33 per game)
24 runs allowed (4.00 per game)
.629 pythagorean record

Year-to-date summary

55-38 record
523 runs scored (5.62 per game)
418 runs allowed (4.49 per game)
.601 pythagorean record (56-37)

AL West standing: 1st place, two games up on Texas

Game results

Up next

The All-Star Game Tuesday in Seattle has a slew of Angels, including Don Baylor and Nolan Ryan in the American League starting lineup. Once the real games start up again, the Angels four games in Baltimore, including a doubleheader Thursday that features a make up of a May rainout, followed by a quick series at Fenway Park starting Sunday in Boston.