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1979 Angels Week 23: Comeback kings

Late offense keys 6 wins in 7 games for the Angels, now up 4 games in the AL West

California Angels v Baltimore Orioles Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images

After a few weeks of slumping, tightening the race in the American League West, the 1979 California Angels offense powered them to six wins in seven games last week over the White Sox and Brewers, creating some distance in the divisional race.

After five straight losses to drop the Angels a half-game out of first place on August 30, they’ve won nine of their last 10, opening up a four-game lead over Kansas City.

Right fielder Dan Ford was in the middle of everything last week, driving in 11 runs while hitting .423/.407/.769 with two home runs, three doubles, and seven runs scored. The Angels averaged over six and a half runs per game for the week.

Four of the Angels’ six wins last week came with game-deciding runs in the seventh inning or later:

  • Three runs in the seventh inning Wednesday against Chicago, erasing a 7-6 deficit. Merv Rettenmund’s pinch-hit, two-run single, his first hit in five weeks, won it.
  • Tiebreaking run in the eighth on Thursday
  • Three runs in the seventh Friday against Milwaukee, breaking a tie with a two-run home run by Ford
  • Three runs in the eighth inning Saturday, erasing a 2-0 deficit, an extended rally that included four singles, two walks, and a wild pitch. Ford singled home the tying run, and Don Baylor had the game-winner.

The Angels were so used to scoring late that when a go-ahead run was disallowed on Thursday against Chicago they played the game under protest. In a wild, 9-9 game with the bases loaded and one out in the seventh inning, Rick Miller collided with shortstop Greg Pryor on a ground ball from Carney Lansford. Umpires ruled interference on Miller, negating Bobby Clark scoring on the play.

The protest was moot one inning later when the Angels found a different way to score the winning run. Baylor singled, his second hit of the game, and scored on a double by Dickie Thon.

New Angels closer John Montague, acquired from the Mariners for a player to be named later on August 29, was the beneficiary of that late offense. He blew saves on Wednesday and Thursday, though the latter was a three-inning outing in which he allowed only one unearned run, but still picked up wins in both games. Montague also saved three more games, posting a 2.84 ERA ERA for the week.

Montague has pitched eight times in 11 days since getting acquired from Seattle.

Pitchers getting healthy

Frank Tanana on Tuesday made his first start since June 10 after missing three months with shoulder tendinitis. He allowed two runs and struck out two, but was on a pitch count, leaving after four innings. “It was a strange feeling,” Tanana told the San Bernardino County Sun (1). “It had been a long time. I expected more, but looking at things in the proper perspective, it was alright.”

The runs came early in that game for the Angels, who opened up a 7-2 lead after two innings, only to see the White Sox storm back with a 19-hit attack, including six extra-base hits in a 10-7 win, the Halos’ only loss of the week.

Tanana pitched into the sixth inning Sunday against Milwaukee, allowing only one run to earn the victory.

Nolan Ryan on Monday allowed five runs for a fifth consecutive start, walking six, but still picked up the win. There where positive signs though, as he battles back from an elbow strain.

“Today is the first day I didn’t have to worry about my arm,” Ryan told reporters (2). “It felt the way it should be feeling. No doubt about it, it’s getting better all the time. I’ve got more velocity (on the fastball) and better snap on the curve.”

Ryan and his healthier arm recovered Friday with a win over the Brewers, pitching his first complete game in two months.

Weekly summary

6-1 record
46 runs scored (6.57 per game)
39 runs allowed (5.57 per game)
.575 pythagorean record

Year-to-date summary

80-64 record
786 runs scored (5.46 per game)
676 runs allowed (4.69 per game)
.569 pythagorean record (82-62)

AL West standing: 1st place, 4 games up on Kansas City
Magic number to clinch division: 16

Game results

Up next

The Angels head out on the road, starting a road trip with two games in Chicago and three next weekend in Milwaukee.

  1. “Angels waste time, lead in 10-7 loss,” by Steve Dilbeck. San Bernardino Sun, September 5, 1979.
  2. “Baylor and Ryan power Angels past Sox,” United Press International. Tulare Advance-Register, September 4, 1979.