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1979 Angels Week 25: Divisional showdown with the Royals

After opening rout in KC, Angels rebound to maintain AL West lead

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

The Angels back in 1979 held their destiny in their own hands, facing the second-place Royals for the first of two series down the stretch to decide the American League West.

California held the advantage, entering the first series in Kansas City ahead by three games, facing a Royals team that won the division in each of the previous three seasons. But things did not start well for the Angels, who were drubbed, 16-4 in Monday’s series opener.

“The season’s not lost because of one ballgame,” Don Baylor said, per the San Bernardino Sun (1). “We’ve still got three more to go.”

Chris Knapp got shelled for six runs in just 4⅓ innings in that Monday loss, but recovered Saturday with a complete-game win over the Rangers at home. Angels starters after Monday had a 2.40 ERA and lasted at least seven innings in five of the next six games.

One of those was Tuesday, when Dave Frost was given enough rope to pitch into the ninth inning despite allowing nine singles and four doubles. Frost held a 6-2 lead entering the final frame and was pulled after three hits brought Kansas City to within two runs.

From the Los Angeles Times game recap (2):

“As long as he was getting ‘em out, he was staying out there,” Fregosi said happily after Frost and the Angels had beaten the Royals, 6-4, ending a three-game losing streak and taking back their three-game lead in the American League West.

Was there any limit to the number of pitches he’d have let Frost throw? “As a matter of fact,” Fregosi said, “no.”

John Montague closed out the win by recording the final two outs, and the Angels were able to win two of the final three games in Kansas City. They left the city with the same lead they started with — three games — and kept it through the weekend, thanks to taking two of three from Texas at home.

Frost’s 13 hits remain the most allowed by a winning Angels pitcher to this day, matched by Nolan Ryan in 1973 and Bruce Kison in 1983. Frost also pitched a complete-game win Sunday against Texas, allowing only a run.

Let’s go to the tape

Players and teams will find motivation wherever they can get it, even if it’s from a relatively tame comment from Royals owner Ewing Kauffman before the finale in Kansas City. From the Associated Press (3):

Grich said the team listened to a taped interview obtained by one of the Angel entourage in which Kauffman said, if the Royals did not win the American League West Division he hoped the Minnesota Twins would. In a taped response, Angel owner Gene Autry was heard saying he would support whichever Western Division team advanced to the American League playoffs.

“Gene Autry showed a little more class than Kauffman,” said Grich, who hit a two-run home run as the Angels regained a three-game lead over Kauffman’s three-time defending champions.

Bobby Grich homered in the series finale in Kansas City, then homered again Saturday at home against the Rangers, and was 9-for-26 (.346/.414/.654) with four extra-base hits and five RBI during the week. Grich has 30 home runs for the first time in his career, 11 more than his previous best, set five years ago with Baltimore.

Injuries mount

Rookie Willie Aikens homered Monday and doubled Tuesday, but tore a ligament in his left knee, knocking him out for the rest of the season. One day later, outfielder Dan Ford went down with a rib injury, and is day to day.

Before Thursday’s game the Angels sent cash to the White Sox for 33-year-old former batting champion Ralph Garr, who started at designated hitter the final four games of the week. Garr singled in his second at-bat with his new team but was just 1-for-17 during the week.

Larry Harlow got some fill-in starts in right field for Dan Ford last week and went 7-for-20 (.350), including a four-hit game in Thursday’s win over the Royals.

Weekly summary

4-3 record
35 runs scored (5.00 per game)
37 runs allowed (5.29 per game)
.475 pythagorean record

Year-to-date summary

85-71 record
844 runs scored (5.41 per game)
744 runs allowed (4.77 per game)
.557 pythagorean record (87-69)

AL West standing: 1st place, 3 games up on Kansas City
Magic number to clinch division: 4

Game results

Up next

The Angels finish off the regular season with a chance to clinch their first division title at home, hosting second-place Kansas City for three games before heading on the road to face Texas next weekend.

  1. “Round 1 is a KO as Royals pummel Angels, 16-4,” by Steve Dilbeck. The San Bernardino County Sun, September 18, 1979.
  2. “Angels go 3 ahead on Frost’s 13-hitter,” by Mark Heisler. Los Angeles Times, September 19, 1979.
  3. “Angered Angels shell Royals for three-game lead,” Associated Press. Escondido Times-Advocate, September 21, 1979.