Nostalgia buffs that they are, the Angels would like nothing better than to see the American League West begin to resemble old times.
Those were the days when the Angels enjoyed a somewhat comfortable lead in the division. The second-place Texas Rangers showed signs of disappearing quietly into the far reaches of the standings, while the Angels seemed prepared to assert themselves.
The date was July 28, the lead was four games and ready to climb.
Now the Angels struggle for everything.
Thursday evening was no exception. It took the Angels 11 innings and nearly 4 hours to dispose of the Seattle Mariners, 4-3.
Jack Howell did the honors. Howell, a late-inning replacement for Brian Downing in left field, homered off Mariner reliever Pete Ladd to begin the 11th, and he did that only after dodging one pitch aimed at his ribs and another headed for his feet.
Earlier, Howell scored the Angels' tying run in the bottom of the ninth.
"I thought I hit the ball well, but I wasn't sure, especially when I saw (right-fielder Dave) Henderson getting ready to jump," Howell said of his game-winning home run. "I saw Ruppert Jones and Reggie Jackson hit a few long fly balls for outs."
The Angel victory provided some temporary peace of mind. They had lost four of their previous five games and had seen their lead over the Rangers shrink to 1 1/2 games.
And as they went into extra innings, the Angels had the added burden of knowing the Rangers had beaten Baltimore earlier Thursday evening. Their lead could have become a half-game, and then who knows what would have happened?
Instead, the Angels received heroics from Howell, a reprieve and two innings of sharp work from Donnie Moore, who earned the win after taking over for starter Kirk McCaskill.
Howell knows about reprieves. Despite his good deeds, he nearly cost the Angels the game with a fielding gaffe in the 11th.
With a man on first base and one out, Bob Kearney hit a fly ball to left. Howell, normally a third baseman who has played left field only six times this season, started back on the ball. By the time he realized his mistake, Kearney was on first with a gift-wrapped single.
Howell was spared further embarrassment when Spike Owen grounded into a double play to end the inning.
"If that ball Kearney hit is over his head, it would have been a nice catch because he got a hell of a jump on it," Manager Gene Mauch said. "Everyone was joking about it in the dugout. After the double play, it was funnier than hell."
An Anaheim Stadium crowd of 27,970 watched the Angels waste a 2-0 first-inning lead and then several scoring opportunities throughout the game. When it was over, the Angels had left 11 men on base.
Only a ninth-inning rally allowed the Angels to tie the game.
Pinch-hitter George Hendrick singled home Howell to even the score with one out. Howell, batting for catcher Bob Boone, had doubled off the center-field wall to begin the inning.
And the Angels even had a chance to win it right there. But Brian Downing grounded to Ladd to end the rally with runners on first and second.
The Mariners had taken a 3-2 lead in the top of the ninth when Henderson homered to left. Henderson, a late replacement for Danny Tartabull, hit the home run off McCaskill.
The Angels began the game as if they held a grudge after the Mariners' recent series win in Seattle. Mariner starter Mike Moore had himself to blame.
First, he walked Gary Pettis, which wouldn't have been so bad except that Reggie Jackson, who found himself in the No. 2 spot in the order, promptly lined a double off the left-field wall. Pettis moved to third.
Doug DeCinces walked to load the bases but not before pulling a ball just inside left-field foul pole. Wally Joyner, playing on a sore right foot, earned his 77th run batted in simply by watching four consecutive balls from Moore. Pettis scored, and the Angels seemed well on their way to a big inning.
But after Jackson scored on Downing's sacrifice fly to center field, increasing the lead to 2-0, Moore struck out the slumping Ruppert Jones (4 for his last 53, .075) and Bobby Grich to end the inning.
McCaskill didn't seem to mind. He allowed a first-inning single by Phil Bradley, but that's no sin, considering that Bradley entered the game with a .353 average against the Angels this season. Bradley later ended the inning when he was thrown out trying to steal second.
The Mariners went quietly in the second, too, as well as in the third.
The fourth was different. John Moses singled off Grich's glove to begin the inning and stole second a few moments later. Bradley followed, and although he didn't get a hit, he did the next best thing by moving Moses to third with a ground ball to Grich at second. Jim Presley lined a fly ball to center, which was deep enough to score Moses and cut the Angel lead to 2-1.