CLEVELAND — The Angels have been slipped an exploding cigar and a dribble glass more than once over the years at Municipal Stadium, and into the wee hours of Wednesday night, those nutty Cleveland Indians were at it again.
For 14 innings and nearly five hours of baseball, the Angels were subjected to the Big Tease. Every time the Angels inched closer to their 80th victory, the Indians kept ripping the carpet from under their feet.
You want the game? Here, take it.
No . . . not quite so fast.
For once, the Angels could savor the final laugh as they managed to outlast the Indians, 7-6, in the bottom of the 14th. But not before:
--Doug DeCinces broke a 4-4 tie in the 12th inning with a two-run home run, only to have Cleveland rebound with two runs in the bottom of the 12th, one on a controversial call.
--Rookie Mark Ryal broke a 6-6 tie in the top of the 14th with a single to left, bringing home Darrell Miller.
--Cleveland's Julio Franco opened the bottom of the 14th with a double.
--Angel reliever Chuck Finley struck out Joe Carter and Fran Mullins, only to have his catcher, Miller, drop the third strike and sky his throw to first base. Wally Joyner made like Air Joyner to flag down the ball and touch the base for the second out.
--Franco took third on a wild pitch by Finley.
--Cleveland's final hitter, Cory Snyder, waved at an apparent strike three, bringing some happy Angels out of the dugout. Wait a minute, said plate umpire Tim Tschida. Snyder tipped the ball foul. Game's not over yet.
So Finley trudged back to the mound, sighed, and heaved one more strike. Snyder swung at the ball. Miller caught the ball. Miller then looked back at Tschida.
Tschida clenched his fist. It was over.
Yes, the Angels had finally won--keeping their first-place lead in the AL West at 8 1/2 games.
Manager Gene Mauch, who used an Angel-record 25 players in the team's fourth straight victory, looked more exhausted than any of those players.
"Ain't nothing free here," Mauch said. "A bunch of hard-working guys--a whole bunch of 'em--got what they deserved."
It took a while, however, to ascertain that. Wednesday's false ending reminded Mauch of the last time he left the dugout, thinking his team had won a game it really hadn't. It was July 25 in Boston, when Rick Burleson dropped an infield pop fly to prolong a game that eventually went to the Red Sox, 8-7.
"Yes," Mauch said, "that game in Boston went through my mind."
Tschida's foul-tip call stopped Mauch in his tracks. Miller insisted the game was over.
"I didn't hear a tip," Miller said. "Maybe (Tschida) heard the whoosh of the bat."
Finley simply shrugged.
"I done beat him once," Finley said of Snyder in a soft Louisiana drawl. "It's better to beat him twice."
Finley (2-0), the eighth pitcher employed by Mauch, earned the win, 4 hours 43 minutes after Bill Fraser made his major league debut. Fraser lasted 4 innings, allowing 6 hits and 4 runs.
"He was good," Mauch said. "He kept us in it."
DeCinces thought he had won it when he delivered his 23rd home run in the 12th inning against Bryan Oelkers. That gave the Angels a 6-4 advantage.
But the Indians came back in the bottom of the inning. Andre Thornton drove in one run with a double and took third on a wild pitch by Gary Lucas. Thornton then scored on a line-drive double by Carmen Castillo, which third base umpire Vic Voltaggio ruled fair by inches.
DeCinces, who also had a close view of the ball, protested vehemently, stomping all around third base.
"I was not a real happy guy," he said. "I said it was foul; he said it was fair. I was upset the game was tied. I was really ticked off."
Voltaggio's call delayed the Angels' victory another two innings.
How the game got to extra innings is a story in itself. The ninth inning belonged to Mauch. He sent up four pinch-hitters in the top of the ninth and had three of them reach base--eventually producing the two runs the Angels needed to tie.
And in the bottom of the ninth, Mauch went against the percentages and threw out the book twice. With runners on second and third, and first base open, Mauch elected not to walk intentionally either Julio Franco, who had three singles, nor Joe Carter, the Indians' RBI lead with 103. He told reliever Donnie Moore to pitch to both of them.
"I know it's routine to walk the man in that situation," Mauch said. "But Donnie Moore wasn't as sharp as either he or I wanted him to be. I didn't want him to load the bases and make him throw strikes. He had other ways to get outs."
Moore got Franco on a sharp one-hopper to DeCinces. Carter was retired on a bunt.
The heavy hitter of the Cleveland lineup tried to cross up the Angels with a surprise bunt. But catcher Jerry Narron scooped it up and fired to first to retire Carter, bringing on the 10th inning.