CLEVELAND — Darrell Miller called it a brain cramp.
It still hurts today.
"I made a mistake," Miller said. "Everybody does."
Miller lost track of the number of outs in the seventh inning, and the mistake allowed a run to score in the Angels' 7-5 loss to the Cleveland Indians Friday night at Municipal Stadium as a crowd of 10,453 gathered for the beginning of Fan Appreciation Weekend.
They certainly appreciated Miller.
After wasting a 5-1 lead, the Angels entered the bottom of the seventh tied, 5-5, with the outcome in the hands of Gary Lucas. The tall left-hander immediately found trouble as he walked leadoff hitter Eddie Williams and then watched him go to second base on a sacrifice.
Indian second baseman Junior Noboa, who at one time weighed 138 pounds last winter because of a double dose of food poisoning, drove in Williams with the go-ahead run by hitting a 50-hopper that somehow evaded Lucas and bounced through the middle of the infield. Lucas, who started the sixth in place of Don Sutton, then loaded the bases on walks to Brett Butler and Jay Bell.
That brought designated hitter Mel Hall to the plate. Hall had driven in all five of the Indians' previous runs in his first three at-bats with a single, a double and a home run.
Naturally, Miller was concerned about Hall batting with the bases loaded--especially since Hall had started the sixth with a solo home run off Lucas and had driven in three runs with a bases-loaded double in the third. Lucas soothed that concern by striking out Hall on six pitches for the second out.
The exuberant Miller was so excited, he thought the inning was over. First, he leaped for joy. Then he started heading for the dugout. Finally, he turned back toward plate umpire Rich Garcia and flipped him the ball.
Garcia backed away from it as if it were a seven-foot diamondback rattler. Lucas, who took the loss, came off the mound after the ball as Noboa rushed in from third. Finally, Miller realized his mistake. He caught up to the ball, but his throw to Lucas was wild as Noboa slid across the plate for Cleveland's seventh and final run.
"I say to myself, 'What's he doing?' " Noboa said. "When he threw the ball to the umpire, I started running to home plate like crazy. I never saw anybody do that before, especially with three runners on base."
Gene Mauch has--too many times. "I've seen it a dozen times before," the Angel manager said. "Or the catcher catches the ball and rolls it back to the mound because he thinks there are three outs. I've seen it happen with a guy on third base, too."
Mauch, who watched the play unfold from the top step of the dugout said Miller's mistake had nothing to do with a case of the September blahs. After all, there are only eight games left in the season, and the Angels have apparently been on cruise control all month with a 6-16 record.
"It's just the opposite with him," Mauch said. 'He was so intent on getting Hall, he didn't have room for anything else in his mind."
"The Lord willing, that's my first and last mistake," Miller said. 'Now if you don't mind, I don't feel much like talking right now."
The Angels took a 5-1 lead off starter Tom Candiotti after only two innings.
Three of the runs were unearned due to a pair of errors by rookie shortstop Jay Bell. In the first, Johnny Ray knocked in two runs with a double to right after Bell kicked Devon White's routine double play ball. In the second, Bell opened the inning with a wild throw to first on Dick Schofield's grounder.
Candiotti hit Miller with a pitch before the two worked a double steal. Downing turned the strategy into two runs with a bloop single to right for a 4-1 lead. Ray's sacrifice fly scored Downing to put the Angels ahead, 5-1.
It was the last run the Angels scored as relievers Jamie Easterly and Doug Jones combined to pitch seven shutout innings. Easterly replaced Candiotti to start the third and no-hit the Angels through the sixth. Jones (6-4) worked the final three innings for the win. He struck out four and allowed three hits.
Sutton, 1-1 in his last six starts, went five innings. He allowed four runs on five hits and left with a 5-4 lead.