ANAHEIM — A potentially ugly loss turned into an ugly victory Wednesday night for the Angels, who took advantage of sloppy defensive play by the Milwaukee Brewers and a clutch hit by shortstop Gary DiSarcina to eke out a 3-2, 11-inning victory.
A paltry Anaheim Stadium crowd of 15,024 watched Angel closer Lee Smith, the game's all-time saves leader, blow a two-run lead in the ninth, but DiSarcina eased the sting, slapping a Mike Fetters fastball into left field with the bases loaded to break a 2-2 tie.
Brewer reliever Graeme Lloyd retired the first two batters in the 11th, but a routine fly ball to left field by Garret Anderson bounced off Greg Vaughn's glove for an error, opening the door for an Angel rally.
Pinch-hitter Tim Wallach was intentionally walked, and Milwaukee Manager Phil Garner brought in Fetters to face pinch-hitter Rex Hudler. Angel Manager Marcel Lachemann countered with left-handed hitting Mike Aldrete, who drew a walk to load the bases.
Fetters fell behind DiSarcina, 3-0, before finding the strike zone, but DiSarcina snapped an 0-for-8 spell with a sharp single to left on Fetters' 3-1 pitch to end the game.
That made a winner of Angel reliever Mike James, who pitched two scoreless innings but had to escape a bases-loaded, two-out jam in the 11th.
Angel starter Mark Langston left in the eighth inning to a standing ovation, waving his cap to the crowd after his masterful, 7 1/3-inning, two-hit shutout of the Brewers.
With Troy Percival relieving him, a one-run lead, and Smith warming in the bullpen, surely the game was in good hands, Langston must have thought.
Think again. Percival got out of the eighth inning, but Smith failed to hold a two-run lead in the ninth, as John Jaha's two-run single tied the score, 2-2, and sent it into extra innings.
Smith, who tore the patella tendon in his right knee in a November hunting accident and has struggled to regain his form this spring, got two quick outs to start the ninth.
But Kevin Seitzer singled to center and Vaughn doubled into the right-field corner, putting runners on second and third. Jaha then lined a single to left-center, which easily scored Seitzer and Vaughn.
Smith struck out Turner Ward to end the inning and walked off the field to a cascade of boos.
Percival, who had several two-inning stints last season, had faced only three batters in the eighth, giving up a single to Jeff Cirillo and retiring David Hulse and Jose Valentin on fly-ball outs.
But Lachemann, sticking to the bullpen formula that was so successful in 1995--Percival in the eighth, Smith in the ninth--elected to put the game in Smith's hands ninth, a decision that cost Langston the victory.
Langston, showing no ill effects from his heartbreaking loss to the Seattle Mariners in a one-game playoff to determine the American League West championship last October, was near-perfect in his first start of 1996.
The left-hander walked one, struck out seven and gave up only a single to Seitzer in the first inning and a single to Matt Mieske in the eighth.
"I watched that game [15-9 loss to the Brewers] last night, and it seemed that a lot of the pitches they hit were up, so that just got me thinking, keep the ball down," Langston said.
"I was really moving the ball around well. I had three pitches working and some really great defense behind me. People talk a lot about our offense, but our defense wins a lot of games for us, and it did tonight."
Langston had to pitch a shutout to keep pace with Brewer starter Ben McDonald, who continued his domination of the Angels in Anaheim Stadium by throwing six scoreless innings and giving up three hits in his Milwaukee debut.
McDonald, the No. 1 pick in the 1989 draft, made six Big A starts as a member of the Baltimore Orioles, winning all six and not giving up more than two earned runs in any of the games. His ERA in the six games: 1.17.
But as soon as Garner pulled McDonald, the Angels found a way to score. Anderson singled off reliever Mark Kiefer to open the seventh and advance to second on George Arias' sacrifice bunt.
Jorge Fabregas followed with a looping single to right, but Anderson held at second, thinking the ball might be caught. Anderson took off when he saw the ball would drop, and as he rounded third he was held up by third-base Coach Rick Burleson.
But Anderson ran right through Burleson's stop sign and beat Mieske's throw to the plate, which was slightly up the third-base line, to give the Angels a 1-0 lead.
Chili Davis gave the Angels an insurance run and a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the eighth when he blasted a home run to right, his second homer in as many games.
The teams combined for four runs and 15 hits through 10 innings in a game that was the antithesis of Tuesday night's season opener, when the teams combined for 24 runs and 37 hits.