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They Have Nixon to Kick Around

Boston outfielder's gaffe gives a run to Angels, who get game-winning homer from Glaus in 6-2 victory.

May 18, 2003|Bill Shaikin | Times Staff Writer

BOSTON — Trot Nixon has been sentenced to immortality on the blooper reels. No doubt ESPN showed the play Saturday night, and so did Fox Sports Net, and Channels 2, 4, 5, 7, 9, 11 and 13. Nixon made an incredibly dumb play, flipping a ball to a fan after mistakenly thinking he had just caught the third out of the ninth inning, and Angels happily circled the bases.

Nixon's play did not affect the outcome of the Angels' 6-2 victory over the Boston Red Sox, but it did highlight the differences between two teams with playoff aspirations. The Angels do not beat themselves, and the Red Sox just can't help it.

Troy Glaus hit the game-winning home run in the eighth inning, and two Boston errors helped the Angels score three runs in the ninth. Jarrod Washburn stopped the Red Sox on two runs over seven innings, and the Angels climbed back above .500 for the first time since April 16.

The Boston bullpen imploded yet again, and a team overloaded with designated hitter types committed three errors in the final three innings. The Red Sox are 4-7 against last year's playoff teams, and they appear pretty ordinary on days Pedro Martinez isn't pitching.

The Angels weakened their defense Saturday, without repercussions. Scott Spiezio started in right field and Brad Fullmer at first base so that Tim Salmon could take a half-day off as the designated hitter, and Spiezio made a nice catch in tricky winds and Fullmer smartly snared a pop fly over his shoulder.

In winning four of five games on this trip to New York and Boston, the Angels have come from behind three times, scoring the winning run in the eighth inning each time.

"You don't want to get down to your final seven or eight outs and have to score," Glaus said, "but that's the pattern we've been in for the last couple weeks."

Since returning from Toronto in last place two weeks ago, the Angels have won eight of 11 games.

"If you play good ball, you create your own breaks," Washburn said. "We're starting to play a little better. When you play poorly and inconsistently, like we did the first month and a half, breaks aren't going to go your way."

In his last four starts, Washburn is 3-1 with a 2.10 earned-run average, after starting 1-3 with a 4.76 ERA. Last season, he did not win any of his first three starts, then embarked upon a 12-game winning streak.

"Maybe I need to start spring training in January," he said.

Boston starter Derek Lowe carried a 2-1 lead into the eighth inning. With one out, Salmon singled, and the Red Sox called upon reliever Mike Timlin. With two out, Glaus homered, the sixth blown save in 15 opportunities for the Boston bullpen.

In the ninth, with two men on base, David Eckstein hit a foul pop, dropped by third baseman Bill Mueller for an error. Given another chance, Eckstein flied to right field for the second out. But Nixon believed that was the third out and tossed the ball to a fan.

"It was a boneheaded play," Nixon said. "It was just stupid."

As Bengie Molina tagged from second base, the Angel dugout rose as one, hollering at him to keep going.

"I had no idea what happened," Molina said. "When I got to third, they told me to go home."

Play had stopped, and the umpires waved him home, granting him the extra base accorded to runners when a ball is thrown into the stands.

Ron Roenicke, the Angels' outfield coach, said the only sure way to prevent the kind of immortality Nixon will now enjoy -- or, rather, will endure -- is to avoid throwing a ball into the stands. You might forget the number of outs momentarily, but no one will know unless you flip the ball to a fan.

"Larry Walker was the first one to do that," said Roenicke, citing a play Walker made with the Montreal Expos at Dodger Stadium, "and they still show that on the highlights -- or lowlights."

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