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Angels Sever Ties With A's

Glaus, Pride provide key blows in an 8-7 win over Texas in 11 innings that puts team alone in first after Oakland loses.

September 30, 2004|Mike DiGiovanna | Times Staff Writer

ARLINGTON, Texas — There was the stunning two-out, score-tying, run-scoring double in the ninth inning by Curtis Pride, who began this season in an independent league and wouldn't have even been in the game had Garret Anderson not left because of a knee injury in the seventh inning.

Then, there was the colossal 10-pitch, 11th-inning at-bat by Troy Glaus, who fouled off five two-strike pitches before blasting a two-run home run against bullet-proof closer Francisco Cordero, who had not given up a homer in 70 1/3 innings.

And finally, about half an hour after one of their most improbable wins this season, an emotionally charged 8-7 victory over the Texas Rangers on Wednesday night in Ameriquest Field, there was the rally on the clubhouse television, where Seattle scored three times in the eighth for a 4-2 win over Oakland and sent a 35-year-old man, closer Troy Percival, leaping off the couch, screaming like a delirious 11-year-old fan.

It took nearly six months and 158 games in this season of fits and starts, of injuries and inconsistency, but the Angels are finally starting to regain the feeling they had in 2002, when they rode a wave of emotion and momentum to their first World Series championship.

They won their fifth consecutive game and moved into sole possession of first place in the American League West, a game ahead of the A's with four to go, three of them in Oakland beginning Friday night. And, almost as important, they're getting caught up in this feeling that something special could be happening.

"We just have that feeling that it's not over -- ever," said Jarrod Washburn, the left-hander who gave up five runs in four innings, blowing a 3-0 first-inning lead, and couldn't have felt any happier afterward.

"We're starting to get that magic we had in 2002. The attitude in here is the best it's been all year. That magic has been missing most of the year. It hasn't felt the same in this clubhouse. But after the Oakland series [last weekend] we turned it up a notch; we're giving the impression we want this pretty bad."

Their pursuit might not include Anderson, their cleanup hitter, for a day or two. He aggravated a left knee injury in the fifth inning, came out after his fly ball to center field in the seventh and is doubtful for today's series finale against the Rangers.

The Angels are already without second baseman Adam Kennedy, who suffered a season-ending knee injury Sept. 20, and left fielder Jose Guillen, who Sunday was suspended for the season without pay.

With fill-ins such as Jeff DaVanon, who hit a two-run triple in the first inning, and Pride, the deaf outfielder who came up with one of the biggest hits this season, the Angels seem capable of overcoming any obstacle.

The Rangers took a 6-5 lead in the bottom of the eighth, rallying against erratic set-up man Francisco Rodriguez, who walked two and threw two wild pitches in the inning.

Manager Buck Showalter summoned Cordero, the hard-throwing right-hander who has been in lock-down mode all season, going 3-3 with a 1.85 earned-run average and 48 saves in 53 opportunities.

Cordero struck out Darin Erstad and got Glaus to fly to right field before Vladimir Guerrero singled to right, giving him 200 hits.

Pride, who began the season with the Nashua Pride of the Atlantic League and signed with the Angels in late May, drove a fastball off the center-field wall -- "This was the biggest hit of my career," he said -- driving in Guerrero to make it 6-6.

"I jumped out of my chair when I saw it," said Anderson, who was in the clubhouse at the time. "It was awesome."

Angel reliever Scot Shields threw scoreless ninth and 10th innings, and with Texas facing elimination from playoff contention with a loss, Cordero threw the 10th and started the 11th.

Erstad singled to center field with one out, and Glaus worked the count to 2-and-2 before fouling off five pitches. The slugger then sent a hanging 85-mph slider 424 feet to center field for a two-run homer and an 8-6 lead.

"I don't think you're going to see a better at-bat against that caliber of closer," Manager Mike Scioscia said. "Cordero battled on the mound, Troy battled at the plate, he got a mistake, and he didn't miss it."

Percival came on for the 11th and provided even more drama by giving up a triple to Eric Young and Hank Blalock's sacrifice fly, which cut the Angel lead to 8-7.

But Percival retired Michael Young for his 32nd save, the Angels retired to their clubhouse, and one celebration turned into two when the Mariners rallied.

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