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Angels' loss is dramatic

A's get walk-off grand slam in 12th from Ellis off reliever Bootcheck for the 7-3 victory.

June 09, 2008|Mike DiGiovanna | Times Staff Writer

OAKLAND -- It's an arbitrary and often solitary existence, the life of a long reliever, never knowing when you'll pitch, how often you'll pitch, what kind of situation you'll pitch in.

"It's a tough role, probably an overlooked role," Angels Manager Mike Scioscia said. "You could pitch two or three days in a row and then not pitch for a week."

Chris Bootcheck, in his second season as the Angels' long man, knows this all too well, and he tries to stay sharp by throwing in the bullpen as much as possible, while preserving his arm for a possible five-inning mop-up job.

But no amount of side work could prepare the right-hander for the situation he found himself in Sunday, in the 12th inning of a tie game and the Angels having exhausted most of their bullpen.

Bootcheck, pitching for the first time in nine days and only the 10th time this season, gave up two hits and a two-out walk, and Mark Ellis drove a walk-off grand slam off the left-field foul pole to lift the Oakland Athletics to a 7-3 victory in McAfee Coliseum.

The fifth walk-off grand slam in Oakland history and the first since Mark McGwire's shot beat the Angels on June 30, 1995, ended the Angels' seven-game winning streak and prevented them from going 6-0 on a trip for the third time in franchise history.

"I can't make any excuses," said Bootcheck, who sat out the first three weeks of the season because of a rib-cage strain. "It's been a grind from spring training to now, but I just have to keep battling. It's just tough to swallow when the bullpen battled the whole game."

Justin Speier threw three hitless innings before Bootcheck, and Scot Shields, who sat out a week because of a rib-cage injury, retired all four batters he faced, two by strikeout.

But two reserves helped bring Bootcheck down in the 12th. Gregorio Petit, who replaced injured shortstop Bobby Crosby in the ninth, hit a one-out single, and Rajai Davis, who entered as a pinch-runner in the seventh, followed with a single.

Bootcheck struck out Emil Brown with a nice full-count breaking ball but walked Travis Buck on four pitches. One misplaced first-pitch fastball to Ellis later, it was game over.

"It's definitely a tough spot for him," Shields said of Bootcheck. "He wants to impress people so he can get an opportunity to pitch more, but he's a tough kid. He's going to bounce back."

The Angels hope their offense does the same. Ervin Santana pitched well enough to win, giving up two runs and seven hits and striking out nine in 6 1/3 innings, and the Angels scored three runs in the fourth on a two-run home run by Vladimir Guerrero and a run-scoring single by Gary Matthews Jr.

But the Angels went one for nine with runners in scoring position, failing to score after putting runners on first and third with one out in the seventh, second and third with one out in the ninth, and first and third with two out in the eighth and 11th.

They're batting .204 (28 for 137) with runners in scoring position in the last 18 games, a stretch in which they have gone 13-5, and went four for 26 in the series.

"We let a lot of opportunities go that would have gotten a run that would have made a difference," Scioscia said. "If you're not going to drive the ball out of the park, you have to do the situational stuff, and the last month has been very difficult from the offensive side. Today, we got them on but couldn't get them in."

Santana handed a 3-2 lead to Darren Oliver in the seventh, but the left-hander, who had a 2-1 record and 2.33 earned-run average in 23 games, walked Jack Cust. Davis, running for Cust, stole second, and Eric Chavez hit a run-scoring double to make it 3-3.

"I can't look at that -- I just see the W at the end of the day," Angels center fielder Torii Hunter said when asked about the lack of clutch hitting.

"That's something that is very negative, and we have to stay positive. We had a great trip, we won five of six. You want to be perfect, but that's hard."

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mike.digiovanna@latimes.com

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