Angels 7, Athletics 6
So it was fitting that in the next-to-last game before he retires, Salmon was there to watch Rodriguez break Harvey’s 1991 franchise record for saves in a season.
K-Rod struck out the side in the ninth inning for his major league-leading 47th save, securing Los Angeles’ 7-6 victory over the Oakland Athletics on Saturday night after Chone Figgins capped a four-run eighth inning with a two-run, bases-loaded single.
“There’s nobody else that deserves it, maybe other than Troy Percival,” Salmon said. “Frankie’s been a dominant force in this league the last few years, and he was one of the reasons we won the (2002) World Series. So anything like this that comes his way, I’m so happy for him. The guy goes out there in the toughest inning of the game and shuts the door.”
The Angels have taken the first three games of this season-ending four-game set, after getting eliminated from postseason contention when the A’s dethroned them as AL West champs last Tuesday.
“It’s nice to know we won’t have to face Rodriguez in the playoffs. He can be a bear,” Oakland manager Ken Macha said.
Figgins, who spent most of his career as a leadoff hitter before getting dropped to the ninth spot earlier this month, was 2-for-4 with a first-inning double. Manager Mike Scioscia promised his versatile utilityman that he would bat him fourth if he got a bunt single Friday night—which he did.
Oakland starter Dan Haren left after six innings with a 6-3 lead. He allowed eight hits, including solo homers by Garret Anderson in the first inning and Adam Kennedy in the sixth. It was the fifth time this season the bullpen failed to hold a lead for the right-hander, who finished the regular season with a 4.12 ERA and 176 strikeouts in 223 innings, spanning 34 starts.
Maicer Izturis greeted reliever Ron Flores (1-2) with a two-out, two-run double in the eighth to slice Oakland’s lead to 6-5. Kirk Saarloos loaded the bases with a walk to Jeff Mathis, and Figgins lined an 0-1 pitch to center, scoring Izturis and Reggie Willits for the lead.
That brought on Rodriguez.
“In that situation—down by three with two outs, I wasn’t prepared mentally to pitch,” Rodriguez said. “But I tried to warm up fast and the Adrenalin took over my body. After that, I was just trying to make pitches. It was a great relief to get the record.”
Hector Carrasco (7-3) got the win, allowing one hit and striking out three over three scoreless innings of relief. The playoff-bound Athletics got only one hit after Eric Chavez’s two-out solo homer in the third.
Tim Salmon, who will play the final game of his career on Sunday as the designated hitter, started in right field for the third time this season. He carried the lineup card to home plate and received one of many standing ovations the sellout crowd of 43,944 would shower him with on the night, which began with a video tribute.
Rookie Joe Saunders found himself in a bases-loaded jam after just 11 pitches, as No.3 hitter Milton Bradley bounced a sharp single off the pitcher’s right calf. Saunders walked Frank Thomas to force in a run and Jay Payton followed with a sacrifice fly.
Nick Swisher drove a 1-2 pitch to left-center one out later for his 35th homer, increasing the switch-hitter’s RBI total to 95. Scioscia then lifted Saunders for precautionary reasons, allowing Kevin Gregg as much time as he needed to warm up—further delaying Salmon’s first at-bat.
“Actually, it gave me some time to calm down because there was a lot of stuff going on and a lot of emotion,” Salmon said. “I mean, how many guys get to experience this on their way out? Everything was kind of going pretty fast, so it was nice to be able to take a break and settle down.”
Salmon, who left the field in the top of the eighth with the theme from “The Natural” blaring over the public address system, has one more shot at getting the home run that will put his career total at 300. He has one homer in eight career at-bats against Sunday’s scheduled starter, Rich Harden.
“I’m sure I’ll be sore tomorrow, but I want to play,” Salmon said. “Hey, it’s the last game I’ll ever play, so I’ll be in there. I think the video tributes in the last few nights have shown my age to a lot of these young guys. They all know I’m old, but I don’t think until they actually saw the grainy video that they realized how old I am compared to them.”
Oakland’s Jason Kendall became the first player in major league history to catch 140 games in eight different seasons, breaking Hall of Famer Gary Carter’s record. … Vladimir Guerrero received the Gene Autry Trophy in a pregame ceremony at home plate after his teammates selected him as the Angels’ MVP for the second time in three seasons. Guerrero was the AL MVP in 2004.