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Monday, August 22, 2016

California Wins 1981 World Series for Its Second Chamionship in Three Years

The California Angels completed an unlikey season in which they rode a strong first half in the strike-depleted year to a berth in the playoffs. They were matched against a Cardinals teams that similarly took advantage of a surprisingly strong first half to get invited to the post season dance.
Game 1
The pitching matchups featured Mike Witt for the Angels and Larry Sorensen for the Cards. The Angels jumped off to a 3-run lead on the strength of 5 bits in the first inning, but would not score again until the 7th. Meanwhile, Ken Oberkfell
of the Cards homered in the 5th and Dane Iorg doubled a run in the 6th to make the score 3-2 headed into the 7th. After a scoreless top of the 7th for the Cards, the Angels continued their "death by a thousand cuts" attack. The first four batters of the inning singled off P Mark Littell, and his replacement Jim Kaat allowed another two singles. When the damage was tabulated, the Angels led 6-2. George Hendrick of the Cards homered in the top of the 8th to brinf the game within 2, but Angels stopper Don Aase (you'll hear that name again) came in to forestall further damage. Angels held on to win 6-4, with Mike Witt the winner and Sorensen the loser. Don Aase got his first save.
Game 2
Bob Forsch took the mound for the Redbirds, with Steve Renko his opposite number. Angels once again kicked off the scoring early, as Grich, Baylor, and Carew strung together singles in the bottom of the first to give the Halos a 1-0 lead. Renko stymied the Cardinals bats until the 4th, when the Cards got two runners on. Little-used reliever Mickey Mahler bailed out an exhausted Renko to get out of the inning without a run scored. In the bottom of the 4th Angels pinch hitter John Harris doubled in pair to give the Angels a 3-0 lead. No other runs were scored in the game. The Cards threated in the ninth, as pinch hitter Gene Roof reached on an error with the top of the order due up. Fireman Aase again came in to hold te lead, and picked up his second save of the series. Mickey Mahler was credited with the win, Forsch the loss.
Game 3
With the Cards looking to get back in the series, they sent left John Martin to the hill to oppose Angels lefty Geoff Zahn. Grich hit a homer in the top of the 1st, and it looked like the Angels were at it again. However, the Cards got to Zahn for two runs in the bottom of the 1st on run-scoring hits by Sixto Lezcano and Ken Oberkfell. In the top of the 5th, the Angels added two runs on three hits, and added another in the 6th to chase Martin. The Cardinals scored in the bottom of the 5th as well, but headed into the 7th the Angels led 4-3. Disco Dan Ford hit a homer for the Angels in the top of the 7th to strect the lead to 5-3, but the Cards got a runner on in the bottom of the 7th with one out. With the tying tun at the plate in the form of PH Gene Roof, Don Aase was once again summoned from the Angels pen. He ended the threat without damage in the 7th and went on to hold the Cards scoreless for the remainder of the game to pick up his third save of the series. Zahn got the win and Martin the loss.
Game 4
With the Cards now desperate to stay in the series, Carlos Martinez took the hill opposed by Angels JJ Jefferson. Angels were off to the races again, as they led off the game with four straight hits to score three runs and chase
Martinez for the wild man Joaquin Andujar. Little did the Angels realize that such an auspicious beginning was going to be invalidated emphatically soon. St Louis scored a run in the bottom of the second, but Angels were still looking OK until the wheels came off in the bottom of the third. The Cardinals leveraged a Sixto Lezacano grand slam to score 5 in the inning, and now led 6-3. A Keith Hernandez homer and Darrell Porter triple spearheaded a 6-run Cardinals 4th, and the game was in garbage time. Cardinals added three more runs on the bottom of the 7th to win going away 15-3. Cardinals reliever Bob Shirtey took the wind and Jefferson the loss. Needless to say, Aase did not get a chance to go for his fourth save of the series.
Game 5
Could the Cards rebound to get back in this series? Larry Sorensen and Mke Witt reprised their Game 1 matchup to find out. Angels again led off the scoring, as CF Fred Lynn walked, was sacrificed to second, and scored on a single by SS Rick Burleson. Angels added another run in the 4th as Brian Downing singled, then scored on a double by Lynn. In the 5th the Angels scratched out another run on a Burleson single, a balk, and a Don Baylor single. Now 3-0 Angels. The Cardinals struk in the bottom of the 6th, as Sixto Lezcano doubled in a run and subsequently scored on SS Garry Templeton's single. 3-2 Angels after six as the tension built. After a scoreless Angels 7th, Keith Hernandez singled for the Cards in the bottom of the inning. With slugger George Hendrick due up, the Angels went to the well one more time for relief ace Don Aase. Aase induced a Hendrick fly out to end the threat. St Louis threatened again in the 8th, but despite three singles could not get a run in. Keith Hernandez doubled in the 9th to put the tying run on with two out, but Aase once again shut down Hendrick to give the Angels the series win. Aase did pick up his 4th save of the series, no doubt tying a record, and Witt won his second game at the expense of Sorensen.
Despite the lopsided final outcome, the games were all close and it was an exciting series. Thanks to Bruce Thomas for managing St Louis and doing an excellent job.
Bobby Grich hit .421 for the series, and Mike Witt got credit for 2 of the 4 wins. Nonetheless, the series MVP has to go to Don Aase. He held the Cardinals scoreless in 7 mostly high leverage innings, and didn't allow any inherited runners to score either. In an ironic twist, the 9th inning of Game 5 was his last regardless of outcome as he hit his usage limit.
See you all next season.