…were in 1986 and then in 2004. Both of those Angel teams finished in first place with a 92-70 record. Both of those Angel teams used a 15-point run differential to defeat the Royals, the best against Kansas City in Angel franchise history.
The first game was on September 18th on a Thursday night at the Big A. The pitching match up featured Dennis Leonard for KCR, who was pitching the final season of his fine career and brought a respectable 3.87 ERA into this game, and Mike Witt, who was in the middle of his terrific career and brought a very nice 2.64 ERA into this game.
The Angels got the game off with a bang when Reggie Jackson hit a two-run bomb in the first inning.
When the Angels came to bat in the fourth inning, they had a 3-1 lead, but they went off on the tag-team of Leonard and David Cone to score six runs and establish a commanding 9-1 lead. The big blow was Reggie’s second home run of the game, a three-run shot that came off of Cone.
In the seventh inning, the Angel offense sent eleven men to the plate and added five more runs to the scoreboard.
When Reggie Jackson came to bat in the eighth inning, his Angels had a 16-3 lead. The batter before him, Devon White, was at third base after hitting a triple, and Jackson connected again for a home run, his third of the night. This one was off of Dan Quisenberry.
The game ended with the Angels crushing the Royals 18-3.
Besides Jackson’s three home runs, there were two other noteworthy items that happened in this game. One was Angel catcher Bob Boone, who was not a very fast runner, had both a stolen base and a triple in this game! The other was that two future stars who both had a September call-up that season got into this game as substitutes after it had gotten out of hand. Bo Jackson played right field for the Royals and had two strikeouts in his two plate appearances and made two errors in the field. Devon White took over for Brian Downing in left field and went 1-for-3 and did not make an error on either of the two balls that were hit out to him.
The second game was on August 25th of 2004. This one was a Wednesday night game at the Big A. The starting pitchers were Mike Wood for the Royals and Ramon Ortiz for the Angels. Neither one had a very good season in 2004, so it seemed like the scoring could get out of hand quickly.
Aaaand on the second pitch of the game, Royal lead off hitter and center fielder David DeJesus took Ortiz deep to right field. Ortiz then let two of the next four batters reach base before giving up a flyball to deep center field for what was nearly a three-run homer, but instead fell into Garret Anderson’s glove at the wall for the third out of the inning.
To make sure the Royals didn’t think that they could actually win this game, the Angels then scored five runs in the third inning and six runs in the fourth. The big blow in the fourth was a three-run bomb off of the bat of GA.
When the Angels came to bat in the bottom of the seventh, they already had a 16-6 lead, but Jeff DaVanon led off the frame with a solo home run, and then five batters later, Jose Molina hit the first grand slam of his career to make the score 21-6. Molina had entered the game in the top of the seventh as a substitute for Darin Erstad at first base.
Angel reliever Matt Hensley retired all three batters he faced in the ninth on two strikeouts and a groundout to slam the door shut and preserve the 21-6 victory.
A few interesting notes for this game. The theme for this night must have been brotherhood. Bengie Molina was the catcher for the Angels in this one, and his brother Jose got in for the final three innings at first base. Vladimir Guerrero was the right fielder and number three hitter for the Halos that night. He had three singles in his five at bats to lift his batting average to .329 before being lifted for Curtis Pride. Vladimir’s brother Wilton Guerrero came in late in the game for the Royals as a substitue for first baseman Matt Stairs and struck out in his only plate appearance.
One of the hot hitters for the Angels that game was DaVanon who went 4-for-6 with a home run, a triple, a double, and a single. Yes, he hit for the cycle, but that is a statistical anomaly, not a batting achievement. He scored twice and had four RBI.
The Angels batting average for this game was .478, and if you add in their four walks and two HBPs, they had a .538 OBP for this game.
This win gave the Angels a seven-game season-sweep over the Royals.
The Sports Illustrated cover story about pitchers using illegal substances to get an abnormal grip on the ball in order to create an ungodly amount of spin on their pitches is very frustrating to read. The solution to this rampant cheating problem is simple – if a pitcher gets caught with the illegal substance, then his team forfeits that game. It’s crazy to me how MLB refuses to accept this simple rule of fair play. They didn’t force cheating teams to forfeit their games during the PED era, they didn’t strip the Astros and the Red Sox of their sign-stealing World Series championships, and they aren’t going to force teams with cheating pitchers to forfeit their games now.
If the SI article is accurate when it comes to how many current MLB pitchers are cheating in this manner, then it is highly likely that there are current Angel pitchers who are cheating. How are Angel fans going to react if this is the reality? In the case of MLB fandom, when a player from the team you root for is caught cheating, there has been a lot of forgiveness. We Angel fans were quick to forgive Max Stassi. San Francisco Giant fans were able to continue cheering for Barry Bonds even after he made the headlines during the steroid scandal.
It is interesting, though, how easy it is for humans to become viciously self-righteous. Deep within many of us is a desire to join a mob and chant Burn the witch! We hated Barry Bonds. We have an intense, burning hatred for the Asstros. Who are we going to hate if it comes to light that 75% of the pitchers on every team are cheating?
On a lighter note, I looked up which Angels, by position, have had the best year batting against the Royals. If you made a lineup of those players, how badly would they clobber the Royals in this week’s games?
Here’s what I found with Angel players with at least 30 PAs in a season vs. the KCR:
C Bob Boone .452 BA in 32 PAs in 1988 1B Darin Erstad .419 BA in 33 PAs in 2004 2B Jerry Remy .400 BA in 53 PAs in 1975 3B Carney Lansford .423 BA in 30 PAs in 1978 SS Erick Aybar .529 BA in 39 PAs in 2009 LF Justin Upton .467 BA in 31 PAs in 2018 CF Torii Hunter .394 BA in 37 PAs in 2010 RF Leroy Stanton .421 BA in 46 PAs in 1972 DH Bobby Abreu .429 BA in 41 PAs in 2011
In case you were wondering, Mike Trout’s best year against the Royals with at least 30 PAs was .385 in 2013. If we lower the minimum PAs to 27, Trout would best Hunter and get into the lineup. He hit .409 against KCR in 2014 and in 2019.
If you could put one power bat on the bench for this team, GA would be your man. He hit 6 home runs against the Royals in 2000, the most by any Angel in any year. Frank Robinson (1973), Tim Salmon (2001), and Troy Glaus (2001) were the only Angels to ever hit five homers in one season against the KCR.
So what would the Royal team that would compete against this imaginary Angel team I created look like? Here are the best hitting Royals against the Angels with at least 30 PAs in one season:
C John Wathan .364 BA in 47 PAs in 1980 1B Willie Aikens .500 BA in 37 PAs in 1983 2B Cookie Rojas .447 BA in 52 PAs in 1971 3B George Brett .450 BA in 87 PAs in 1975 SS UL Washington .340 BA in 53 PAs in 1982 LF Lonnie Smith .438 BA in 54 PAs in 1986 CF David DeJesus .520 BA in 30 PAs in 2004 RF Danny Tartabull .429 BA in 48 PAs in 1987 DH Kendrys Morales .414 BA in 34 PAs in 2015
The edge goes to the Kansas City Royals who, going position-by-position, get the better of the Angels five times to four. Who would ever have guessed that the Royals would have crushed the Angels in the center field position?
The power bat off the bench for the Royals would be Tony Solaita who hit 6 home runs for the Royals against the Angels in 1975. The only Royals to ever hit five home runs in a season against the Angels are Ed Kirkpatrick (1969) and Jermaine Dye (1999).