For the third night in a row, the last-place California Angels pitched like they were a World Series contender. The Angels’ Andy Messersmith threw a complete-game six-hitter to lead California to a 4-2 win over the Royals at Anaheim Stadium. It was California’s third straight complete game and gave them a series sweep over Kansas City, which totaled four runs on 15 hits over the three games.
Messersmith struck out 10 and walked three while evening his record at 7-7. His ERA dropped to 2.73, as well. Despite all that, the Royals had an early 1-0 lead. That was thanks to Kansas City’s starting pitcher, Jim Rooker, who hit his third home run of the season in the third. But Messersmith got a bit of revenge, driving in the tying run in the bottom of the inning with a double, scoring Jim Spencer from first.
That was the only hit Rooker gave up in the first four innings, but California took the lead in the fifth as Aurelio Rodriguez led off with a walk and Joe Azcue singled. Spencer grounded into a force out but Rodriguez scored. The Angels would end up with runners at second and third with two outs after a Sandy Alomar double, but Rooker struck out Jay Johnstone to end the inning.
Then the Angels came up with two runs in the seventh. Azcue and Spencer started the inning with singles, and Azcue scored when center fielder Pat Kelly mishandled Spencer’s hit. Reliever Moe Drabowsky took over for Rooker but Messersmith reached on an error by second baseman Jerry Adair. Alomar singled to put California in front, 4-1.
Kansas City had a good chance to get back in the game in the eighth. With one out, Paul Schaal reached on an error. Mike Fiore walked, and a wild pitch moved the runners up. But Lou Piniella hit a shallow fly ball and pinch-hitter Hawk Taylor struck out, ending the inning.
The Royals did score one run in the ninth. Adair reached on an infield single and took second on a bunt. Chuck Harrison singled with two outs to bring Adair in. A wild pitch sent Harrison to second, but Kelly grounded out to end the game.
The Royals’ fourth straight loss dropped them to 39-53 on the season. They were tied for third in the AL West with Seattle, but both teams were 17.5 games behind Minnesota.
Off the field, catcher Ellie Rodriguez was named to the American League All-Star team as Kansas City’s lone representative. The rookie catcher joined two veteran stars, Detroit’s Bill Freehan and Minnesota’s John Roseboro, on the AL roster. Manager Joe Gordon told the Associated Press, “Ellie is the best catcher in the league as far as mechanics and thinking are concerned. He would have been voted the starting catcher but he is a rookie and Bill Freehan is a veteran. Of course, Freehan hits with more power than Ellie.” As of July 15, Rodriguez was hitting .257/.344/.341 for the season.
Box score and play-by-play: https://www.baseball-reference.com/boxes/CAL/CAL196907160.shtml
Today’s birthdays: Terry Pendleton (1960), Jorge Vasquez (1978)