The Seattle Mariners, wunderkind for a week, were served up another sour dose of reality Friday night, dropping their fourth straight game, 9-1, to an Angel team streaking in the opposite direction.
Chuck Cottier's Mariners had opened a few eyes by getting off to a 6-0 start. People had to wonder: What in the world was going on?
As it turns out, nothing really special. The Mariners still have that same old pitching staff, which the Angels battered and bruised en route to their fourth consecutive victory before an Anaheim Stadium crowd of 27,868.
And now, those surprising Mariners have leveled out to 6-4--and first place in the American League West is no longer solely their own. The Angels, also 6-4, own a share.
Everybody got into the act for the Angels Friday night, even those who are frequent offensive wallflowers.
Gary Pettis, a .227 hitter last year, continued his recent surge at the plate--hitting a triple and a single, driving in a run and scoring two more. He also turned in the defensive play of the night, an all-out running catch that robbed Spike Owen of extra bases in the sixth inning.
And then there was Dick Schofield, the Angels' .138-hitting shortstop. Schofield had two hits, one that stayed in the infield in the fifth inning and one that left the ballpark in the eighth.
Schofield's home run with Bobby Grich on base was his second of the season, giving the Angels their eighth and ninth runs.
Starting pitcher Ron Romanick (2-0) needed only two runs. He pitched a workmanlike nine innings, yielding nine singles and one double en route to a complete-game victory.
The emphasis here is on \o7 complete game. \f7 For the second straight start, Romanick entered a game with the Angels' bullpen reeling--and for the second straight time, Romanick delivered. He pitched 8 innings last week for a win in Oakland.
"He did everything he was supposed to do," Angel Manager Gene Mauch said. "He pitched good, just like he did in Oakland, and not one pitch was thrown in the bullpen. . . . He knows a little bit about pitching, I can tell you that."
Romanick knows what the Angels need, at least, and these days that means many innings provided by the starting pitcher.
"Every time I go out there, I try to go all the way," Romanick said. "I enjoy doing that. Unfortunately, I don't know how long the body will hold up if you go nine all the time.
"But it's early yet, and the guys (in the bullpen) are trying to get things situated so that they know their role and are comfortable with everybody."
The Angel hitters got comfortable with Seattle pitching, settling in during the middle innings and producing consecutive three-run innings.
Pettis put together a fair one-man highlight show in the process, tripling to lead off the fourth, walking and scoring a run in the fifth, and hitting an RBI single in the sixth.
Also in the sixth, Pettis stole a base, his fifth of the season.
But it was in the top of the sixth, with a glove on his hand, that Pettis had his real moment.
With Al Cowens on first base and two outs, Owens lined a ball into the gap in right-center--headed for the wall. But Pettis, sprinting and then staggering with two final, looping strides, cut off the ball with a spectacular lunging catch.
End of threat, end of inning. And just another reason why Pettis earns his keep in the Angel lineup.
On this night, Pettis produced at the plate as well. "I think I had a decent game," he said. "Right now, I'm getting everything together."
The Mariners had that same feeling just a week ago. But since taking their act on the road, they've begun to unravel.
And the Angels, who limped off to a 2-4 start, own a share of first place. It's early, yes, but this is the way the AL West race could go this year--back and forth.
As Mauch put it: "Getting there is one thing. Staying there is another."