Lance Parrish, starting catcher and resident hulk for the World Champion Detroit Tigers, spent Saturday afternoon basking and baking in the Anaheim Stadium sun. It was a nice day to catch some rays, but it was a little uncomfortable for catching split-fingered fastballs.
"I must have drank 10 gallons of Water," Parrish said as he peeled a sweat-soaked uniform top over his head. "I just kept sweating. Everywhere I touched, I was wet. I couldn't get my hands dry."
Until it came time to hit. Then, it was apparent that Parrish had little trouble with his grip. In the first inning of the Tigers' 13-2 win, he homered deep into the left-field seats.
Two innings and several beads of perspiration later, Parrish came up for his second at-bat and drove another Kirk McCaskill pitch over the wall, this time to center field. The home run was his fourth in three games.
Parrish's next three at-bats produced a fly ball to the warning track in left, a run-scoring double to the gap in right-center and an infield popup, the only ball Parrish hit all afternoon that didn't appear to be launched.
Afterward, Parrish couldn't explain what it is he's doing right lately, nor did he have any secrets to reveal about his success against his opponents from Anaheim. Counting Saturday's 3-for-5 performance, Parrish has a 321 (85 for 265) lifetime batting average against the Angels, his best against any American League opponent.
"Just coincidence," he said with a shrug. "I try not to think about thing like that. When I get in a groove like this, I just try to enjoy it for as long as it lasts."
Detroit Manager Sparky Anderson is certainly enjoying it. Anderson is in search of anything that will lift hit team-which he insists is better than the model that won the World Series last season-into contention for the AL East championship.
"When he gets hot, boy he's awful hot," Anderson said. "I don't think he's any different than any other power hitter. He gets where that ball starts looking like a basketball to him."
Hitters have mysterious problems with vision when they're slumping, but when they're streaking, it's usually because they're "seeing the ball well." That must be it, right Lance?
"I feel comfortable at the plate, let's put it that way," Parrish Said. "There have been times when I've seen it well before and I just didn't do anything with it."
Lately, he has been sending it over fences, and his timing couldn't better. Losses like the one the Tigers suffered Friday night- in which the Angels rallied from a four-run deficit with two outs in the ninth inning to win-can be demoralizing for a team trying to recapture the feeling it had a year ago.
We probably played with a little bit of anger and frustration today," Parrish said. "It's unfortunate that, at this point in the season when we're in a situation where we have to win a lot ballgames, we've let some slip away from us. The biggest downfall we've had lately is not being able to get out of the eighth and ninth innings."
The Tigers have Sparky to blame for that. Just ask him.
"They've played well the last 16 games," Anderson said. "They're 14-2. . .but I've got them at 9-7. That's the way I look at it and that's the way I want them to look at it."
Can the Tigers recover in time and make a serious challenge at the Toronto Blue Jays and the New York Yankees, the teams ahead of them in the standings? Anderson may be willing to take the burden of blame, but he isn't ready to concede anything.
"We can still make an awful lot of problems," he said. "If we can get extremely hot-I'm talkin' really hot-we can be there at the end."
Much of that may depend on whether Parrish can stay hot.