DETROIT — Donnie Moore tied the Angel record for saves Wednesday night, strengthening not only his team's hold on the Western Division lead but also his own bargaining power.
Eligible for free agency when the season ends, disappointed that it hasn't been resolved and now feeling the pressure of his uncertain future, Moore also coped with the mounting pressure of the division race as he preserved John Candelaria's 5-2 victory over the Detroit Tigers.
Moore pitched the final three innings for his 25th save, equaling Dave LaRoche's club record, set in 1978.
Candelaria pitched six innings, allowing only one run and five hits, ultimately emerging with his fourth American League win against one defeat.
This one provided a temporary panacea for the Angels' pitching ills and sustained the club's image as the best repair specialists west of pit row at Indianapolis.
Tuesday night's 14-8 loss had represented the Angels' 11th double-digit blowout of the season. They have now rebounded in the next game to post a 9-2 record. The ninth win kept their lead over Kansas City at 1 1/2 games.
"It's no fun getting beat like that," Angel Manager Gene Mauch said, "but this team starts every night like it's going to be theirs. I've never doubted their ability to hold off Kansas City because they've come back from so much adversity."
Matched against the very tough Jack Morris, who had won 10 of his 13 career decisions against them, the Angels were trailing, 1-0, in the sixth when Brian Downing hammered a two-run homer. The Angels led, 3-2, in the eighth when Downing doubled, leading to another two runs.
Moore, whose earned-run average is 1.69, yielded a home run to Larry Herndon, the first batter he faced in the seventh, gave up a two-out single to Darrell Evans, then took advantage of the deep dimensions in center field as he held the Tigers without a hit over the final 2 innings.
"I've never had a club record," Moore said later, "so it obviously means something to me. I wanted to get it, but it will mean more to me when the season is over. I just want to keep grinding. My next goal is 26, then 27, but it doesn't matter who gets the wins or the saves. We have to play every game now as if it's the last one."
Moore was hoping that he wouldn't come down to September with the possibility that each appearance would be his last one with the Angels. General Manager Mike Port had said he intended to break club policy and begin midseason negotiations with his potential free agents. However, there has been only cursory contact between Port and Moore's representative.
Moore, in fact, looked at houses and property in New Jersey when the Angels were in New York last weekend, heightening rumors that the Yankees intend to pursue him as a free agent and move Dave Righetti back to the rotation.
"I'd like to stay with the Angels, there's no doubt about it," Moore said, "but I'd liked to have had this straightened out by now and I have to be disappointed that it's not. I've been in 12 cities in 12 years and I'd like to settle down. I tried to work out a multiyear contract (with the Angels) last winter and it was the most miserable winter of my life. I didn't want it to come down to this."
Moore signed a one-year contract with the Angels for $375,000. Now, the unresolved situation keeps creeping into his thoughts.
"I didn't think about it all year," he said, "but now I am. I'm asked about it a lot, and it puts a little more pressure on me--at least until I get on the field. I don't want to start blowing games by thinking about something I shouldn't be."
The effectiveness of Stewart Cliburn and the breakdown of the Angel rotation has limited Moore's second-half role. This was only his ninth save opportunity since the All-Star break and fifth since the strike, when he went nine days without pitching.
"I still haven't recovered from that," Moore said. "I'm still not in a good groove."
Said Mauch: "It's been difficult for Donnie, but he doesn't just give you 100%, he gives you whatever it takes."
Candelaria has started twice on the trip, allowing one run in 11 innings. He walked two Wednesday night and struck out three, nailing Kirk Gibson in the first, fourth and sixth innings.
Candelaria was assisted by a relay in which Gary Pettis, Craig Gerber and Bob Boone combined to cut down Chet Lemon attempting to circle the bases on a triple to dead center in the sixth.
The nine-hit Angel attack was led by Downing, who is hitting .374 over the last 34 games, a span in which he has 10 homers. His 18th gave the Angels a lead they did not relinquish.
A single by Bobby Grich and throwing error by Detroit third baseman Tom Brookens on a sacrifice bunt in the seventh led to a run that scored on Bob Boone's sacrifice fly.
Downing's double, followed by a Reggie Jackson single, Grich double and Pettis single produced two more in the eighth, when Tiger Manager Sparky Anderson used four pitchers and was ejected for arguing a series of ball and strike calls.