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Indians Are Just What Angels Need in a Tight Pennant Race

September 22, 1985|MIKE PENNER | Times Staff Writer

The Big Scorer in the Sky created teams like the Cleveland Indians in order to give contenders like the Angels a chance to catch their breath as they go careening into the pennant stretch run.

The Indians are a team with a winning percentage (.360) lower than the batting average of Wade Boggs; with a 40-game deficit in the American League East standings; with a catcher who had to go on a tear to raise his average to .130; with a shortstop zeroing in on the 40-error mark, and with a pitching staff whose "ace" has a won-lost record of 8-17.

In short, blitz material.

Saturday night, the Indians found themselves pitted against the Angels before a crowd of 29,219 at Anaheim Stadium, and the Angels took advantage of this break in the schedule by rolling up a 12-3 victory that preserved their share of the lead in the AL West.

While Kansas City was sweating out a 6-5 extra-inning victory over Minnesota, the Angels kept pace by merely going through the paces. They had a 4-0 lead after three innings, a 9-0 advantage after five innings and a 12-0 edge with two outs in the top of the ninth before two home runs enabled Cleveland to avert its ninth shutout of the season.

The Indians are the losingest team in the American League because they do things such as the following:

--Scrape together only three hits in eight innings against Kirk McCaskill (11-11), who just lowered his ERA below 5.00 with his last start.

--Allow Bob Boone to steal his first base since July 13, 1984, by throwing to second base when Boone was running toward third.

--Walk three batters in the fourth inning and let them all score on a sacrifice fly by Boone and a triple by Gary Pettis.

The Angels capitalized on all this and more--a three-run home run and an RBI double by Doug DeCinces, two hits and stolen base No. 55 by Pettis--to move 20 games over .500 (84-64) for the first time since 1982.

The win was the fourth in a row for the Angels, the last two courtesy of the Indians. In those two games, the Angel offense amassed 18 hits and 19 runs.

"It's momentum when you've been dominating like we have," DeCinces said. "That's the kind of momentum I like to see--domination."

Angel Manager Gene Mauch, given a rare night to kick back after a season's worth of chess-playing and squeezing out a run here and a run there, seconded that opinion.

"It's more fun this way," Mauch said. "Ballplayers love to hit, I love to watch them hit, it makes everybody happy when they hit.

"The offense has been there the whole time. We had a little trouble getting all our ingredients together on a healthy basis. When it's intact, there are runs to be scored."

Saturday night, there were so many scored that Mauch began calling on the jayvees by the fifth inning. Jack Howell scored a run and drove in another. Devon White scored his second major league run. Darrell Miller had an RBI single.

By the time the final out was recorded, the only members of Mauch's starting lineup still on the field were center fielder Pettis and shortstop Dick Schofield.

It was a good night to let the reserves get in some work. And it was even a better night for McCaskill, who allowed only an infield single to Julio Franco and two hits to Joe Carter through eight scoreless innings--before bidding welcome to reporters in the locker room.

"Uh-oh," Donnie Moore said to McCaskill as the pens and note pads closed in, "Meet the press."

McCaskill hasn't had many soapbox sessions of late. Before Saturday, McCaskill's last five starts had produced a 1-4 record and an 8.94 earned-run average.

He may have been pitching to preserve his status in the starting rotation, although Mauch denied it. "McCaskill wasn't pitching for his life tonight," Mauch said. "He was pitching to keep us in position."

Either way, McCaskill termed his eight-inning stint "very satisfying . . . maybe my best stuff in a while. This was one of those days when I'm tuned into Boonie (catcher Bob Boone) and just concentrating on throwing the ball. I can't remember throwing my fastball so much."

McCaskill can thank the Cleveland pitching staff for that. The Angels ganged up on starter Neal Heaton (8-17) and relievers Rich Thompson and Ramon Romero to present McCaskill with a 12-0 lead after seven innings.

At that point, all McCaskill and Jim Slaton had to do was close down matters as quickly as possible.

Slaton pitched the ninth inning for the Angels, got two quick outs, and then yielded a two-run home run to Carmen Castillo and a solo homer to Tony Bernazard before recording the final out.

That was the extent of the Cleveland comeback. Just another day outside of paradise for the Indians.

Their loss count is now up to 96. The century mark is within reach.

Angel Notes

After driving in four runs with a double and a home run in three at-bats, Doug DeCinces was removed from the game in the fifth inning when he complained of discomfort in his lower back. "I'm all right," DeCinces said afterward. "I felt a little bit (in the back) when I popped up the ball (in the fourth inning). I just came out for precautionary reasons." . . . Pitcher Geoff Zahn, who underwent arthroscopic surgery Sept. 13, had the stitches in his left shoulder removed Saturday. Zahn will rest the shoulder for several months and is expected to resume throwing again by December. . . . The Angels will hold their Fan Appreciation Day ceremonies following today's 12:07 p.m. game. The early start was set to accommodate ABC-TV, which had included the game on its 1985 broadcast schedule before the season started. The network has since canceled its plans to televise the game, but the starting time remained. Mike Witt (13-8) will pitch for the Angels, facing Cleveland's Jamie Easterly (4-0).

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