A self-described numbers person, Don Sutton was eight outs shy of his 300th career victory when he left to a standing ovation from an Anaheim Stadium crowd of 40,005 Saturday.
Ultimately, however, his 701st major league appearance would become the 169th no-decision of a 21-year career, leaving Sutton to say: "I got what I deserved."
His reasoning: The Angels "had given me enough runs to work with. I should win with five runs, but I hung a couple breaking pitches and made too many stupid mistakes."
Doug Corbett would get the win Sutton coveted, Corbett's first victory of the year and 21st of his career.
The 5-4 lead Sutton left with in the seventh evaporated on successor Terry Forster's third pitch. Rudy Law ripped it into right field for a game-tying single, erasing Sutton's bid to become the 19th pitcher to win 300. He won't make his next bid for 300 until Friday night at Kansas City.
The solace for Sutton came in the eighth when a home run by Doug DeCinces enabled the Angels to defeat the Kansas City Royals, 6-5.
Now, Sutton would be pitching philosophy.
Now, he stood behind a podium where he had been scheduled to discuss the milestone victory and acknowledged that his pleasure with the Angel win would have been greater if he had been the winner. "But ultimately, I'll get mine," he said. "I'll get 300. Fortunately, I didn't pitch poorly enough that it prevented us from winning. It's still a team sport. Individual accomplishment still comes within the team framework."
Manager Gene Mauch was thinking of the team when he lifted Sutton after his 108th pitch. Sutton had gotten the first out in the seventh, then walked Willie Wilson and hit Lonnie Smith.
Mauch went to the mound after Sutton's first two pitches to Law were balls. He signaled for Forster, then reached for the ball. Sutton asked him if he could hand it to his successor, which he did, telling his former Dodger teammate, "Get 'em out, let's go home."
Forster went to a 2-and-2 count before Law delivered his game-tying single, of which Sutton later said: "A letdown? Sure. There were 40,000 people wanting that ball to be popped up, and I was one of them, but I have no one to blame for that situation except myself."
Sutton told Forster that, after Forster came to him and said he would have killed to have been able to save it for him.
"Terry is more emotional than most players in wanting to do well for people," Sutton said, "but I told him that I was the one who put those people on base. I told him to forget it and do it for me the next time."
The 5-4 lead in the seventh had once been 4-1. The Royals erased it with a three-run third in which Buddy Biancalana hit what Sutton said was a hanging fastball for Biancalana's first homer of the season and fourth of his career, and Lonnie Smith slugged a hanging curve for only his second homer of the season.
Sutton said he then compounded those "glaring mistakes" with the "stupid walk" of Wilson after getting the first out in the seventh. He was tiring at this point, just hopeful of negotiating an inning that is normally his last. He did not dispute Mauch's move.
"I'd made 108 pitches," he said. "You normally start questioning my effectiveness about then.
"If I'm sitting in the manager's chair, I'd have made the same decision."
The ensuing standing ovation gratified Sutton.
"I'm not an overly emotional person," he said, "but that was one of the warmest, most emotional feelings I've ever had.
"I mean, those people don't really know me. I haven't pitched here that long.
"For them to stand and say, 'Hey, nice going,' made me feel that I would have liked to have won it for them here today.
"Of course," he added, smiling, "I left tickets for most of them.
"In fact, the nicest thing about winning today would have been that I now wouldn't have to play travel agent."
Sutton said he isn't sure how many of his friends and relatives will fly to Kansas City. Among those in attendance Saturday were Millie Carlisle, wife of the late Lew Carlisle, who piloted the Dodgers' jet before it was sold, and Pete McLeod, Sutton's high school coach and a man he hadn't seen since 1963.
Charles Howard Sutton, the pitcher's 59-year-old father, was watching via television in Molino, Fla., and Sutton had hoped to present him with an early Father's Day gift.
At the same time, however, Sutton continued to downplay his emotional involvement, the magnitude of his long pursuit. He said losing a three-run lead aggravated him more than blowing his initial shot at 300.
"I don't mean to sound like a dud," he said, "but I didn't feel it was as big a deal as some playoff and World Series games I've pitched.
"I wasn't nervous, I didn't have butterflies. It wasn't like I couldn't sleep last night or eat this morning. The toughest thing was arranging for the tickets."
Knowing he has 15 or more starts, Sutton can make it seem as if the media are more excited than he is. He can say that he would just as soon lock the gates and phone in the results, that he is more interested in production than balloons, bells and whistles.
He did say that, in fact, but his voice was cracking when he also talked about that standing ovation, the bells and whistles on his day of no decision.