History, or at least bold attempts at it, surrounded Mike Witt as he stepped to the pitcher's mound Tuesday night.
Behind him was Charlie Hough's no-hit near-miss of the previous evening. Ahead was Don Sutton's latest quest for career victory No. 300 tonight. Witt, by comparison, was just passing through, just passing time, attending to such ordinary matters of business as complete games and Angel victories.
And once again, Witt punched the clock and punched out the Texas Rangers, this time 4-0 before an Anaheim Stadium crowd of 27,457.
As shutouts go, it wasn't exactly neon caliber. Witt allowed nine hits. He struck out five. He was assisted by one double play, one dive-and-throw by second baseman Bobby Grich and one running catch by Gary Pettis.
"This was a defensive shutout, not a pitching shutout," Witt said. "I felt my stuff was good, but they hit a lot of balls hard."
Angel Manager Gene Mauch concurred.
"That's about as well as I've ever seen Texas hit him," Mauch said.
Texas, of course, once went an entire afternoon without hitting Witt. On the last day of the 1984 season, the Rangers failed to put even a single runner on base against Witt as he became the 13th player in major league history to pitch a perfect game.
That moment in the Texas sun was part of a personal winning streak against the Rangers that Tuesday night reached six for Witt. The latest victory also improved Witt's 1986 record to 8-4 after a 2-3 start and gave him six complete games for the season. He has won his last five decisions, is 4-0 in June and has two shutouts this season.
Most significantly for the Angels, the victory cut the Rangers' first-place lead in the American League West to 1 1/2 games.
Mauch called Witt's recent run "the best stretch anybody's ever seen him pitch. And it hasn't been just the last few games. He was pitching hurtin' baseball even when we weren't scoring for him."
Witt received a veritable abundance of runs this time, courtesy of Doug DeCinces' ninth home run of the season, a three-run shot in the fifth inning. DeCinces is getting the most out of June as well. The home run off Jeff Russell was his fourth in his past nine games. In that same span, DeCinces has driven in 11 runs.
Good things happen to those who wait, it has been said, and Mauch said Witt is starting to reap the benefits of patience.
"This isn't a recent development," Mauch said. "But when you put W's up there, people start to become aware of it. Mike didn't despair. Right now, I think he and (Kirk) McCaskill are having a good time going back to back."
McCaskill beat Texas, 2-1, Monday, so in the first two games of this series between the leaders of the AL West, the Rangers have managed but one run.
Hough may have been feeling sick after watching his no-hit bid of the previous night skitter away in the bottom of the ninth, but Tuesday's Texas starter, Ricky Wright, truly was sick. A case of the flu scratched Wright just before game time, forcing Ranger Manager Bobby Valentine to dip deeper into his depleted pitching staff.
He came up with Mickey Mahler, and Mahler pitched well enough, yielding a run in the first inning before holding the Angels scoreless through the next three.
But after the fourth inning, Mahler left the game, possibly due to boredom. He had put in a laborious stint, needing 77 pitches to record 12 outs. The Angels had three base-runners in both the first and fourth innings and two more in the third.
That was a major reason why the game's first four innings required nearly two hours to complete.
Things sped up, in more ways than one, in the fifth. Jeff Russell replaced Mahler and promptly allowed four Angels to reach base. Three scored.
Singles by Reggie Jackson and George Hendrick set the stage for DeCinces, who delivered his three-run home run, and the Angels had a 4-0 advantage.
The Angels scored their first run with the help of their seventh leadoff hitter of the season, Dick Schofield. Following in the proud tradition of Grich, Pettis, Ruppert Jones, Rick Burleson, Rob Wilfong and Brian Downing, Schofield batted in the top spot Tuesday and opened the bottom of the first by drawing a walk from Mahler.
Schofield then took second on Wally Joyner's sacrifice bunt and scored on Downing's ground-rule double down the left-field line.
Jackson followed with a single, his first of three for the evening, but it was to left field and Downing could only advance as far as third base. Downing was left there when Hendrick and DeCinces struck out.
The Rangers had a runner on base against Witt in each of the first five innings but continually found new ways to come up empty.
In the second inning, Ruben Sierra bunted safely but ran into danger on the basepaths. His stolen-base attempt was aborted abruptly by Bob Boone, who called for a pitchout, caught Sierra off base and ran him back toward first before throwing to Joyner for the tag.