KANSAS CITY — That five-game Angel roll you've heard so much about will have to do for now. On Sunday it clunked to a stop, becoming nothing more than a pleasant memory, something for the Angels to fondly recall before turning their attention to a 7-4 loss to the Royals.
Gone in the afternoon mugginess and heat of Royals Stadium was the crisp play of previous games, games where Angel starting pitching had done little wrong, where fielding errors were rare, where managerial moves worked, whatever the odds.
In their places Sunday were such sights as Mike Witt, the best starter the Angels can offer, struggling through seven innings without benefit of his usual curveball and fastball; third baseman Doug DeCinces, who had just two errors in the previous 56 games, making two errors on one play; Royals first baseman Steve Balboni adding to the Angels' miseries with yet another home run against California and three runs batted-in.
Balboni has done this sort of thing often. In the seven games the Royals and Angels have played this season, Balboni has 4 home runs and 11 RBIs. All of the homers and 10 of the RBIs have come in Royal victories. He now has hit 11 home runs against the Angels, the most he has hit against any team, and left the stadium with a career .310 batting average against Angel pitching.
"Balboni gets some pitches to hit off our club that he can't miss . . . can't miss, " Angel Manager Gene Mauch said.
Said DeCinces: "He hits rockets off us, doesn't he? We'll get out of the league and he'll be in trouble."
For those keeping score, Witt threw Balboni a second-inning "rolling sinker," Mauch said, that quit rolling only after it went into the seats beyond the left-field fence. Balboni's home run, his 14th of the season, followed an on-the-mound conversation between Witt and pitching coach Marcel Lachemann. Lachemann hardly had time to walk down the dugout stairs and find his seat on the bench before Balboni homered.
"Our big guy obviously didn't have much today," Mauch said, adding that Witt hadn't looked good while warming up in the bullpen, either.
Witt, now 8-5 after five consecutive victories, was in no mood to disagree.
"This was my 15th start," he said. "It wasn't a good one, but I wouldn't classify it as my worst. I'll just go out for the 16th."
DeCinces unexpectedly added to the Angels' problems with his two-error play in the eighth inning that involved, you guessed it, Balboni.
With one out and the Angels trailing, 5-4, George Brett singled off reliever Terry Forster. Forster was replaced by Doug Corbett, who allowed a single by pinch-hitter Hal McRae. Frank White walked, bringing up Balboni.
Balboni lined a ball toward DeCinces, who had time to knock it down with the tip of his glove. He retrieved the ball and promptly threw it to Ruppert Jones in right field. It was a toss-up to see who was more surprised: DeCinces, Jones, Balboni or Mauch.
DeCinces, with the bases loaded, had the option of throwing home to force Brett but chose the play at second. "Bases loaded? That's a double play. I just missed the throw," DeCinces said.
Said Mauch: "You don't see bad throws from DeCinces very often at all. "
The Angels began Sunday's game much the same way they began Saturday evening's win over the Royals--with three consecutive hits and several runs. This time they used singles by Jones, Wally Joyner and Brian Downing and later a sacrifice fly by Rob Wilfong to account for a 2-0 first-inning lead. Downing's hit scored Jones while Wilfong's fly ball to center scored Joyner, who returned to the starting lineup after spending most of Saturday night's game on the bench, his first non-start in 67 games.
But the Royals scored four runs in the second, thanks to an RBI-single by White and Balboni's three-run homer.
Witt allowed another run in the sixth. Brett doubled and later scored on a triple by White. It was White's 1,500th career hit, a hit that center fielder Gary Pettis caught against against the fence only to have it slip from his glove. "I saw it, I thought I had it, but from that point on, I didn't know whether it stayed in or popped out," Pettis said. "I guess those things happen."
Witt left after seven. "I was just trying to keep us close after we lost the lead like that," he said. By then, the Angels had scored another run, this one on catcher Jerry Narron's first homer of the season and his first since July 4, 1985. That made the score 5-3.
The Angels closed within one run in the eighth as Reggie Jackson's bloop single scored Jones, who had walked and moved to second on a grounder to second.
The rest gets sloppy. The Royals scored their two runs in the bottom of the inning, DeCinces made his two errors and the Angels made for the airport and a three-game series with the division-leading Texas Rangers.
"I don't care how hard you play, how cleanly you usually play, some funny things are going to happen," Mauch said.
Begin with Sunday's game. Mauch said he only hopes it ends there, too.