ARLINGTON, Tex. — The Angels returned to first place Wednesday evening while left at the curb, mouths agape, were the Texas Rangers, who were escorted out by Kirk McCaskill's one-hitter and another Angel scoring splurge, this time 7-1.
There is something about the Rangers that inspires the Angels. No one is quite sure what it is, only that it works without fail.
Take for instance this latest Angel win streak over the Rangers, the one that enabled California to overcome a two-game deficit in three days. The Angels now have won all six games against the Rangers this season and eight straight going back to 1985.
Reasons for the sweeps are becoming plentiful. The Rangers have scored 10 runs in those six games. And it probably doesn't help the Ranger cause that five players are on the disabled list and that two of their top run producers--outfielder Gary Ward and first baseman Pete O'Brien--were forced to miss all or part of the recent series of because of deaths in the family.
Add to this other Ranger woes, like a virus bug that even kept third-base coach Tim Foli out of the game Wednesday. The night before, Ranger reliever Ricky Wright collapsed because of heat exhaustion.
The Angels, who have their own problems, were as sympathetic as loan sharks. They scored seven runs Wednesday, which goes nicely with the 12 the night before and six the night before that.
But all thank-you notes should be addressed to McCaskill, who now has won six of his last seven decisions, improving his record to 8-4. McCaskill didn't win his eighth game last year until Aug. 10.
"I'm glad I threw the ball well, I'm glad we won and I'm glad we're in first place," he said.
That about sums it up. McCaskill, pitching with three days' rest rather than his usual four, allowed only one noticeable mistake the entire evening. "Yeah, I was about 41- feet from a no-hitter," he said.
McCaskill was referring to a third-inning fastball that Ranger third baseman Steve Buechele quickly deposited in the Arlington Stadium center field seats, some 425 feet from home plate. Buechele also had the distinction of being the only Texas player to reach base during the game (he walked twice).
"Boonie (catcher Bob Boone) thinks that I was trying to pump it by (Buechele) every time," McCaskill said. "I guess I was a little frustrated because he hit it out."
McCaskill struck out 10, which keeps him among the league leaders in that category. This was his first one-hitter, a nice addition to the two two-hitters he has this season.
"I didn't feel as good as I felt in the others," he said. "I think it was because of the lead. Boonie came out and said, 'Let's think of this one as a walk in the park.' So I just tried to think of it as a walk in the park."
Simple, especially as the Angels scored four runs in the third and single runs in the fifth, seventh and eighth. Wally Joyner, who appears to have shaken a June slump, had three more hits and two runs batted-in. Boone had an RBI single. Rick Burleson was credited with the game-winning RBI, a double off Ranger starter Bobby Witt which may not mean much to Burleson, but probably devastated Witt. It started the Angel rally and hastened Witt's departure.
It seems that Witt, when growing up, dedicated himself to being another Burleson. He remains his playing idol today.
Rob Wilfong provided an RBI single in the fifth that scored Joyner, who had singled. A balk scored Gary Pettis in the seventh and Boone singled home Jack Howell in the eighth.
With the victory, the Angels ended a 33-day Ranger occupancy of the division lead. They did it by making the most of a six-game trip that began in Kansas City, then Texas and ended with five victories in six tries. It marks the first winning trip since June 18-23 of last year.
"I appreciate it, I really enjoy it when a bunch of guys have a road trip like this when they wanted one," Manager Gene Mauch said. "If somebody said, 'Six games--would you settle for 4-2?' You'd probably think about it.
"But I'm not sure I'd put limitations on us, not when you're pitching that well."
The Angels seemed to have remedied several of their concerns during the trip. Mauch discovered that his starters occasionally could pitch on three days' rest. "I don't anticipate doing that on a regular basis, but I really don't think it was much of a risk," he said.
Maybe, but McCaskill later said he would prefer to go back to four days' rest. "A couple of times I felt we were in the seventh inning and we were in the fourth," he said.
Then there is Joyner's resurgence, which seems to mirror the Angels' fortunes. During the three games with Texas, Joyner went 7 for 15 with 5 RBIs.
"The only thing I did different was that I stopped looking at the statistics and I quit thinking, 'Oh, my average is falling again or we're falling behind Kansas City and Texas.
"I don't think we were worried about winning (on the trip)," he said. "I think we were worried about not getting embarrassed."