TORONTO — Ya Gotta Believe was a slogan that may have worked wonders for the New York Mets way back when, but in Ron Romanick's case with the Angels, the power of positive thinking continues to take a thrashing.
All is fine and well with the way Romanick is throwing, according to him. "The best I've felt in two years," he asserts. "I had better location, better command and better stuff than in my last five starts."
Angel Manager Gene Mauch chimes in on the same chorus.
"He had to pitch awful good and get a little luckier to win today," said Mauch, reviewing Romanick's 7-3 loss to the Toronto Blue Jays Saturday at Exhibition Stadium. "Sure, I'd like to see him crank it up and make those three runs stand up. But this was not as sloppily a pitched game as you think."
And so goes the party line.
Now for some quick facts:
--Romanick allowed 7 hits and 7 runs in 5 innings. He walked 4, allowed 2 doubles and surrendered Cliff Johnson's 11th home run of the season.
--In the sixth inning, with Toronto holding a 3-2 lead, Romanick let an 0-and-2 count slip away by walking Ernie Whitt. After yielding a single to Garth Iorg, Romanick served up another 0-and-2 pitch to Tony Fernandez. Fernandez drove it into the gap in left-center field for a two-run double, capping a four-run Blue Jay rally.
--Romanick's latest defeat lowered his record to 5-7. He is 2-6 since May 13, has averaged barely five innings in each of his last nine starts, and over his last six starts has recorded an earned-run average of 6.37.
Similar numbers earned Jim Slaton an early appointment to clean out his locker, but the Angels keep telling Romanick: buck up, you're OK, we're OK, you're our guy, we're standing by our man.
When some of Romanick's recent statistics were relayed to Mauch, the manager shrugged.
"Except for his won-lost record, Ron Romanick's numbers have never been very impressive," Mauch said. "I go by wins and losses."
Since the 1985 All-Star break--virtually a full season--Romanick is 6-12.
"Don't make me criticize my pitcher," Mauch said. "He's mine. I'm going to put him out there again and pull for him like hell."
On this day, Mauch looked to shift the blame elsewhere. The Angel offense was an easy target. Against Toronto's Jim Clancy (8-5) and Tom Henke, the Angels managed just a pair of hits--singles by Rick Burleson and Gary Pettis off Clancy in the Toronto starter's eight innings of work.
"That wasn't exactly what I had in mind," Mauch said. "Two hits don't give you much to work with."
Still, the Angels took a 2-0 lead in the fourth inning. Reggie Jackson walked and scored as Blue Jay third baseman Rance Mulliniks misplayed a ground ball by Brian Downing, and Downing stole second and scored on Burleson's looping single to center.
Romanick let it slip away in a hurry.
In the bottom of the fourth, Jesse Barfield bounced an infield chopper over the head of Burleson at shortstop for a one-out single, and Johnson homered to left. Tie game. Willie Upshaw followed with a double, and Iorg drove him home with a single. Toronto led, 3-2.
Soon came the sixth inning, where it all came undone for Romanick.
With Upshaw on first and two outs, Romanick was one strike away from ending the inning before walking Whitt. Iorg then singled off the glove of a leaping Burleson, scoring Upshaw.
Fernandez followed with his two-run double, and Romanick was out of the game. Reliever Terry Forster issued an RBI single to Mulliniks, and the Angels were down, and out as well, with a 7-2 deficit.
"I'm still trying to figure out what happened," Romanick said. "I thought I was pitching a very fine ballgame, but you look at the stats and it looks a lot different."
Romanick suggested that plate umpire Dan Morrison be credited with an assist for those statistics.
"When you have to throw five strikes in order to get a batter out, you're not going to get good results," Romanick said. "When you need four or five strikes, and four or five outs each inning, the hitters are going to pick up on it. They start sitting back and taking pitches.
"The only time I gave in, a guy hit a home run. I got a pitch on the corner to Johnson and I thought it was a strike, but (Morrison) called it a ball. I came in a little on the next pitch, and he hit it out. I kicked myself for it."
And so the rut grows a little deeper for Romanick.
"That's been kind of the scenario all year," he said. "You can change things, you can press, you can get ticked off--you can do everything. But the bottom line is, if you're going to be negative, you're not going to turn anything around. If you believe in what you're doing, it'll pay off in the long run.
"I'm not going to change a doggone thing. Hopefully, Gene Mauch will keep running me out there."
Mauch has said he will. Romanick has said he will keep his chin up.
That's the proper mind set, the Angels say.
Now, if Romanick can only get his right arm to oblige.