The Angels have better things to do than tread water in the American League West. But there they were Sunday at Anaheim Stadium, attired in bathing suits and life jackets, dog-paddling their way to a third defeat in four games, this time losing to the Toronto Blue Jays, 6-3.
Despite such doings, the Angels somehow remain in first place, courtesy of the Texas Rangers, who could use a few swim lessons themselves. The second-place Rangers lost their fourth consecutive game.
Since play resumed following the All-Star break, the Angels, despite their record, actually have gained a game in this division, extending their lead to 2 1/2 games.
"I don't care," outfielder Brian Downing said. "You have to take advantage and open up ground early. You keep holding steady and before you know it, it comes down to the last couple of weeks and you're in Kansas City where a game here or there can swing it. When you have chances to open it up, you have to do it."
The Angels had chances Sunday. Lots. But after tying the score in the bottom of the ninth inning, the Angels were left with the tag-team of reliever Doug Corbett and Donnie Moore.
The usually reliable Corbett and Moore allowed four Blue Jay runs in the 10th inning and that was that. Corbett was held responsible for three of the runs and Moore one. But it was Moore who gave up a homer to George Bell that essentially made an Angel comeback unlikely.
"I didn't get it far enough in," Moore said of the pitch. "I wanted it up and in."
Instead it was up and out, as were the Angels. During the four-game series against Toronto, Bell wasn't particular about whom he victimized. He finished with 7 hits in 17 at-bats (.412), 7 runs batted-in and 3 homers.
The Angels, continuing a game-long tradition of leaving men on base, scored once in the 10th, but stranded two other runners. That went well with earlier developments.
In the first inning, they left Jack Howell stranded on second after a one-out double. The fifth inning saw the Angels with Jerry Narron on second with one out. No score. Reggie Jackson reached second with one out in the seventh, later made it to third and stayed there. And a leadoff double by pinch-hitter Rob Wilfong in the eighth became a tease of sorts for the crowd of 27,795 as the Angels, trailing 1-0 at the time, decided against a sacrifice bunt and instead let Gary Pettis swing away. He did, grounding out to Blue Jay reliever Mark Eichhorn. A fly out and a strike out followed, ending that supposed rally.
"I was trying to beat Eichhorn right there," Manager Gene Mauch said. "I thought we would."
Meanwhile, the Blue Jays added another run off Angel starter Mike Witt in the ninth as Lloyd Moseby hit a solo homer to give Toronto a 2-0 lead. Moseby didn't have such a bad series himself. He collected 5 hits in 17 tries (.294) and 3 RBIs.
"When you have Bell and (Jesse) Barfield behind me, a lot can happen," he said. "We had the right people up at the right time."
Witt left shortly after Moseby's homer, allowing just seven hits and striking out six. It wasn't a bad 26th birthday present to himself, what with the Blue Jay lineup and all.
"He keeps going in the ninth inning time after time," Mauch said. "How good can a man pitch?"
Mauch could ask the same question of Toronto starter Joe Johnson, who pitched 6 shutout innings and struck out six Angel batters. Mauch knew little about Johnson entering the game except that he threw hard and that he was acquired by the Blue Jays July 6 for pitcher Jim Acker. Now Mauch knows more.
"He was better than I was led to believe," Mauch said.
Witt was replaced by rookie Chuck Finley, who didn't stay long, and then veteran Doug Corbett, who ended the Toronto rally and then watched the Angels produce their own in the bottom of the inning.
Wally Joyner singled to start things and by doing so, extended his hitting streak to 12 games. Reggie Jackson collected his second hit of the day, this one a single to right which moved Joyner to second. George Hendrick followed with a full-swing foul ball, a bunt that trickled foul and then a strike out. Jerry Narron walked to load the bases.
On the mound for the Blue Jays was Tom Henke, the team's leading reliever with 14 saves. Didn't matter. Rick Burleson singled to score Joyner and Wilfong followed with a hard grounder to first baseman Willie Upshaw, who couldn't handle it in time to turn the double play. Jackson scored to tie the game.
Down by four runs in the 10th, Howell scored on an RBI-single by Hendrick. But with Jackson on second, Hendrick on first and two outs, pinch-hitter Doug DeCinces flied to right to end the game.