OAKLAND — The answer to that not-so-old Angel question--Who is the fifth starter?--became less of a quiz and more of an afterthought Tuesday evening.
Rookie Ray Chadwick, making his major league debut, worked his way to the seventh inning before, as Angel Manager Gene Mauch likes to put it: "The wheels came off."
But Chadwick was not entirely to blame for the Angels' 4-2 loss at the Oakland Coliseum. He allowed four hits and just two of his three runs were earned. He walked five, but only one of the walks became a run.
"You knew the stuff was there," Mauch said. "You never know how the young man is going to react to it. He handled it well."
More distressing to Mauch, was what happened after Chadwick left the game.
The Angels held a 2-1 lead entering the seventh when Chadwick gave up a single to Dwayne Murphy. By the time it was over, Murphy was standing in the on-deck circle, awaiting another turn at bat.
The A's scored three runs in the inning, aided by a fielding error by second baseman Rob Wilfong. They also had help from the Angel bullpen.
Three times Mauch sent coach Marcel Lachemann out to change pitchers and three times the A's responded with runs. When it came time to replace Chuck Finley with Vern Ruhle, the last available Angel reliever, Mauch decided to make the switch himself.
Ruhle promptly got Dave Kingman to ground out, but by then the damage had been done.
The Angels nearly escaped the seventh with a 2-2 tie. After Murphy's single, pinch-hitter Donnie Hill doubled to left, moving Murphy to third.
In came reliever Gary Lucas, who cleanly fielded Alfredo Griffin's bunt, looked Murphy back at third and threw to first for the out.
Everything worked except that Wilfong, covering for Wally Joyner, who had rushed toward the bunt, dropped Lucas' waist-high throw. The error loaded the bases.
Tony Phillips forced Griffin at second but not before Murphy scored.
Mike Davis popped to Wilfong for the A's second out, and when right-hander Doug Corbett came in to face the right-handed Jose Canseco, the major league RBI leader, it appeared the Angels might sneak away from further trouble.
But Canseco singled to score Hill and the A's had their lead. Then, with Finley in the game, Bruce Bochte singled, which again loaded the bases. Finely then walked Carney Lansford to force in another run.
Mauch, then Ruhle, arrived shortly thereafter.
"We had a chance to get out of the inning with one run and we didn't quite pull it off," Mauch said.
All of this meant the Angels felt better about a fifth starter, but not quite as secure about their standing in the American League West.
The second-place Texas Rangers won Tuesday night, reducing the Angels' lead to three games.
Despite the Angel loss, Chadwick did little to hurt his chances for at least another start. A sampling from teammates:
"A fine effort," catcher Bob Boone said. "If we score a couple more points, it's a real fine effort."
Said Lucas: "He pitched outstanding. He looked like a veteran. He was totally in control, in command for the most part."
Chadwick's fate could depend, in part, on what happens between now and Thursday, the last day before the major league trading deadline. The Angels were looking for a starting pitcher to replace Ron Romanick, now in Edmonton. Now they must decide if they still have to search.
General Manager Mike Port said Tuesday he could not comment on any possible deals. As for Chadwick: "He's pitching tonight and we'll see what happens."
Chadwick's critique of his own performance was favorable. "I felt pretty good," he said. "I didn't think I had the good fastball I think I've had, and if I alleviate the walks, maybe I win.
"But I know for sure now that I can pitch here. I thought it all along while I was in Triple A. I pitched well. Except for the ball, I was getting guys out."
If Chadwick was nervous at game's beginning, he didn't show it. His first major league out was a soft grounder to first baseman Joyner, who ignored Chadwick and stepped on the bag himself. With that done, Chadwick got Davis to fly out to right and Canseco to pop to second base.
If nothing else, Chadwick could tell his grandmother, who had flown from North Carolina to Oakland to attend the game, that he had lasted at least one inning.
Chadwick's second inning had everything his first didn't. There was a leadoff walk to Bochte. Bochte moved to second when Lansford grounded to Chadwick.
Kingman was next and he added to Chadwick's evening of firsts by doubling to left. Bochte scored easily to give the A's a 1-0 lead.
Oakland starter Dave Stewart, enjoying sort of a renaissance season himself, took the lead into the third and promptly gave it up.
Wilfong, in the lineup partly because he's left-handed and partly because Bobby Grich has a slightly injured shoulder, singled to begin the inning. Schofield did as expected: He bunted, which moved Wilfong into scoring position.