DETROIT — The Angels lost a baseball game by five runs Tuesday night--and didn't care.
Gene Mauch wanted to care. You could tell from his first words and his sour puss that the Angel manager was trying to be disappointed by losing the nightcap of a twi-night doubleheader with the Detroit Tigers, 8-3, after having taken the opener, 5-2.
"A split is like spinning your wheels," Mauch muttered.
Then he thought it over.
"But, if you happen to lose both games, it takes you three days to get even," he said. "So, I guess spinning your wheels can't be all bad."
Mauch perked up considerably when he heard that the Texas Rangers had squandered a 7-1 lead in their game with Kansas City, and that the game had gone into the ninth inning tied at 8-all.
He felt even better after he left the park, upon hearing that the Rangers had lost it, 9-8, in 11 innings. That put the Angels five games in front of second-place Texas in the American League West, with another two games X'd off California's calendar.
Hey, a split suddenly didn't seem so bad at all. "It's a pretty good idea to win against the East Division clubs when the people who are chasing you are beating each other," said Mauch, whose team began a nine-game trip Tuesday that also will take them to Baltimore and New York.
The doubleheader at Tiger Stadium went pretty much as one might have expected. The Tigers tried to win the first game by pitching Dan Petry, who was making his first start in two months. They didn't. The Angels tried to win the second game by pitching Vern Ruhle, who was making his third start of the season. They didn't.
The opener belonged to Angel catcher Bob Boone, who woke from a 1-for-24 bad dream with three hits, including a two-run homer. Kirk McCaskill and Donnie Moore held the Tigers to five hits, McCaskill getting his 13th win.
The second game belonged to Tiger second baseman Lou Whitaker, the little leadoff man with the big stick, whose five runs-batted in included a three-run double. Whitaker also homered in the first game, for a seven-RBI night.
Ruhle lasted only 3 innings, but had some shaky fielding behind him and some bad luck. In the four-run Detroit second inning, Mauch said, Whitaker's bases-clearing double "was the only hit loud enough to hear."
So, even though Ruhle will not be needed in the rotation again for a while, Mauch was not yet ruling him out.
"You don't judge a pitcher when his team doesn't play very well behind him, when a pitcher isn't lucky, or when a quality player like Trammell knocks in the runs against him."
Mauch meant Whitaker, not Alan Trammell, who bats right behind him for the Tigers.
"Those guys have been back-to-back for so long, I get them mixed up," Mauch said.
Whitaker had all the names right as he spoke of Mauch and the Angels, with whom he was duly impressed.
The Angels play creative baseball, Whitaker emphasized. "They get a man on, bunt him over, get him around somehow, hit a sacrifice fly, something," he said. "A lot of times they get one run on one hit. They get a man on second and bump him over and sneak him home, and you walk away wondering how you got beat.
"They got the right people running that team and the right people on that team. They got what they need to win."
The Angels scored in just such a fashion as the second game began, as they made their bid for a sweep. Gary Pettis led off with a double, and covered the rest of the distance on two medium-deep fly balls to center.
But the Tigers, still entertaining faint hopes in the East--seven games back--used Whitaker's five RBIs to support Randy O'Neal (3-7), who pitched only the second complete game of his career.
Ruhle hurt himself in that inning. He slipped while trying to field a Mike Heath bunt, which ended up loading the bases for Whitaker, who unloaded them. And after Whitaker himself was sacrificed to third, Ruhle wild-pitched him home.
The Angels managed only seven hits off O'Neal, one of them Jack Howell's fourth homer.
Not so successful for the Tigers was Petry, the Anaheim-area native who had not pitched since having bone chips removed from his elbow June 10. Petry lasted only five innings, and looked as though his rehabilitation in the Class A Florida State League might not have been long enough.
Red-hot Doug DeCinces and ice-cold Boone led the Angels, with three hits apiece. Boone, with only one hit in his previous 25 trips, had a single, a run-scoring double, a two-run homer and a good feeling toward his bat for the first time in weeks.
"My hitting lately has left me pretty frustrated," Boone said. "But fortunately, this team doesn't need me to hit much."
Boone showed why he was indispensable, bad bat and all, in the first game when a pitch rolled a few feet away from him. Whitaker, who is no slowpoke, broke for second base. Boone elected to throw down--few catchers in that situation would have--and got Whitaker with a perfect peg, a hummer knee-high.