BALTIMORE — Once again, a tight game between the Angels and the Baltimore Orioles came down to the eighth inning.
And once again, there in the eighth, in this case with a national television audience looking on, it all unraveled for the Angels.
The difference this time was that, unlike their loss Friday night, the Angels' 4-2 defeat Saturday included no bullpen giveaways or bases-loaded doubles or Baltimore chops into some divot around third base or a five-run Oriole inning.
Just some old-fashioned managerial scheming that veered off its intended course.
The Angels entered the top of the eighth with designs on erasing that two-run deficit. Their first two hitters, Doug DeCinces and George Hendrick singled, setting up a confrontation between Bobby Grich and Baltimore's league-leading relief specialist, Don Aase.
Here is where the plotting thickened.
Angel Manager Gene Mauch sent up his first of three pinch-hitters, Rob Wilfong. Mauch loves his Little Ball, and Wilfong is good on details. He ranks as the club's best bunter, so a sacrifice seemed in order, right?
"That's just what I wanted them to think," said Mauch, who ordered Wilfong to swing away. "I figured they'd be thinking bunt, too, and Fong would see a fastball. I wanted him to rip it past somebody and break it open. We didn't need one run there; we needed three."
All the Angels wound up with was a meek pop fly behind second base that was tracked down by Baltimore second baseman Jackie Gutierrez.
Next move: Reggie Jackson, pinch-hitting for Dick Schofield. Jackson, in his career, is 5 for 13 against Aase.
Result: Another fly-out to shallow center.
And for the final move, Mauch sat Gary Pettis down and sent up Ruppert Jones in Pettis' place. Pettis had singled to left and hit a line-drive out to second in his previous two at-bats. Since July 19, Jones was batting .149 with three runs batted in.
Jones struck out on a checked swing.
End of inning, end of Angel hopes for the day. Aase retired the side in order in the top of the ninth, clinching his 31st save of the year and his second in two days against the Angels, whose lead over Texas was cut to three games.
Mauch's decision to hit for Pettis apparently didn't sit well with the Angel center fielder. As soon as the clubhouse doors were opened to the media, Mauch and Pettis were seen exchanging words.
"You want to talk about it?" Mauch said, walking into his office.
Pettis looked up from his chair and over his shoulder. "Yeah, I do," he said sharply.
Mauch didn't respond. He kept walking, through his office door and behind a desk covered with statistical printouts.
"I wanted to get one ball up in the air," Mauch explained. "We needed a home run in that situation. Get a ball up in the wind, and it's a different ballgame. The percentages of Ruppert hitting a home run there are a little better than Gary's."
When reporters approached Pettis, the center fielder became mum on the matter.
"I got no comment on that," Pettis said. "All I can say, if he wants to pinch-hit, that's just the way it goes. Everybody wants to hit, but that's part of the game. I can't go against his judgment."
Then there was the Wilfong at-bat for Grich, with Wilfong--owner of one hit in his last 19 at-bats--swinging away instead of squaring around.
Said Grich: "I was a little bit surprised he didn't bunt. I don't want to second-guess Gene, but I thought that's what (Wilfong) went up there for. Fong is one of the best, if not the best, bunter on our team, and he's facing the best relief pitcher in the American League. The guy throws hard.
"But Gene's been around the game a lot longer than I have. I'm sure he has a good reason for his decision."
Wilfong said of Mauch's decision: "It was a great move on his part. You think (Aase) is going to throw a fastball there, and their infield is playing a little farther in, so you go for a base hit. He just didn't throw me a strike, and I swung at a ball out of the strike zone."
The wasted opportunity in the eighth magnified three bad pitches made by Angel rookie Ray Chadwick (0-3) in the first five innings. Chadwick surrendered first-inning home runs to Cal Ripken and Jim Traber and a fifth-inning solo shot to Fred Lynn.
Chadwick hadn't made an appearance since Aug. 3, when he failed to retire a batter in the first inning. The first batter he faced Saturday, Gutierrez, also singled.
Chadwick was still looking for his first out of August.
He finally got two when Lynn struck out and catcher Bob Boone threw out Gutierrez on a stolen-base try.
But then, Ripken hit his 19th home run of the season, followed by a walk to Eddie Murray and Traber's 10th home run. Chadwick walked the next batter, Jim Dwyer, and Mauch picked up the bullpen phone.