It will take more than one game for the Angels to exorcise the hex of the Baltimore Orioles. Such historical residue as the 1979 American League playoffs, the Angels' 68-108 record at Memorial Stadium and Scott McGregor's 20-7 hold over California can't be washed away in nine mere innings.
But for the time being, the Angels' 10-1 victory over Baltimore Tuesday night at Anaheim Stadium will do.
Don Sutton and Donnie Moore purged some ugly memories by combining to three-hit the Orioles before a crowd of 24,636.
Sutton and Moore were the part of the pitching combination that let a 7-3 Angel lead slip away at Baltimore two weeks ago--a loss that whittled the Angels' lead over the Texas Rangers to a nervous three games and proved a stern test of Angel will.
Brian Downing, a career .214 hitter against the Orioles, led a 10-hit Angel attach by hitting a home run and a double off Mike Flanagan (7-9) and driving in two runs with a single off Rich Bordi.
All this, plus a home run by rookie Mark Ryal in his first Angel at-bat, earned the Angels a measure of payback to the Orioles for roughing up Mike Witt in Monday's 9-3 Baltimore victory. A rout for a rout.
And when the Angels looked up, they found themselves 6 1/2 games ahead of the Rangers in the AL West--seven games up in the loss column.
That's the Angels' largest first-place lead of the season--and a tie for the largest first-place lead in the franchise's history. Last year, the Angels held a 6 1/2-game advantage over Kansas City at the All-Star break.
The Royals ended up winning the division, which may explain why the Angels weren't showing much emotion in the clubhouse late Tuesday night.
"There's nothing to get too excited about yet," Downing said. "There's some 30 games left. We haven't even gotten into the stretch drive yet.
"It's still business as usual. We can't get too high at this time of year. We have a lot of big games before we get to play Texas."
These games, however, rank among the season's biggest for the Angels. On Aug. 19, the Angels began a three-week stretch in which they would face nothing but traditional AL East powers--Detroit, Baltimore and New York.
Thus far, the Angels have gone 10-5, with one game remaining with Baltimore and three with the Yankees.
"This is a crucial stretch for us and we've played well," Downing said. "We definitely had to play our best baseball against Baltimore, Detroit and New York. Those teams have always taken it to us."
Especially Baltimore. But for one night, at least, the Angels interrupted the spell.
Sutton improved his record to 13-9 while allowing Baltimore three singles in seven innings. It marked his 308th victory, tying Sutton with Charles Radbourn for 14th on the all-time list.
Sutton yielded those singles in the first three innings, retiring 13 of the last 14 batters he faced. He walked two and struck out seven.
"That's as good as he's been all year," Manager Gene Mauch said. "You know he's got things under control when he gets behind in the count to a few guys but comes back to get 'em."
Sutton surrendered only an unearned run, bringing his earned-run average under four (3.99) for the first time this season. And that run came via his own defensive undoing.
John Shelby led off with a grounder to first baseman Wally Joyner, but Sutton dropped Joyner's flip to first--and then failed to chase it down. By the time catcher Bob Boone tracked the ball down, Shelby was at second base.
Shelby then scored on a single to left by Fred Lynn.
The Angels scored the next three runs, one on Downing's 15th home run, to take a 3-1 advantage into the seventh inning.
There, they broke it open.
In the seventh, the Angels sent nine batters to the plate and scored four runs. Rick Burleson had a bases-loaded double, scoring Bobby Grich and Schofield, and Downing singled home the other two runs.
In the eighth, Grich doubled and scored on a single by Pettis. Pettis then scored in front of Ryal's home run, coming on the first pitch he saw in an Angel uniform.
With it, Ryal became the fourth player in club history to homer in his first Angel at-bat--joining Don Rose (1972), Frank Robinson (1973) and Dave Machemer (1978).
That gave the Angels a 10-1 lead, a lead Moore was given to protect in the top of the eighth. "It was kind of a funny score for Donnie Moore," Mauch said, "but he was all cranked up in the bullpen. If he's all cranked up, you might as well use him."
Moore didn't allow a baserunner. He finished the game with two perfect innings, shutting down the Orioles on five fly balls and one ground ball to shortstop.
Thus, the Angels proved that Baltimore can be handled. And with a win tonight, they would even their season's series with the Orioles at 6-6, which would equal their best finish against Baltimore this decade.